Highest paying countries for neurosurgeons

Neurosurgeons are medical doctors specializing in performing surgery on the brain and neurological system, undergoing rigorous training to handle complex health science. They are among the highest-paid professions globally, with some countries offering higher salaries than others. The increasing demand for neurosurgery services due to rising rates of conditions such as spine, stroke, and tumor as the population ages, as well as new techniques and treatments like deep brain stimulation for Parkinson’s, increases the demand for specialized care. As a result, practicing neurosurgeons are in high demand and are among the highest-paid medical specialists in the world. In this article, we will look at the 18 highest-paying countries for neurosurgeons


The US faces a severe shortage of neurosurgeons, with only around 3,800 board-certified practitioners nationwide. This issue is worsening as the population ages, with many neurosurgeons nearing retirement age. The number of available training spots has remained stagnant for over a decade, with only about 200 physicians entering neurosurgery training each year.


What is neurosurgery?

Neurosurgery is a discipline that deals with the accurate diagnosis and treatment of patients with injuries, diseases, or disorders of the brain, spinal cord, spinal column, and peripheral nerves. It includes adult and pediatric patients, and the type of care provided depends on the nature of the injury or disease.

Neurologist vs Neurosurgeon: What is the difference?

Neurologists vs Neurosurgeons: Key Differences

• Neurologists do not perform surgical procedures, while neurosurgeons do.

• Both require a university, medical school, and residency.

• In terms of the duration of education, neurology is shorter at four years, compared to neurosurgery’s seven years.


• Neurosurgeons only treat neurologic conditions requiring surgery, while a neurologist treats all medical conditions that affect the brain and central nervous system.


• Both can treat the same patients, but neurologists may treat conditions with medication, minor procedures, or physical therapy.

What does a neurosurgeon do?

Neurosurgeons offer treatments for back and neck pain, trigeminal neuralgia, head injuries, and Parkinson’s disease. They provide operative and non-operative management of neurological disorders, including prevention, diagnosis, evaluation, treatment, critical care, and rehabilitation.

Typical duties for a neurosurgeon could include:

  • Meeting with patients to discuss symptoms
  • Ordering tests to assist in diagnoses, such as MRIs, biopsies and CT scans
  • Performing medical procedures that can last several hours
  • Using special medical equipment in a sterile environment
  • Working closely with a surgical team to provide the best care for patients.

The work environment of a neurosurgeon

Neurosurgeons work in hospitals, special surgery centers, and other healthcare facilities, often working extended hours, nights, weekends, and holidays. They may also work on-call shifts. Their work environment includes standing and moving, working with patients, performing surgeries in sterile operating rooms, wearing protective gear, using special tools, using computers or tablets, and administering medications as needed.


What skills must a neurosurgeon possess?

Neurosurgeons need a special skill set to be successful, including:

Physical and mental stamina: Neurosurgeons need to maintain physical and mental stamina for long-term surgeries.
Communication: They must communicate with physicians, nurses, and patients to make quick decisions and explain procedures.
Time management: Neurosurgeons need to manage their time effectively to perform procedures and complete paperwork.
Dexterity: They must be able to perform complex procedures using specialized tools without making mistakes.
Emotional intelligence: Neurosurgeons need emotional intelligence to listen, interpret patients, and deliver professional results and post-operation updates.
Critical thinking: Neurosurgeons use critical thinking to gather and evaluate all available information, making thorough, informed judgments in emergencies.

Are there different areas of specialty in neurosurgery?

Some of these advanced divisions of neurosurgery are

  • Vascular Neurosurgery
  • Stereotactic Neurosurgery
  • Functional Neurosurgery
  • Epilepsy Neurosurgery
  • Oncological Neurosurgery/Oncological Surgery
  • Spinal Neurosurgery
  • Peripheral Nerve Surgery
    Paediatric Neurosurgery (for cancers, disorders, seizures, bleeding, strokes, congenital and cognitive disorders)
  • Skull Base Surgery

Common neurosurgery procedures

The five common medical conditions that a neurosurgeon may encounter, according to AAMC Careers in Medicine include:

  1. Back pain and back neurosurgery
  2. Brain tumors and brain neurosurgery
  3. Cervical pain and cervical neurosurgery
  4. Nervous system trauma
  5. Nervous system and vascular conditions

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How much does a neurosurgeon make?

Neurosurgeons often work in full-time positions. Their salaries may depend on their experience level and the size, type, and location of the health care facility in which they work.

Common salary in the U.S.: $148,408 per year

Some salaries range from $14,000 to $379,000 per year

How to become a neurosurgeon

Step 1: Complete Prerequisites and Apply to Medical School
• Students must complete prerequisite courses like chemistry, biology, and physics.
• They may also complete research, gain leadership roles, and study for the MCAT.

Step 2: Complete Medical School
• Medical school lasts four years, focusing on basic and hands-on training.
• Students study for STEP or COMLEX exams.
• They apply for a residency training position during the last year of their education.

Step 3: Complete Neurosurgery Residency
• Neurosurgery residency lasts seven years, providing necessary medical education and training for complex neurosurgical procedures.
• Neurosurgeons must take neurosurgery board examinations at the end of residency.

Step 4: Complete Fellowship (Optional)
• After residency, neurosurgeons can pursue additional training in a subspecialty of neurosurgery, lasting up to two years.

How hard is it to become a neurosurgeon?

Neurosurgeons face significant challenges in medical school, residency, and matching into the field. In 2020, only 74.3% of U.S. medical applicants successfully matched into neurosurgery, compared to an overall match rate of 89.8%. To succeed, students must achieve good grades, STEP and COMLEX board scores, and participate in extracurricular activities like leadership roles and research.

Highest-Paying Countries for Neurosurgeons

1. United States

The average neurosurgeon gross salary in United States is $534,538 or an equivalent hourly rate of $257. In addition, they earn an average bonus of $128,556. Salary estimates based on salary survey data collected directly from employers and anonymous employees in United States

The US is a top destination for neurosurgeons due to its advanced medical infrastructure, cutting-edge technology, and robust healthcare system. The high demand for neurosurgeons arises from an aging population requiring intricate neurological care and a scarcity of specialists. The US also offers favorable working conditions, research opportunities, and affiliations with renowned institutions, attracting global talent.


2. Switzerland

Switzerland offers a structured pathway for specialist training in neurosurgery, regulated by FMH. Trainees undergo a comprehensive process including the “Basis Examen Chirurgie,” radiation protection courses, and the 4-year EANS course. Completion of exams and training culminates in acquiring the prestigious FMH Neurochirurgie title.

Switzerland offers a high standard of living, with starting salaries for neurosurgeons at CHF300,000 and salaries at CHF615,000 for those over 10 years. Senior neurosurgeons can earn more. Switzerland is also one of the countries with the highest standard of living.

The conditions of working for neurosurgeons in Switzerland are also decent, and it pays special attention to their training.

3. Norway

Next on our list of the highest paying countries for neurosurgeons is Norway. Norway offers high salaries for neurosurgeons due to its robust healthcare system, strong economy, and high cost of living. Neurosurgeons in Norway earn an average salary of NOK 4.2 million a year, with some bonuses.

They are the among the highest-paying country in the list. Senior neurosurgeons earn an average of kr 5,883,884 ($538,827). Norway’s well-structured healthcare system, world-class infrastructure, and research universities make it an attractive destination for neurosurgeons.

4. Japan

A Japanese neurosurgeon earns an average of 45 million Yen a year. In addition to being one of the most technologically advanced countries in the world, Japan has a fantastic medical infrastructure. The top-class neurosurgeons in Japan are among the highest-paid globally.

5. Australia

Australia is the largest country in Oceania and the world’s sixth-largest country. It is the oldest, flattest, and driest-inhabited continent, offering a wide variety of landscapes and climates. Neurosurgeons in Australia make around AU$502,000 with an additional bonus pay of up to AU$102,000. This makes Australia one of the highest paying countries for neurosurgeons in the world.

Australia offers a favorable environment for neurosurgeons due to advanced medical facilities, rigorous training programs, and a strong emphasis on research and innovation. The country offers a well-established healthcare system and opportunities for professional growth. Neurosurgeons in Australia practice a variety of specialties, including brain surgery, spinal surgery, and cerebrovascular/endovascular surgery.

In 2017, there were 253 registered neurosurgeons in Australia, and the Neurosurgical Society of Australasia serves as the professional association. Dr. Timothy Steel, a renowned neurosurgeon with a specialization in minimally invasive spine and brain surgery, is an exemplary figure in Australia.

6. Canada

Canada’s neurosurgeons face high demand and steady growth, with 339 in 2019 and 0.9 neurosurgeons per 100,000 population. The rigorous training process and six years of specialized training ensure they are well-equipped to address complex neurological conditions.

The national average pay for surgical specialists in Canada is around $500,000 a year. Neurosurgeons are highly respected in Canada, with top universities training them and a good practice environment. The average annual salary is $350,000, with a bonus of around $122,000, bringing their potential earning to nearly $500,000.

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7. Denmark

Denmark is one of the highest paying countries for neurosurgeons, with an average wage of around 1.2 million DKK per year. Experienced neurosurgeons earn significantly more, with 1-3 years of experience earning around kr 1,636,474 kr ($232,000) and 8+ years earning an average of 4,293,493 kr ($608,772).

Neurosurgeons in Denmark are considered among the best in the world and are collectively skilled in all aspects of neurosurgery. With over 60 skilled neurosurgeons and four quality university hospitals offering neurosurgery, the country offers high-quality procedures, neuronavigation, intraoperative monitoring, and advanced techniques like intraoperative MRI. Stroke treatment, such as endovascular thrombectomy, is a growing area of focus.

8. Ireland

Neurosurgery professionals in Ireland earn between €180,000 and €252,000 for full-time positions in public hospitals and $84,000 in bonuses. This makes Ireland one of the highest paying countries for neurosurgeons. Experience can lead to higher pay, with experts predicting an increase in the coming years.

The 8-year pathway includes Core Surgical Training (ST1) and Specialty Training (ST8), with assessments through the Competency Assessment and Performance Appraisal (CAPA) process. Successful completion of the MRCS exam and specialty interview is required for advancement.

9. Netherlands

The Netherlands is a top destination for neurosurgery residents due to its exceptional medical education system and advanced healthcare infrastructure. Neurosurgeons can obtain their higher education from high-quality medical programs and renowned institutions.

The country offers practical experience in Dutch hospitals, specialization opportunities, and a salary mouth-watering salary. Neurosurgeons in the Netherlands earn an average of €309,558 plus €74,449 in bonuses. Experienced neurosurgeons in non-academic hospitals earn over €175,000 per year.


Luxembourg, a small, affluent country with a high standard of living, is known for its well-structured healthcare system. This well-developed system, coupled with a high demand for specialized medical services, contributes to the higher pay for neurosurgeons.

Additionally, Luxembourg is one of the countries with the highest minimum wages in the world, making it a top destination for those seeking top-tier medical professionals. The country’s strategic location within Europe further enhances its economic growth.

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