How to Become an Orthopedic Surgeon
Orthopedic Surgeon Careers & Degrees

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Orthopedic Surgeons are healthcare professionals that are experienced in treating patients having problems with their musculoskeletal system.

They are responsible for performing surgeries on individuals with joint, bone or ligament injuries or deformities.

Individuals who want to become an Orthopedic Surgeon can look forward to joining one of the highest paid professions.

Some helpful personal characteristics include being detail oriented, having physical stamina and have dexterous hands.

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Education Requirements to Become an Orthopedic Surgeon

Like many other physicians and surgeons, individuals who want to become an Orthopedic Surgeon will need to complete several years of education, complete a residency and become licensed in order to join this profession.

Individuals wishing to choose a specialization may also have to complete a fellowship.

During their undergraduate career, individuals who want to become an Orthopedic Surgeon have the option to complete any bachelor’s degree.

However, because competition into medical schools is high, individuals are encouraged to complete a science based degree such as pre-medicine, microbiology or biology.

As an alternative, individuals must show a strong history in sciences in math to stand out amongst other individuals.

Taking courses in chemistry, physics, biology, mathematics and English are highly encouraged.

Once enrolled in a medical program, medical students will focus their coursework in a variety of medical topics including: anatomy, psychology, biochemistry, microbiology, biology, medical ethics and pharmacology to name a few courses.

The first two years of medical school are focused in laboratory and classroom work where individuals learn the basics in medicine.

The last two years of medical school are focused on gaining on hands training through what are typically known as rotations.

During a variety of phases, medical students will work under the supervision of a licensed doctor and perform basic medical diagnosing and treatments.

Rotations include experience in some specialties including: internal medicine, family medicine, pediatrics, obstetrics and gynecology and psychiatry to name a few.

Individuals should ask their medical school for more information on how to complete a rotation in orthopedics.

Once an individual finishes medical school, they will need to seek a medical license in order to practice medicine.

Medical licenses are administered by individual state boards; individuals should contact their state regarding specific requirements and testing.

Once an individual is licensed, they will need to complete a 4 to 5 year residency specializing in orthopedic surgery at a hospital.

Individuals typically begin performed general surgery procedures during their first year in a residency slowly progressing to more complicated procedures and their specialization of orthopedic surgery.

Individuals who would like to specialize in a field within orthopedic surgery such as pediatric orthopedics or orthopedic sports medicine will also need to complete a fellowship lasting 1 to 2 years after their residency.

Orthopedic Surgeon Job Description

Orthopedic Surgeons are specialized physicians that perform surgeries involving the musculoskeletal system.

Professionals can work within a specialization in this field such as sports medicine or pediatric orthopedics.

Their main goal is to improve their patients’ mobility by repairing some of the following ailments:

  • Bone injuries or ailments
  • Joint injuries or ailments
  • Ligament injuries or ailments
  • Musculoskeletal injuries or ailments

Orthopedic Surgeons perform on individuals under general anesthesia to repair bones, joints or ligaments.

They will work with their patient’s information such as tests and medical records to understand their client’s help and with the help of other medical professionals, they will work on a treatment plan to improve their patient’s health.

Orthopedic Surgeon Salary and Career Path

Orthopedic Surgeons are some of the highest paid professionals in relation to other careers and industries.

In 2012, the median salary for Orthopedic Surgeons was approximately $333,000 per year with some individuals earning up to $578,000 per year.

Contributing factors to an individual’s salary include years of experience, professional reputation and whether an individual owns their own private practice.

The job outlook for all physicians and surgeons looks promising and is expected to grow at a faster than average rate when compared to other professions.

Job opportunities are expected to grow by 18 percent through the year 2022.

This growth is attributed to the expansion in healthcare related industries making medical services easily accessible to more individuals.

Orthopedic Surgery is a specialized form of surgery.

Individuals pursuing this path will have to complete several years of school and training, but the rewards after entering this field are countless including a high level of job satisfaction and some of the highest wages amongst other professionals.

The below information is based on the 2019 BLS national averages.
  • Annually
  • Monthly
  • Hourly

National Average Salary

$252,040
$83K
$207K
$252K
$K
$K
10%
25%
50%
75%
90%

Average Salary by State

StateAvg. Annual Salary
Alabama$258,110
Alaska$#
Arizona$280,860
Arkansas$248,380
California$248,100
Colorado$250,480
Connecticut$225,150
Delaware$275,720
District of Columbia$242,640
Florida$189,260
Georgia$247,390
Hawaii$250,180
Idaho$250,670
Illinois$261,880
Indiana$216,040
Iowa$249,920
Kansas$269,460
Kentucky$270,580
Louisiana$252,510
Maine$281,470
Maryland$278,720
Massachusetts$242,310
Michigan$228,660
Minnesota$#
Mississippi$276,170
Missouri$#
Montana$219,320
Nebraska$#
Nevada$258,890
New Hampshire$#
New Jersey$279,660
New Mexico$248,740
New York$230,890
North Carolina$274,240
North Dakota$#
Ohio$280,030
Oklahoma$286,320
Oregon$#
Pennsylvania$258,650
Rhode Island$278,020
South Carolina$#
South Dakota$285,320
Tennessee$270,180
Texas$237,240
Utah$270,260
Vermont- NA -
Virginia$261,220
Washington$232,700
West Virginia$250,940
Wisconsin$#
Wyoming$269,830
Puerto Rico$70,570

The top earning state in the field is Oklahoma, where the average salary is $286,320.

These are the top 5 earning states in the field:

Oklahoma - $286,320
South Dakota - $285,320
Maine - $281,470
Arizona - $280,860
Ohio - $280,030
* Salary information based on the May 2019 Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) Survey for Surgeons, Except Ophthalmologists, OCC Code 29-1248, BLS.
* Employment conditions in your area may vary.

Frequently Asked Questions

QuestionWhat is an orthopedic surgeon?

Orthopedic surgeons are surgeons who are specialized in treating disorders of bones, tendons, ligaments, joints, and muscles.

They treat a variety of conditions of the musculoskeletal system, including sports injuries, orthopedic traumas, bone tumors, and spinal disorders.

Orthopedic surgeons collaborate with other healthcare professionals to care for their patients.

Orthopedic surgeons may choose to practice general orthopedic surgery or may specialize in a particular field, such as pediatric orthopedics, rehabilitation, sports medicine, arthroscopy, or spine surgery.

As an orthopedic surgeon, you will need many years of training and a variety of skills, including dexterity, compassion, physical fitness and attention to detail.

If you want to become an orthopedic surgeon, you should be ready to work day and evening shifts and to work long hours to accommodate your patient’s needs.

QuestionHow much does an orthopedic surgeon make?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual wage for surgeons was $255,110 as of May 2018.

Salaries in this field vary depending on a wide range of factors, including the region, the employer and the surgeon’s level of experience.

This profession requires many years of training but it can be both personally and financially rewarding.

QuestionHow much does it cost to become an orthopedic surgeon?

Tuition costs and other expenses vary widely depending on the school you choose, but medical schools can be very expensive if you don’t receive a scholarship.

Before enrolling at a med-school you must first finish your undergraduate studies.

Pre-med programs for out-of-state students cost, on average, around $40,000-$45,000 a year at a public college.

Four years of medical school will cost you between $150,000-$250,000 at a public school.

This brings the total costs of earning your Doctor of Medicine degree to more than $300,000.

QuestionWhat is the demand for orthopedic surgeons?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the employment of surgeons, in general, is expected to grow 1 percent from 2018 to 2028, slower than the average for all occupations.

However, the demand varies widely depending on the region and the surgeon’s specialty.

Job prospects should be good for orthopedic surgeons, especially for those who specialize in treating diseases and injuries that affect aging baby boomers.

QuestionHow long does it take to become an orthopedic surgeon?

Orthopedic surgeons need around 12-14 years of training before being able to perform surgeries.

After completing 4 years of undergraduate training, you will have to finish 4 years of medical school.

After graduating from medical school the next step is to complete a residency in orthopedic surgery which usually lasts another 4-5 years.

All physicians and surgeons must pass a national licensing exam, the U.S. Medical Licensing Examination in order to be able to become an M.D.

If you want to become specialized in a subspecialty, such as sports medicine or pediatric orthopedics, you must also complete a fellowship that is usually 1-2 years long.

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