What is a Neurosurgeon?

A neurosurgeon is a medical doctor who specializes in the diagnosis, treatment, and surgical management of conditions that affect the nervous system, which includes the brain, spinal cord, and peripheral nerves. These medical professionals have extensive training and expertise in performing surgeries and procedures that involve these delicate structures and are responsible for managing some of the most complex and life-threatening conditions in medicine.

Neurosurgeons work with a variety of conditions, including brain tumors, spinal cord injuries, aneurysms, strokes, and disorders such as Parkinson's disease and epilepsy. They work closely with other medical specialists, including neurologists, oncologists, and radiologists, to diagnose and treat these conditions.

What does a Neurosurgeon do?

A neurosurgeon performing surgery.

Duties and Responsibilities
The duties and responsibilities of a neurosurgeon can vary depending on their specific area of expertise and the type of practice they work in. However, here are some of the key tasks that a neurosurgeon may be responsible for:

  • Diagnosing and Evaluating Neurological Conditions: A neurosurgeon is responsible for diagnosing and evaluating a range of neurological conditions, which can include brain tumors, aneurysms, spinal cord injuries, and strokes. They may use a variety of diagnostic tests, such as imaging scans or electrophysiological tests, to evaluate the patient's condition and develop a treatment plan.
  • Developing Treatment Plans: Once a diagnosis has been made, a neurosurgeon is responsible for developing a treatment plan that is tailored to the patient's specific needs. This may involve surgery, medication, or other interventions, and the neurosurgeon will work closely with other medical professionals to coordinate care.
  • Performing Surgery: One of the primary responsibilities of a neurosurgeon is performing surgery on the brain, spinal cord, or peripheral nerves. This can include procedures to remove tumors, repair damage caused by injury, or treat conditions such as epilepsy or Parkinson's disease. Neurosurgeons use a variety of surgical techniques, such as microsurgery or stereotactic surgery, to minimize damage to surrounding tissue and ensure the best possible outcomes for patients.
  • Managing Post-Operative Care: After surgery, a neurosurgeon is responsible for managing the patient's post-operative care. This may involve monitoring the patient's condition, adjusting medications or other treatments as necessary, and providing guidance to the patient and their family on how to manage their recovery.

Types of Neurosurgeons
There are several types of neurosurgeons who specialize in specific areas of the brain, spine, and nervous system. Some of the most common types of neurosurgeons include:

  • Endovascular Neurosurgeons: Endovascular neurosurgeons specialize in the treatment of conditions affecting the blood vessels of the brain and spinal cord using minimally invasive techniques such as embolization and angioplasty.
  • Functional Neurosurgeons: Functional neurosurgeons specialize in the treatment of movement disorders such as Parkinson's disease, epilepsy, and chronic pain. They use deep brain stimulation (DBS) and other techniques to stimulate or inhibit specific areas of the brain.
  • Neuro-Oncologists: Neuro-oncologists specialize in the treatment of brain tumors and other cancers affecting the nervous system.
  • Neurotrauma Surgeons: Neurotrauma surgeons specialize in the treatment of traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) and spinal cord injuries.
  • Pediatric Neurosurgeons: Pediatric neurosurgeons specialize in treating neurological conditions in children, such as congenital abnormalities, tumors, and epilepsy.
  • Skull Base Surgeons: Skull base surgeons specialize in the diagnosis and treatment of conditions affecting the base of the skull, such as tumors, infections, and abnormalities of the cranial nerves.
  • Spinal Neurosurgeons: Spinal neurosurgeons specialize in the diagnosis and treatment of conditions affecting the spine, such as herniated discs, spinal stenosis, and spinal cord injuries.
  • Vascular Neurosurgeons: Vascular neurosurgeons specialize in the diagnosis and treatment of conditions affecting the blood vessels of the brain and spinal cord, such as aneurysms and arteriovenous malformations (AVMs).

Are you suited to be a neurosurgeon?

Neurosurgeons have distinct personalities. They tend to be investigative individuals, which means they’re intellectual, introspective, and inquisitive. They are curious, methodical, rational, analytical, and logical. Some of them are also realistic, meaning they’re independent, stable, persistent, genuine, practical, and thrifty.

Does this sound like you? Take our free career test to find out if neurosurgeon is one of your top career matches.

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What is the workplace of a Neurosurgeon like?

The workplace of a neurosurgeon is typically dynamic and demanding, reflecting the critical nature of their profession. Neurosurgeons commonly work in hospitals, medical centers, or specialized neurological surgery clinics. These environments are equipped with state-of-the-art surgical facilities, including operating rooms with advanced imaging technology such as MRI and CT scanners, necessary for performing intricate brain and spinal surgeries.

A typical day for a neurosurgeon often involves a mix of surgical procedures, patient consultations, and administrative tasks. They may perform complex surgeries to treat conditions such as brain tumors, spinal cord injuries, or cerebral aneurysms, requiring precision, skill, and collaboration with a multidisciplinary team of healthcare professionals. Outside of the operating room, neurosurgeons may meet with patients to discuss treatment options, provide post-operative care, and collaborate with colleagues to develop comprehensive treatment plans.

The workplace of a neurosurgeon can be emotionally and physically demanding, as they often deal with high-stakes situations and life-threatening conditions. They must remain focused and composed under pressure while delivering compassionate care to patients and their families. Additionally, neurosurgeons may work long hours, including nights, weekends, and on-call shifts, to respond to emergencies and provide continuity of care for their patients.

Frequently Asked Questions

Neurologist vs Neurosurgeon

Neurologists and neurosurgeons are both medical professionals who specialize in the diagnosis and treatment of disorders affecting the nervous system, but they have distinct roles and responsibilities:


  • Diagnosis and Medical Management: Neurologists are physicians who specialize in diagnosing and treating disorders of the nervous system, including the brain, spinal cord, nerves, and muscles. They typically focus on non-surgical interventions and use various diagnostic tests, such as MRI, CT scans, and electromyography (EMG), to evaluate patients' neurological symptoms.
  • Medical Treatment: Neurologists primarily treat neurological conditions using medications, lifestyle modifications, and other non-invasive therapies. They manage chronic conditions such as epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson's disease, and migraines, as well as acute neurological emergencies like strokes.
  • Consultation and Referral: Neurologists often collaborate with other healthcare professionals, including primary care physicians, neurosurgeons, and rehabilitation specialists, to provide comprehensive care for patients with complex neurological conditions. They may also refer patients to neurosurgeons for surgical intervention when necessary.


  • Surgical Expertise: Neurosurgeons are medical doctors who specialize in performing surgical procedures on the nervous system, including the brain, spine, and peripheral nerves. They are trained to address a wide range of conditions, such as brain tumors, spinal cord injuries, cerebral aneurysms, and degenerative spine disorders.
  • Surgical Treatment: Neurosurgeons use advanced surgical techniques, including microsurgery, endoscopy, and stereotactic radiosurgery, to treat neurological disorders that require surgical intervention. They perform procedures such as craniotomies, spinal fusions, laminectomies, and deep brain stimulation implantation.
  • Postoperative Care: Neurosurgeons are responsible for providing postoperative care to their patients, including monitoring their recovery, managing pain, and addressing any complications that may arise after surgery. They work closely with neurologists, physical therapists, and other healthcare professionals to ensure optimal outcomes for their patients.

In summary, while neurologists specialize in the diagnosis and medical management of neurological disorders, neurosurgeons focus on surgical treatment options for these conditions. Both specialties play complementary roles in providing comprehensive care for patients with neurological conditions, with neurologists often serving as primary caregivers and neurosurgeons performing surgical interventions when necessary.

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Doctor Specializations and Degrees

The following is a comprehensive list of the various specializations that a doctor can pursue and a brief summary of each specialization:

  • Allergist: An allergist specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of allergies, asthma, and related conditions. Allergists have specialized training in the recognition and management of allergic reactions.
  • Anesthesiologist: An anesthesiologist keeps a patient comfortable, safe and pain-free during surgery by administering local or general anesthetic.
  • Cardiologist: A cardiologist specializes in finding, treating, and preventing diseases that affect the heart, the arteries, and the veins.
  • Cardiothoracic Surgeon: A cardiothoracic surgeon specializes in surgical procedures inside the thorax (the chest), which may involve the heart, lungs, esophagus, and other organs in the chest. As well as performing surgery, they also diagnose and treat diseases of these organs.
  • Chiropractic Neurologist: A chiropractic neurologist is a specialized type of chiropractor who has undergone additional training in the field of neurology. They diagnose and treat conditions that affect the brain, spinal cord, and other parts of the nervous system.
  • Chiropractor: A chiropractor, or doctor of chiropractic medicine, specializes in diagnosing and treating disorders of the musculoskeletal and nervous system, especially in the spine. Treatment is usually physical manipulation of the joints and the spine to bring them back into alignment. A chiropractor does not perform surgery or prescribe medication.
  • Colorectal Surgeon: A colorectal surgeon specializes in diseases of the colon, rectum, and anus, as well as the entire gastric tract. These surgeons work closely with urologists, who handle the urogenital tract in males and the urinary tract of women, gynecologists, who deal with specific female issues, and gastroenterologists, who deal with diseases of the gut.
  • Doctor: An general overview of what a doctor does and how to become one.
  • Dentist: Dentists identify potential oral health issues such as gum disease, as well as examine patients, order medical tests and determine the correct diagnosis and treatment. They also perform oral surgery and remove teeth or address other dental health problems.
  • Dermatologist: A dermatologist specializes in the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of conditions affecting skin, hair, sweat and oil glands, nails, and mucus membranes (inside the mouth, nose, and eyelids) which can include cancer.
  • Emergency Medicine Physician: An emergency medicine physician works in emergency departments, hospitals, and urgent care clinics, and is often the first medical professional that patients see when they are in need of urgent medical care.
  • Endocrinologist: An endocrinologist specializes in diagnosing conditions and diseases related to the glands and hormones. While primary care doctors know a lot about the human body, for conditions and diseases directly related to glands and hormones they will typically send a patient to an endocrinologist.
  • Family Practitioner: A family practitioner specializes in caring for the entire family. Patients can be children, adults, and the elderly, and are treated for a wide array of medical issues.
  • Forensic Pathologist: A forensic pathologist investigates the cause of sudden and unexpected deaths, and is able to determine how a person died by performing an autopsy and studying tissue and laboratory results. These doctors are often called upon to provide evidence in court regarding the cause and time of such deaths.
  • Gastroenterologist: A gastroenterologist has specific training in diagnosing and treating conditions and diseases of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract. This may include diseases and disorders that affect the the biliary system (liver, pancreas, gallbladder, and bile ducts), as well as the esophagus, stomach, small intestine, and large intestine (colon).
  • Geriatrician: A geriatrician specializes in the care of elderly patients, and often works with patients who have multiple chronic conditions, such as hypertension, diabetes, and heart disease, as well as age-related cognitive and functional impairments.
  • Gynecologist: A gynecologist specializes in women's reproductive systems. Gynecologists are also sometimes certified as obstetricians, and will monitor the health of the mother and the fetus during a pregnancy.
  • Hematologist: A doctor who specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of blood disorders, such as anemia and leukemia.
  • Hospitalist: A hospitalist is a physician whose focus is the general medical care of hospitalized patients. Their duties include patient care, teaching, research, and leadership related to hospital medicine.
  • Immunologist: An immunologist specializes in managing problems related to the immune system, such as allergies and autoimmune diseases. A smaller number of immunologists are strictly researchers seeking to better understand how the immune system works and to help develop better ways of diagnosing and providing treatment for many immunological conditions.
  • Infectious Disease Specialist: A doctor who specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of infectious diseases, such as HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, and hepatitis.
  • Internist: An internist is a 'doctor of internal medicine' who can diagnose, treat, and practice compassionate care for adults across the spectrum, from health to complex illness. They are not to be mistaken with "interns," who are doctors in their first year of residency training.
  • Medical Examiner: Medical examiners are responsible for performing autopsies and collecting evidence related to the circumstances of a death, including medical history, physical examination findings, and toxicology tests.
  • Naturopathic Physician: A naturopathic physician blends modern scientific medical practice and knowledge with natural and traditional forms of medical treatment. The goal is to treat the underlying causes of disease while stimulating the body's own healing abilities.
  • Nephrologist: A doctor who specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of kidney diseases. They treat conditions such as chronic kidney disease, acute kidney injury, kidney stones, hypertension, and electrolyte imbalances.
  • Neurologist: A neurologist specializes in treating diseases that affect the human nervous system. It is a very prestigious and difficult medical specialty due to the complexity of the nervous system, which consists of the brain, the spinal cord and the peripheral nerves.
  • Neurosurgeon: A neurosurgeon specializes in the diagnosis and surgical treatment of disorders of the central and peripheral nervous system. This includes congenital anomalies, trauma, tumours, vascular disorders, infections of the brain or spine, stroke, or degenerative diseases of the spine.
  • Obstetrician: An obstetrician is a medical doctor who specializes in caring for women during pregnancy, childbirth, and the postpartum period.
  • Occupational Physician: Occupational medicine is focused on keeping individuals well at work, both mentally and physically. As workplaces become more complex, occupational physicians play an important role in advising people on how their work can affect their health.
  • Oncologist: An oncologist specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of cancer. The three primary types of oncologists are: medical oncologists that specialize in the administration of drugs to kill cancer cells; surgical oncologists that perform surgical procedures to identify and remove cancerous tumors; and radiation oncologists that treat cancer with radiation therapy.
  • Ophthalmologist: An ophthalmologist is a specialist that deals specifically with the structure, function, diseases, and treatment of the eye. Due to the complexities and the importance of the eye as a special sense that provides vision, the discipline of ophthalmology is dedicated solely to this organ.
  • Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeon: An oral and maxillofacial surgeon treats dental and medical problems involving the oral cavity and the maxillofacial area. The maxillofacial area includes the bones of the forehead, face, cheekbones and the soft tissues. Treatment often involves performing surgery and related procedures to treat diseases, defects, or injuries, and to improve function or appearance.
  • Orthodontist: An orthodontist specializes in how the jaws and teeth are aligned. They help people whose teeth are misaligned or require some kind of correction – those with an improper bite, or malocclusion.
  • Orthopedic Surgeon / Orthopedist: An orthopaedic surgeon (or orthopedist) examines, diagnoses, and treats diseases and injuries of the musculoskeletal system. This system includes the bones, joints, ligaments, muscles, tendons, and nerves.
  • Osteopath: Osteopaths have attended and graduated from an osteopathic medical school and practise the system of healthcare known as osteopathy. They consider all aspects of the patient, not just the symptoms they exhibit. They see the integrated nature of the body’s organ systems and its capacity for self-regulation and self-healing.
  • Otolaryngologist: Otolaryngologists (or ENT physicians) are specialists trained in the diagnosis and treatment of patients with diseases and disorders of the ear, nose, throat (ENT), and related structures of the head and neck. These specialists are trained in both medicine and surgery.
  • Pathologist: A pathologist studies the causes, nature, and effects of disease. The field of pathology is broad with concentrations on changes in cells, tissues, and organs that are the result of a disease.
  • Pediatrician: A pediatrician specializes in providing medical care to infants, children and teenagers by administering treatments, therapies, medications and vaccinations to treat illness, disorders or injuries.
  • Periodontist: A periodontist is a dentist who specializes in oral inflammation, and who knows how to prevent, diagnose, and treat periodontal disease.
  • Plastic Surgeon: A plastic surgeon specializes in reshaping healthy body parts for aesthetic reasons, and also in repairing or replacing body parts damaged by accidents, illness or malformation.
  • Podiatrist: A podiatrist practices podiatric medicine, which is a branch of science devoted to the diagnosis, treatment and study of medical disorders of the foot, ankle, lower leg and lower back. In the U.S. and Canada, podiatry is practiced as a specialty.
  • Prosthodontist: A prosthodontist specializes in restoring the look, function, comfort, and health of a patient's oral cavity with artificial materials. These artificial materials are made up of a wide variety of restorations that include fillings, dentures, veneers, crowns, bridges and oral implants.
  • Psychiatrist: Psychiatrists are physicians who evaluate, diagnose and treat patients who are affected by a temporary or chronic mental health problem.
  • Pulmonologist: A pulmonologist specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of pulmonary (lung) conditions and diseases of the chest, particularly pneumonia, asthma, tuberculosis, emphysema, and complicated chest infections.
  • Radiologist: A radiologist is a specialist in interpreting medical images that may be obtained with x-rays, (CT scans or radiographs), nuclear medicine (involving radioactive substances, magnetism (MRI), or ultrasound.
  • Rheumatologist: A doctor who specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of rheumatic diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis and lupus.
  • Sports Medicine Physician: A sports medicine physician specializes in taking care of people who have sports injuries that may be acquired from playing sports, exercising, or from otherwise being physically active.
  • Surgeon: A surgeon performs surgery for the purpose of removing diseased tissue or organs, to repair body systems, or to replace diseased organs with transplants.
  • Telemedicine Physician: A telemedicine physician provides remote healthcare services to patients using telecommunications technology, facilitating virtual consultations, diagnoses, and treatment recommendations.
  • Urologist: A urologist specializes in the treatment of the male and female urinary tract and the male reproductive organs. Urologists can treat the kidneys, urinary bladder, urethra, uterus, and male reproductive organs. There are also specific specialty areas that urologists may choose to focus on, such as pediatric urology, male infertility, and urologic oncology.
  • Vascular Medicine Specialist - A vascular medicine specialist specializes in the diagnosis and nonsurgical treatment of conditions affecting the blood vessels. They may work with patients who have conditions such as deep vein thrombosis, peripheral artery disease, or pulmonary embolism.
  • Vascular Surgeon - A vascular surgeon specializes in the diagnosis and surgical treatment of conditions affecting the blood vessels, including aneurysms, peripheral artery disease, and varicose veins.
  • Veterinary Dentist - A veterinary dentist is a specialized veterinarian who focuses on the diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of dental diseases and conditions in animals. They perform dental procedures such as cleanings, extractions, and oral surgeries to improve the oral health and well-being of pets and other animals.


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Doctor Allergist Anesthesiologist Cardiologist Cardiothoracic Surgeon Chiropractor Colorectal Surgeon Dentist Dermatologist Emergency Medicine Physician Endocrinologist Family Practitioner Forensic Pathologist Gastroenterologist Geriatrician Gynecologist Hematologist Hospitalist Immunologist Infectious Disease Specialist Internist Medical Examiner Naturopathic Physician Nephrologist Neurologist Obstetrician Occupational Physician Oncologist Ophthalmologist Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeon Orthopedic Surgeon Orthopedist Orthodontist Osteopath Otolaryngologist Pathologist Pediatrician Periodontist Plastic Surgeon Podiatrist Prosthodontist Psychiatrist Pulmonologist Radiologist Rheumatologist Sports Medicine Physician Surgeon Urologist Vascular Medicine Specialist Vascular Surgeon Chiropractic Neurologist Veterinary Dentist Telemedicine Physician

Pros and Cons of Being a Neurosurgeon

Becoming a neurosurgeon offers numerous rewards and challenges. Here are some pros and cons:


  • Impactful Work: Neurosurgeons have the opportunity to make a profound impact on patients' lives by treating complex neurological conditions and improving quality of life.
  • High Earning Potential: Neurosurgery is one of the highest-paying medical specialties, with neurosurgeons often earning significant salaries due to the specialized skills and training required for the profession.
  • Intellectual Stimulation: Neurosurgery is intellectually challenging, requiring critical thinking, problem-solving skills, and a deep understanding of complex anatomy and physiology.
  • Prestige and Respect: Neurosurgeons are highly respected within the medical community and society at large for their expertise and ability to perform intricate surgical procedures on the brain and spine.
  • Advancements in Technology: Neurosurgery is at the forefront of medical innovation, with ongoing advancements in surgical techniques, imaging technology, and minimally invasive procedures that enhance patient outcomes and recovery.


  • Lengthy Training: Becoming a neurosurgeon requires extensive education and training, including four years of medical school, followed by a demanding residency program that typically lasts seven to eight years. This prolonged training period can be physically, emotionally, and financially demanding.
  • High Stress and Pressure: Neurosurgery is inherently high-stress and high-pressure, with neurosurgeons often dealing with life-threatening emergencies, complex surgeries, and difficult patient outcomes. The emotional toll of the job can be significant.
  • Long Hours and On-Call Duties: Neurosurgeons frequently work long hours, including nights, weekends, and holidays, and are often required to be on-call to respond to emergencies. This can lead to a challenging work-life balance and limited time for personal pursuits.
  • Risk of Burnout: The demanding nature of neurosurgery, combined with long hours, high stress, and intense pressure, can increase the risk of burnout among neurosurgeons. It's essential for neurosurgeons to prioritize self-care and seek support to prevent burnout and maintain their well-being.
  • Liability and Malpractice Risks: Neurosurgery carries inherent risks, and neurosurgeons may face the possibility of medical malpractice lawsuits in the event of adverse patient outcomes. This can lead to professional and financial repercussions, as well as emotional distress.

Neurosurgeons are also known as:
Brain Surgeon