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How to become a Neurosurgeon?

Okay so I have a question or multiple. I am very uneducated about all of this. I am already taking college classes now. Is there anyway I could just go straight into medical school? What is residency? If it is what I am thinking is there anyway to do reisdency in another state or do you have to stay where you were going to school and do reisdency in the same state you attended college at? What classes do you take to become a neurosurgeon? If you need I can tell you what I am taking now, and what I need to take. I am taking advantage of this oppurtunity I have in getting a head start on college while still in high school. I am just confused about all of this. I feel very dumb about this. I plan on getting the best education I can get, and I want to be in and out of college as quick as I can. I want to know if I can do medical school, and college at the same time. What residency is, and if you still have to attend college while doing that. What classes you have to have to become a Neurosurgeon. Finally, any other things I have to do to show I am dedicated to helping others, and really wanting to finish this career path as soon as possible. #medicine #surgery #neuroscience #neurology #neurosurgeon


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James’s Answer

hi, kayla. i'm a family physician with 20 years in practice. here's the typical neurosurgical career path in the USA. 4-5 years of college. then 4 years of medical school. then ~7 years of Residency. so, most likely, you'd be around 33 years old when you've finally completed your medical education and neurosurgical training. attempting to condense that time frame would be extremely difficult. if you're dead set on that then my best advice would be to consider medical schools and training outside of the country. however, i wouldn't advise you to do that. it takes a lot of time to develop experience and skills. the 7 years of Residency could be shortened if you chose a different medical specialty. the shortest Residencies are 3 years.


another of your questions is about classes to take in college. you will need Chemistry, Organic Chemistry, Physics, Calculus, and Biology. definitely helpful would be Biochemistry, Immunology, Microbiology, Physiology, and Medical Ethics. i would also strongly suggest courses in Medical Terminology and Medical Spanish. however, as for your actual Major that is completely up to you. medical schools have been making incredible efforts to admit non-science Majors who also have the completed the required classes. so, for instance, i graduated with a degree in Business Management.


another question you had was about where you'd do your Residency. during your last year of medical school you will investigate your Residency options and interview with those programs. there's a process called The Match whereby students rank their residency choices and residency programs rank applicants. you can choose residency programs near and far. it's really up to you to decide where you want to train.


i couldn't agree more with the previous professional's answer. you really have to take the initiative to find out as much as possible about the career you desire. your college's Health Professions Advisor is an excellent place to start. they can tell you what grades and test scores you'll need, the requirements for each medical school, locations of schools and residency programs, connect you with medical students and other pre-med students, discuss available volunteer opportunities, etc.


probably the most helpful experience you could get would be to get a job as a medical scribe. there are several credentialling organizations that can tell you more about this. and whether you are employed as a scribe or whether you simply shadow a doctor while he practices you will gain invaluable insight.


good luck!


Thank you for helping me also. You have realy helped me with what classes I need. I am already taking Chemistry, and have taken biology. i am taking Biology 2 right now. I am also in a vocational class, I am taking health sciences or allied health. I am taking general Psychology, and plan on taking anatomy and phisology soon. Do you know what I should score on the ACT? Kayla N.

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John’s Answer

Hi, Kayla: that's great you have identified a career that you're really excited to pursue! If you're taking college courses now, that's terrific. As for Med School, you really need to go to college first. Med Schools are looking for well-rounded candidates who want to help people, are good at science, and are very good students. Depending on the college you attend, you may be able to finish in fewer than four years, but I would urge not to rush things too much. Getting into a good college with a good record of getting their graduates into med schools is a good first goal. Once you get to college you can begin working with the Health Professions Advisor(s) to navigate your way to the best med school for you. Residencies usually come after you finish the first four years of Med School. You can get some clues by looking at this website that is designed for college students: http://careers.williams.edu/career-exploration/healthstem/. (I used to work at Williams College up in Massachusetts and about 60 students a year applied to med school each year.)


In the meantime, if you can find ways to work in hospitals as a volunteer that'd be great. Or, there are probably nursing homes or assisted living centers in your area that would love volunteers. It will give you a good feeling by helping people and it will give you an idea of what sort of illnesses are most common amongst older folks. As a neurosurgeon you would be working with many different kinds of people, so getting a good idea of who you'd be working with and for is an excellent way to begin.


Finally, next time you have a check up, be sure to ask your doctor lots of questions. He/she may be busy, but once they know you're interested in becoming a doctor they should be happy to help. If you have more questions, let me know.


Do you have any classes you think I should add to the ones he said? I am really nervous going into all of this, but I have always wanted to go into anything medical since I was little. I am really not sure exactly hat I want to be, but the heart and brain really interest me. I know I want to help people in anyway possible. Thank you for you help. I will be staying in my state for college to be slightly cheaper. I will only go out of state if I have too. Thank you for helping. Kayla N.

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Maria’s Answer

Hi Kayla
These are very good questions, don't feel dumb at all.
In the USA to attend Medical School there are pre-requisites. At minimal pre-med courses and an entrance exam. These is done at college level. Since this is such a competitive career and getting in Medical School is hard, you want to go above and beyond minimal and excel in the Med School entrance exam called the MCAT (https://students-residents.aamc.org/applying-medical-school/taking-mcat-exam/).
Once you get into medical school you have to devote yourself to it and you should not be enrolled in anything else (academic speaking).
After you finish medical school (4 years in USA, 5-6 years in other countries (an I will get back on this subject), you go into internship for one year then into residency 3-6 years depending on specialty selected.
There is one more optional level called Fellowship.
Internship is a general medical hands-on training and many states will allow you to practice as a "general practitioner" after this one year.
If you want to become a specialist such as Pediatrician, Gynecologist, Neurologist or Neurosurgeon (just to name a few) you must complete a Residency, which is the specialty training.
Fellowship is a training (1-3 years) in a subspecialty, say you want to be a Neurosurgeon specializing in surgeries for the treatment of tumors in the base of the skull, or you want to be a neurologist that specializes in seizures.
Some people enroll in more than one residency or fellowship.
Where you do internship and residency is usually dependent on the program called "The Match" (http://www.nrmp.org/intro-to-main-residency-match/), you can apply to multiple schools local and afar but still have to make it through the match. So you may "match" to a program in a different state than your first choice. some people don't match at all or decide to take a chance with unmatched spots after the match.
Other countries believe in combining college and medical school into one pathway lasting 6-7 years. In those countries you got straight from high school into medical school. However if you want to return to USA to practice medicine you must ascertain that the foreign school is accredited and accepted in USA.

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Richard’s Answer

Take as many AP or IB courses in high school. You have a lot of years of education in front of you and getting college credit in high school can save you time and money.


In the US, to apply to medical school, you need a bachelor's degree. Any 4-year university should suffice.

Pick a college that suits your personality and a major that interests you. You will need to get good grades in college in order to apply for medical school. At the medical school I attended, the average GPA is reported to be 3.85, so even one or two B's can hurt your chances of acceptance.

Aside from this, any major is acceptable as long as you complete the prerequisite courses.

Typical medical school prerequisites include:
Biology: Lecture – 4 semesters; Lab – 1 semester
General Chemistry: Lecture – 2 semesters; Lab – 1 semester
Organic Chemistry: Lecture – 2 semesters; Lab – 1 semester
Biochemistry: Lecture – 1 semester
General Physics: Lecture – 2 semesters; Lab – 1 semester
Math: Statistics – 1 semester
English: Rhetoric (Composition) and Literature – 2 semesters

Try to find opportunities to pursue research.

Volunteer at your local hospital or low-income clinic. Ask physicians, PAs or other clinical providers if you can shadow them.


During college study for and complete the MCAT. Devote an entire summer to studying for the MCAT and consider paying for a prep course if you can afford it.

Apply to medical schools during your last year of college.

Medical school takes 4 years to complete.

After medical school neurosurgeons complete a 6 year residency for additional training. These are sometimes followed by an additional year or two of fellowship subspecialty training.

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Rachel’s Answer

Neurosurgery is a great field requiring a medical doctorate. This means that you will have to complete college with a bachelor’s degree as well as all of the Pre-med requirements. GPA should probably be 3.8 or better. You will also have to score well on the MCAT. Once accepted to medical school, you will need to be at the top of your class and score well on STEP I. You will also need to engage in some research. Neurosurgery is a 6 or 7 year residency after medical school.

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