How Much Does a Brain Surgeon Make a Year?

Brain surgeons are among the highest paid professionals.
i Thomas Northcut/Digital Vision/Getty Images
Brain surgeons are among the highest paid professionals.

Brain surgeons are experts in neurosurgery, a specialty concerned with the diagnosis and treatment of disorders or traumas that affect the brain and its related components, including the spinal cord. As with all doctors, they must go through many years of extensive training and practice to develop this expertise -- and are well compensated for their important work in society. After all, this is brain surgery.


According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, brain surgeons are among the highest paid of all professions. Physicians practicing in medical specialties such as neurosurgery received a median annual compensation of $356,885 in 2010. This is significantly more than physicians practicing primary care, who earned an average of $202,392. Some surgeons who do not practice full-time, however, may earn less than $100,000. It is possible to achieve your peak earnings after five to nine years of experience, and maintain this throughout your career.

Qualifications and Training

Brain surgeons are among the most qualified of all professionals. Generally, they must complete an undergraduate degree and four years of medical school. They then serve an internship that is tied to their school’s residency program, where they get first-hand experience in hospitals. A further residency is required to specialize in neurosurgery, which can take an additional five to seven years. The cost of funding this education and training is great and can amount to well over $200,000. Many take student loans or other forms of financing to pay for this.

Job Outlook

Prospects in the field of neurosurgery are very good. Employment is projected to grow by 24 percent from 2010 to 2020. This is a result of an aging population and continued expansion of health-care related industries and institutions. New technology makes the job more effective and efficient and reduces the amount of time and number of staff needed for a procedure. This may reduce the rate of growth. Physicians who are flexible and willing to work in low-income or rural areas should find opportunities as these areas often have a difficult time attracting surgeons.

Work Environment

Many surgeons work irregular hours, including very long shifts and overnight shifts. They may also be on call and may need to rush to work given the urgency of the patient’s needs. They work in hospitals, clinics and private offices, always supported by a staff of nurses and other health-care practitioners. The working environment and tools used for procedures must be sterile at all times. Finally, the surgeon must communicate with the patient before and after the procedure as part of her good practice.

2016 Salary Information for Physicians and Surgeons

Physicians and surgeons earned a median annual salary of $204,950 in 2016, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. On the low end, physicians and surgeons earned a 25th percentile salary of $131,980, meaning 75 percent earned more than this amount. The 75th percentile salary is $261,170, meaning 25 percent earn more. In 2016, 713,800 people were employed in the U.S. as physicians and surgeons.

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