When a patient requires a surgical procedure of the central or peripheral nervous system, it’s a neurosurgeon who takes scalpel in hand. This surgical specialist spends years learning his craft, devoting four years to an undergraduate degree and another four years to medical school before moving on to a residency. The first year of residency is usually spent in general surgery. From there, candidates spend five to seven years in a neurosurgery residency program. With so much training, it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that neurosurgeons often earn six-figure salaries.
On average, surgeons earned $230,540 a year in 2012, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. This was a slight decrease from the previous year, when salaries averaged at $231,550. A survey by the Medical Group Management Association found that neurosurgeons earned roughly 200 percent more than the national average for all surgeons, bringing home $701,927 a year, as of 2011. Those specializing in pediatrics earned nearly 7 percent less than general neurosurgeons, averaging $656,282 annually.
Starting salaries in neurosurgery aren’t nearly as high, but they still come in at six figures. As of 2011, half of all neurosurgeons just entering the field earned at least $400,000 a year, according to the MGMA survey. Of the top 25 percent, starting salaries often exceeded $468,750, while salaries for the bottom 25 percent started at less than $261,250 annually. With one to two years of experience, salaries jumped to a median of $634,884 a year.
Neurosurgeons choosing to teach instead of practice medicine earn salaries in line with starting salaries of neurosurgeons, at least when it comes to median wages. A survey by the Association of American Medical Colleges found that half of all assistant professors in neurosurgery earned at least $408,000 a year, as of 2011. Associate and full professors earned closer to a median wage of $487,000 a year. However, the top 25 percent in this profession earned salaries in excess of $635,000 a year.
The BLS expects employment opportunities for surgeons to be favorable, with an average growth rate of 24 percent from 2010 to 2020. Job prospects for neurosurgeons will likely match or exceed this number. As of 2010, neurosurgery was one of the three medical specialties most pursued for employment in hospital settings, according to an article in Becker’s Hospital Review, a national trade publication for the health care industry.
- Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Outlook Handbook – Physicians and Surgeons
- Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2012 – Surgeons
- Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2011 – Surgeons
- Becker’s ASC Review: 25 Highest-Paid Specialties – Salaries for Hospital-Employed Physicians
- Short White Coats: The Ultimate Guide to Physician Salaries
- Becker’s Hospital Review: 3 Medical Specialties Most Pursued for Employment by Hospitals
- University of Rochester Medical Center: What is a Neurosurgeon?
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