Embarking on a career in neurosurgery is a long-term commitment that involves several stages of rigorous training. This guide provides a detailed timeline and requirements for those aspiring to join the ranks of neurosurgeons.

Undergraduate Education

Bachelor’s Degree

The journey to become a neurosurgeon starts with obtaining a bachelor’s degree. Aspiring neurosurgeons often major in a science-related field such as biology, chemistry, or physics. This phase takes approximately four years of full-time study. Achieving high academic standings is crucial for medical school applications, with most successful applicants boasting a GPA of 3.5 or higher.

Medical College Admission Test (MCAT)

After completing an undergraduate degree, candidates must pass the MCAT, a critical component for medical school admission. High scores, typically above the 90th percentile, are necessary to be competitive for top medical schools.

Graduate Medical Education

Medical School

Medical school itself lasts about four years. The first two years focus on classroom and laboratory instruction in basic medical sciences. The final two years involve clinical rotations, providing students with direct patient care experience in various specialties, including neurology.

Neurosurgical Residency

Upon graduating from medical school, the next step is a neurosurgical residency, which is among the most demanding. This residency typically spans seven years. During this time, residents receive extensive training in diagnosing and treating neurological diseases through both surgical and non-surgical means.

Advanced Fellowship Training

Some neurosurgeons choose to specialize further by pursuing a fellowship in areas such as pediatric neurosurgery, spine surgery, or cerebrovascular surgery. Fellowships can add an additional one to two years to the training process.

Licensing and Certification


Neurosurgeons must pass the United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE), a three-step exam, to be licensed to practice medicine. Each step of the USMLE is taken at different stages of medical education.

Board Certification

After residency, neurosurgeons can obtain board certification from the American Board of Neurological Surgery, which involves passing a rigorous examination that tests both knowledge and practical skills.

Continuous Education

To maintain their licenses and board certifications, neurosurgeons are required to participate in ongoing medical education throughout their careers. This ensures they stay up-to-date with the latest medical advancements and continue to provide the highest quality of care.

Total Duration

Adding up all these components, the training to become a neurosurain generally takes between 14 to 16 years after high school: four years of undergraduate education, four years of medical school, a minimum of seven years in residency, and potentially additional years if pursuing a fellowship.

Final Considerations

Choosing to pursue a career in neurosurgery is not just a professional decision; it’s a life commitment to excellence, precision, and continuous learning. The path is long and demanding but also immensely rewarding, providing the opportunity to make significant impacts in the lives of patients.

For more detailed information on neurosurgery how many years of training you need, visit our dedicated resource. This comprehensive journey is designed for those with a deep passion for neuroscience and a relentless drive to excel in one of the most challenging fields in medicine.

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