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How Much Does a Surgeon Make

Growth Trends for Related Jobs

In-Demand Medical Specialty Offers Many Rewards

Surgeons are medical doctors who specialize in the diagnosis and surgical treatment of injuries and diseases in patients of all ages. Salaries for a general surgeon range between $315,128 and $442,267. Women comprise about 19 percent of today's surgeons. They enjoy a high degree of job satisfaction and increasing support for balancing their careers and families.

Job Description

There are many types of surgeons, from general surgeons to those practicing subspecialties that require additional training and clinical residency. Some surgeons specialize by age group, such as pediatric or neonatal surgeons. Others specialize in a specific area of the body, such as neurosurgeons (central nervous system) or orthopedic surgeons (skeletal system). Surgeons work as part of a health care team that includes medical doctors, anesthesiologists, nurses and other health care professionals. Surgeons are employed by medical schools to lecture and supervise students’ clinical rotations.

Education Requirements

Surgery is a specialty that requires a minimum of five years of postgraduate training beyond the completion of a medical degree (M.D.). Typically, a doctoral student completes two to three years as a resident in general surgery, then undergoes additional training and supervised clinical practice in a subspecialty.

Admission to medical school generally requires a bachelor’s degree, although some students have taken additional post-baccalaureate coursework or completed advanced degrees. Although no specific major is required to prepare for medical school, coursework should include advanced mathematics, life sciences, chemistry, physics, psychology, English and communications. Acceptance to medical school is very competitive. At a minimum, you should have a grade-point average of 3.65 and a score of at least 508 on the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT). Letters of recommendation are required, and your candidacy may be regarded more favorably if you have completed relevant work or volunteer experience.

It takes four years of study to complete medical school. Year one consists of lecture and labs in advanced life sciences. Over the next three years, students complete additional coursework and increasingly spend time in supervised clinical settings, rotating through specialties to gain knowledge and experience.

Upon graduation from medical school, new doctors must become licensed by passing the three-part test called the United States Medical Licensing Exam, sponsored by the Federal of State Medical Boards and the National Board of Medical Examiners. Surgeons may also become board certified through the American College of Surgeons and through the professional board governing any subspecialty. Board certification is optional, but it's a highly desirable credential that enhances professional standing and job opportunities. Continuing education is required to maintain certification. Credits can be earned through conferences and seminars sponsored by medical schools, medical centers and other professional organizations.

About the Industry

Surgeons in private practice keep office hours to consult with patients and other health care professionals. A surgeon may perform surgery in a clinic on an outpatient basis or in a hospital or medical center. Surgeons generally work long hours and may be on-call to respond to emergencies. The demanding nature of the profession, along with the need to practice regularly to maintain highly specialized skills, means that few surgeons work part-time. Surgeons with young families should ensure they have reliable child care to accommodate the demands of their schedule.

Years of Experience

Pay can vary widely depending on geographic location and surgical subspecialty. Typical salary ranges are:

  • Less than 1 year of experience: $330,578‒$364,053
  • 5‒6 years of experience: $334,870‒$368,344
  • 10‒14 years of experience: $351,178‒$385,107
  • 20+ years of experience: $366,628‒$403,814

Job Growth Trend

Surgeons in all specialties, including general surgery, will continue to be in high demand over the next decade. Population growth, the aging baby boomer population and advances in medicine and technology are factors contributing to the upward trend in job openings. Demand is expected to be particularly strong in rural and underserved areas.