Surgeon Job Description
Surgeons treat diseases, injuries, and deformities by performing operations on patients.
Before performing a surgery, surgeons have to conduct diagnostic tests to determine exactly what problem needs to be treated. The methods of diagnosis vary depending on the area of illness, but common methods include x-rays, MRIs, and CT scans. Surgeons often collaborate with other physicians and healthcare specialists to help with the diagnostic process.
Surgeons work closely with anesthesiologists before, during, and after surgery. Anesthesiologists are responsible for keeping patients sedated during surgical procedures, as well as monitoring their vital signs to ensure that there are no complications.
Because the human body is so complex, many surgeons specialize in providing treatment to a specific area of the body. Specialization allows them to become experts in a particular type of surgery, and gives patients faith that the surgeon has the required experience to perform a successful procedure.
There are many different types of specialties, but here are a few of the most popular:
- Orthopedic surgeons treat problems with the musculoskeletal system.
- Neurosurgeons treat the brain and nervous system.
- Cardiovascular surgeons treat problems with the lungs and heart.
- Pediatric surgeons work exclusively with children.
Not all surgeons specialize, though. For instance, surgeons who work in an emergency room perform all types of surgeries.
Work Environment and Schedule
Surgeons usually perform surgical procedures in hospitals, but most also maintain separate offices where they examine and consult with their patients in a more casual setting.
During surgery, surgeons are required to stand for long periods of time. Some procedures last for many hours, and it can be both mentally and physically taxing to remain focused and alert for such a long time.
This can be a very stressful occupation, particularly when a procedure is life threatening. Surgeons who work in emergency rooms have to treat many types of trauma, and it can be difficult to deal with loss of life. Part of becoming a great surgeon is learning how to control how emotions impact your work.
Surgeons are often required to work long, irregular hours. Because people can need emergency care at any time, working nights, weekends, and holidays is often required.
Before you decide to pursue a career as a surgeon, you should consider how it could impact your life outside of work. For some people, it’s hard to balance their personal aspirations with their professional ones given the demanding nature of the work.
How to Become a Surgeon
The education and training requirements for becoming a surgeon are very demanding. It requires a huge investment of time and money to have a career in this occupation.
The first step to becoming a surgeon is to get a bachelor’s degree. Regardless of your major, you should take classes in math, biology, physics, and chemistry. These courses will give you the foundation of scientific studies that you will need to do well on the Medical College Admission Test, which is a requirement for getting accepted into a medical school.
Getting into medical school is very competitive. Admissions officers take your MCAT scores, GPA, internships, and letters of recommendation into account when considering your application. Once enrolled, medical school takes four years to complete.
After medical school, you will have to enter a residency program in your area of interest. Residencies take place in hospitals, and they vary in length — in some cases, they can take up to eight years to complete.
Once your residency is completed, you will need to take a licensing exam. The exact licensing requirements vary from state to state, but all surgeons must pass either the U.S. Medical Licensing Examination (for M.D.s), or the Comprehensive Osteopathic Medical Licensing Examination (for D.O.s).
Contact your state’s licensing board to learn more information about licensing in your state.
There are currently 691,000 surgeons in the United States, with 30,510 new surgeon job openings created each year.
Surgeon jobs are not expected to see much growth beyond their current levels in the next decade.
Surgeon salaries can vary depending on your experience, the location, company, industry, and benefits provided. Nationwide, most surgeons make between $166,400+ per year, or $80+ per hour.