How do I Become a Spinal Surgeon?

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  • Written By: D. Jeffress
  • Edited By: Jenn Walker
  • Last Modified Date: 29 November 2019
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Most surgical procedures that involve the spine are inherently delicate and difficult, and they require the expertise and steady hands of a highly-trained professional. A person who wants to become a spinal surgeon is typically required to complete four years of medical school, four years of residency training, and an additional one to two years in a fellowship program. In addition, an individual is required to pass a series of licensing and certification examinations to earn the necessary credentials.

In order to prepare for medical school, a person who wants to become a spinal surgeon can pursue a bachelor's degree in premedical studies, biology, or a related subject from an accredited university. Undergraduates usually take numerous courses in human anatomy, physiology, cognitive science, and biology to gain a detailed understanding of the human body. Classes in mathematics, computer science, and communications are also important to develop the skills necessary to succeed in the health care field.

Near the end of a bachelor's degree program, an individual can take a national medical college admissions test and begin submitting applications to respected medical schools. A medical student who wants to become a spinal surgeon can choose to pursue either a doctor of medicine (MD) or doctor of osteopathy (DO) degree. Both programs involve four to five years of intensive classroom studies and clinical internships. In addition, students usually participate in detailed research projects that focus on some element of pathology, physiology, or surgical techniques.


After earning a degree, a new doctor can apply for residency positions in either neurologic or orthopedic surgery. A person who wants to become a spinal surgeon can benefit from either program, but most professionals choose the neurology option to gain specialized knowledge of nervous system disorders. As a resident, a doctor usually has the chance to assist and observe skilled surgeons as they operate on actual patients. Most residents also attend regular lecture courses and continue to conduct independent research. A surgeon is typically required to pass a licensing exam administered by a national governing board upon completion of a residency.

Many surgeons begin their independent careers after earning neurologic or orthopedic specialist credentials, but a person who wants to become a spinal surgeon usually needs to pursue an additional one- to two- year fellowship. Fellowship training consists primarily of performing spinal surgeries under the close supervision of experienced surgeons. An individual who excels during his or her fellowship can take a final licensing examination to officially become a spinal surgeon.


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