In the medical field, a surgeon is a doctor who performs surgical operations. While this is a demanding career that requires years of education, it’s also incredibly rewarding. After all, it’s one of the only medical areas where you can see almost instantaneous results with your patients. If you’re thinking about becoming a surgeon, keep reading to learn more about the education necessary, the average salary, and the types of duties and tasks most surgeons face during a typical day.
Surgeons operate on their patients to treat deformities, injuries, and diseases. From a simple scalpel to a complex robot, they use a variety of tools to do everything from fix bones after injuries to perform elective surgeries. Even though a large number of surgeons perform general surgery, many choose to specialize in certain areas. These can include cardiovascular surgeons who work on the heart, neurological surgeons who operate on the brain and nervous system, orthopedic surgeons who specialize in the musculoskeletal system, and plastic or reconstructive surgeons.
Like regular physicians, surgeons also examine their patients, perform diagnostic tests, interpret test results, and counsel patients on steps to take to live a healthy life. A surgeon can work in a physician’s office, a hospital, or in private practice. Another option that’s growing in popularity is, group practice. Here, surgeons work with other medical doctors and share a large number of patients. This makes it easier for surgeons to coordinate care for their patients and gives them more time off.
Education and Experience Needed
Since surgeons have such a complex job, they also have demanding education requirements. Surgeons start with four years of undergraduate study focusing on a major that relates to medicine, such as biology, chemistry, or physics. Once they earn their bachelor’s degree, they must pass the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) so they can apply to medical school.
During medical school, they’ll take classes that include anatomy, physiology, pathology, ethics, psychology, medical law, and more. These programs also require the students to go through rotations to learn the basics of patient care in a variety of specialties. Once they graduate from four years of medical school, they’ll have a Doctor of Medicine (M.D.) degree. After that, they need to complete three to eight years of surgical residency at a hospital. During the residency, students will begin earning a salary and receive training under the supervision of other experienced surgeons.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) states that wages for surgeons are among the highest of all occupations. Salaries for surgeons vary depending upon whether they’re in a specialized field or not. The BLS reports that in 2015, the median annual compensation for a general surgeon was $409,665. However, salaries can also vary depending on the surgeon’s number of years in practice, hours worked, location of practice, skill, and even professional reputation.
Average Duties and Tasks
Although they might not operate every day of the week, a typical workday for a surgeon usually starts early in the morning. If they’re operating that day, they’ll want to meet with their preoperative patients and the families before surgery to go over any last-minute tests or questions. After that, they’ll report to the operating room to perform or assist in any surgical procedures scheduled for that day.
Once they’re done in the operating room, they’ll meet with their postoperative patients to see how they’re coming along in the healing process. On certain days, surgeons will also meet with new patients to review test results and come up with a treatment plan.
Although some view surgeons as reaching the pinnacle of a career, there are actually advancement opportunities in this field. With years of experience, some surgeons can become chief surgeons or lead administrators at a hospital. In this role, they oversee and supervise other surgical procedures to make sure all patients are getting the best care possible. They’ll also help create training seminars to make sure their surgeons are educated on the latest procedures, policies, and practices.
Another field some surgeons choose to go into is education. In this position, seasoned surgeons teach the next generation of surgeons in medical schools. Although this is often viewed as a lateral career move instead of a promotion, some surgeons who are nearing retirement age choose this path because academic settings are typically slower and less stressful than hospitals.
If you’re considering becoming a surgeon, you’re looking at a challenging yet rewarding career path. Consider the information you learned here as you decide if this is the right career for you.