Medical Specialty

How Competitive is a Neurological Surgery Residency? Updated for 2023

If you want a career as a neurological surgeon, here is how competitive the medical specialty is to match into a neurological surgery residency. Neurological surgery is the branch of medicine that involves the surgical care of diseases of the brain and spinal cord.

Statistics on the Neurological Surgery Match

In 2022, neurological surgery had a total of 379 applicants and 240 spots. This equates to 1.58 applicants per position. Of the 272 U.S. MD seniors who applied, 70 did not match.

Total Positions Total Number of Applicants Number of Applicants per Position
240 379 1.58

Osteopathic (DO) Students Matching into Neurological Surgery

In 2022, the total number of DO Senior Applicants was 21. Of those, 9 matched, for a 42.86% match percentage. This makes neurological surgery a Not Friendly field for osteopathic students.

Total DO Applicants Matched DO Applicants DO Match Percentage
21 9 42.86%

International Medical Graduates (IMGs) Matching into Neurological Surgery

Because there are 1.13 U.S. MD applicants per 1 program spot, neurological surgery is considered to be Not Friendly for IMGs students.

Honors, Research and Awards for Neurological Surgery Residency Candidates

The average matched U.S. applicant had 7.6 volunteer experiences and 3.6 work experiences. They had 6.6 research experiences and 25.5 abstracts, presentations and publications. That makes this specialty on where the number of publications needed is Very High.

Research Experiences Abstracts, Presentations and Publications Work Experiences Volunteer Experiences
6.6 25.5 3.6 7.6

Average Step 1 and Step 2 Scores for Neurological Surgery

The mean U.S. Step 1 score for matched medical students in neurological surgery was 248. The mean USMLE Step 2 CK score was 252.

Overall Competitiveness of Neurological Surgery Residency and Chances of Matching

The overall competitiveness level of neurological surgery is Extremely High for a U.S. senior. With a Step 1 score of 200, the probability of matching is 0%. With a Step 1 score of >240, the probability is 72%.

How long is a residency in neurological surgery? What is the lifestyle like for a neurological surgery resident?

Compared to other residencies, neurological surgery has a Long training length. As far as lifestyle, neurological surgeons generally have a High stress lifestyle. Of course, lifestyle is very subjective and if you love what you do, it does not matter! And if you hate what you do, it can still be rough no matter what. In medicine, you should find the specialty that makes you enjoy your everyday interactions with patients, staff and colleagues.

What is the average salary for a neurological surgeon?

The average salary post-graduation from a neurological surgery residency is $617,000, provided one does not go on to sub-specialty training which can change the salary substantially. Academic versus private practice as well as location also play a large role in physician compensation.

What are fellowships one can do from a neurological surgery residency?

Following the successful completion of general neurological surgery residency, some physicians may choose to continue their graduate medical education with subspecialty training. Board-certified subspecialists complete additional training and qualifying examinations beyond those required for board certification in neurological surgery. Currently, the American Board of Neurological Surgery certifies the following fellowships:

  • Cerebrovascular Disorders
  • Neuro-Oncology
  • Neurotrauma
  • Functional Neurosurgery
  • Pediatric Neurosurgery
  • Spine
  • Translational Brain Tumor Research

What are the best neurological surgery residencies in the country?

The best residency for neurological surgery, or any specialty, is very driven by personal preference and situation. How close you are to family, loved ones, the type of training environment, the opportunities available are all things to take into consideration above and beyond name recognition of a program. However, there are some highly regarded names in the world of neurological surgery including:

      • University of California San Francisco
      • Johns Hopkins University (Baltimore)
      • NewYork Presbyterian Hospital (Columbia Campus) (New York City)
      • University of Pennsylvania
      • Massachusetts General Hospital
      • UPMC Medical Education (Pittsburgh)
      • Mayo Clinic College of Medicine and Science (Rochester, Minn.)

Much of the data above is available from the AAMC Charting the Outcomes report.

Explore Other Specialties:

SpecialtyAverage Step 1 Score (Matched)Average Step 2 Score (Matched)
Child Neurology233246
Diagnostic Radiology241249
Emergency Medicine233247
Family Medicine221238
General Surgery237249
Internal Medicine235248
Internal Medicine/Pediatrics236250
Interventional Radiology247255
Neurological Surgery248252
Obstetrics and Gynecology232248
Orthopaedic Surgery248255
Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation228241
Plastic Surgery249256
Radiation Oncology243250
Vascular Surgery239247


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