How to Become a Surgeon
Surgeon Careers & Degrees

Surgeons are medical doctors whose specialty is performing medical operations as a form of treatment.

If you are interested in medicine, have excellent manual dexterity, and strong academic skills then you might like to become a surgeon.

Surgeons work to treat illness, correct deformities, and repair injuries by performing operations on the tissues and bones of a patient.

Many surgeons specialize in a particular area of surgery, for instance, neurological surgery or cardiovascular surgery.

The path to become a surgeon is no doubt challenging.

Around eleven years of education is needed to start practicing independently, and this is without a specialization.

Entry into medical school is competitive, as is placement in internships.

In line with this, surgeons earn a very high income and have excellent job security.

Education Requirements to Become a Surgeon

When you become a surgeon, you will have many years of training ahead of you.

If you’re a high school student, completing subjects in math and science will be of help.

You will need to work hard throughout the course of your education to get good grades that will grant you a place in college, and later medical school.

You’ll need to start by completing a four year undergraduate degree at college, preferably with a pre-medicine degree.

After college, you’ll go on to medical school.

Entrance is based on your grade point average, an interview, and your grades on the MCAT.

At medical school you’ll complete coursework and also have the chance to start working with patients.

At this time you’ll need to elect surgery as the focus of your studies.

After medical school you’ll complete an internship which lasts for one year, followed by a residency which is usually three years long.

After residency, you can choose to complete a specialization.

Some sample surgical specializations could include Cardiovascular surgery, Orthopedic surgery, Neurological surgery, Otolaryngology, or Plastic and reconstructive surgery.

Surgeon Job Description

A surgeon works to correct deformities, treat illness, and help injuries to repair through operative intervention.

A surgeons work will usually begin with another medical professional referring them a patient.

The surgeon will review the patient’s medical history and schedule a time to meet with them.

During this meeting, a surgeon will inform a patient of their surgical options.

They will describe the procedure, along with any risks involved, and may also speak with a patient’s family at this stage, particularly in the case of children or the elderly.

A surgeon will discuss the patient’s requirements with other medical staff who will be assisting, including the anesthesiologist.

During surgery, the patient’s vital signs are closely monitored as the surgeon performs the operation.

Afterwards, they will have follow-up consultations with the patient to monitor their progress and make sure that infection or other complications do not occur.

Some surgeons provide emergency surgery, and work on an on call basis.

Many work long hours, with a lot of overtime.

Here are some of the tasks of a surgeon:

  • Meeting with patients
  • Reviewing patient history
  • Making a diagnosis
  • Completing a surgery
  • Communicating with other medical staff
  • Reviewing a patient’s recovery

Surgeon Salary and Career Path

When you become a surgeon, you’ll first start treating patients while completing your internship.

Of course, you will have the guidance and supervision of experienced medical personnel.

After your residency is complete, you’ll be able to start working independently as a surgeon.

Some surgeons go on to specialize in particular kinds of surgery, as listed above.

Others go into administrative positions within a hospital, while some become teachers or go on to complete research.

The median salary of a physician is $186,000 a year.

Specialists can expect to earn closer to the median of $336,000 a year.

For more information on a career in surgery, visit the American College of Surgeons website.

Some similar roles to that of surgeon you may be interested in include:

  • Physician
  • Doctor
  • Chiropractor
  • Dentist
  • Optometrist
  • Veterinarian
  • Podiatrist
  • Registered nurse

When you become a surgeon you can look forward to receiving excellent salary and a very secure job.

You also have an opportunity to contribute to the health and well-being of the community around you.

Being a surgeon is certainly a demanding career, but it’s not without its rewards.

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 a surgeon?

A surgeon is a medical doctor who specializes in performing surgeries.

They can treat injuries, diseases, and malformations.

Surgeons are also responsible for the preoperative examination and diagnosis, for performing the surgery and for providing the patients with postoperative care.

Surgeons can perform general surgery or specialize in a particular field, such as cardiovascular surgery, neurosurgery, pediatric surgery, surgical oncology, or plastic surgery.

They usually work with nurses, other physicians and healthcare professionals in order to care for their patients before, during and after the surgery.

Surgeons need a variety of skills, including leadership, dexterity, compassion, and attention to detail.

During the operation, the surgeons sometimes have to make quick decisions so if you want to start a career in this field, you should be prepared to work in stressful situations.

QuestionHow much does a 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 the specialty, the region, the employer and the surgeon’s level of experience and education.

QuestionHow much does it cost to become a surgeon?

Surgeons need many years of training before earning their license to practice.

If you want to become a surgeon the first step is to complete your undergraduate training; a bachelor’s degree program with courses in biology, chemistry, physics, math, and English will help you prepare for the Medical College Admission Test.

Tuition costs vary widely depending on the school and the program itself; pre-med programs can cost anywhere between $15,000 and more than $60,000 a year.

Surgeons also need a Doctor of Medicine degree, which will be earned after four years of medical school.

Four years of medical school can cost you between $30,000-$60,000 at a public school and even more at a private college.

After medical school, you will also need to complete 5 years of residency in general surgery and, if you want to specialize in a surgical field, you will need 1-3 years of additional training in the field you choose.

To be able to practice as a surgeon, you will also need a state license.

QuestionWhat is the demand for surgeons?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the demand for surgeons is expected to grow 1 percent from 2018 to 2028.

Surgeons will still be needed in the future but the demand growth will be tempered by the fact that new technologies shorten the time needed to perform surgery and thus reduces the number of surgeons who would be needed by healthcare providers.

However, demand varies depending on the surgeon’s specialty and those who specialize in treating diseases that affect the elderly should have better job prospects.

QuestionHow long does it take to become a surgeon?

If you’ve decided that you want to become a surgeon, you will need at least 13 years of training beyond high school.

First, you have to complete 4 years of undergraduate studies, followed by 4 years of medical school.

Medical school graduates who want to become general surgeons continue their training with 5 years of residency.

Those who wish to specialize in a particular surgical field, such as vascular surgery, neurosurgery, plastic surgery or orthopedic surgery, will need 1-3 more years of training in that specialty.

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