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How to become a neurosurgeon

The management of neurosurgical patients requires excellent medical and surgical skills and a career in Neurosurgery offers many challenges and rewards. To train in neurosurgery in the UK the usual route is:


  • Medical degree leading to provisional then full registration with the General Medical Council

    • Nb. Some doctors from abroad may have to take the PLAB test prior to registering with the General Medical Council

  • 2 years of foundation jobs

    • These may be four or six month jobs and are designed to provide general all round medical and surgical experience.

  • Application for neurosurgical training posts

    • All neurosurgical jobs in England, Scotland and Wales are appointed centrally once a year.  A separate central appointment process occurs in Ireland.  The process is hosted by the Yorkshire Deanery.

  • The MRCS examination is usually taken two to three years after full registration

  • Neurosurgical trainees then progress through 8 stages of training (ST1 - ST8).  This usually takes 8 years.  The neurosurgical curriculum and more detail may be found on the ISCP website

    • The speciality board examination in neurosurgery is usually taken after completing ST6.

After completing training and passing the examination the specialist advisory committee will consider whether a trainee is competent to complete training.   They will make a recommendation to PMETB and if a trainee is deemed competent then they will be placed on the specialist register and allowed to apply for a consultant job.

Alternatively doctors who can show that they have completed similar training schemes and achieved the same competencies may apply to be placed on the specialist register directly to PMETB using article 14.

Consultants are expected to continue developing their professional skills throughout their working lives.

Specialty Training

The foundation programme started in August 2005 some doctors get a limited amount of neurosurgical experience during their foundation years. There is then competitive entry into an eight year neurosurgical training programme. Selection has been centralised for Scotland, England and Wales (Ireland remains separate) and is hosted by the Yorkshire Deanery.

This can be divided into:

Basic Neuroscience training (ST1, ST2, ST3)

The exact content of this stage depends on the training programme.  A typical training programme would include 2 years of neurosurgery and 1 year of four or six month blocks in related specialities including neurology, neurorehabilitation or neurophysiology, ENT, Plastics, neurointensive care or emergency medicine.

Intermediate Neurosurgery training (ST4, ST5)


Full time Neurosurgery

Final Neurosurgical training (ST6, subspecialty year, ST8)

Full time Neurosurgery
Sub-speciality year will require prospective approval, may be taken at any time during final neurosurgical training and will frequently occur in a different training programme.
Final assessment for CCT

The Intercollegiate Surgical Curriculum,  Neurosurgery Syllabus  provides a very comprehensive insight for aspiring neurosurgery.

It can be found here:

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