Surgery is a highly reputable and financially beneficial profession across America. However, what you often miss out on is the level of dedication it takes to go through different accreditations, educational programs, training, long hours shifts, and emergencies. Still, if you have decided to enter this field and are wondering how long it takes to be a surgeon, keep reading this guide.
What is a Surgeon?
Surgeons are advanced physicians responsible for performing surgical procedures on their patients in a sterile environment over extended hours. Surgeons deal with different parts of their bodies based on their expertise. Following are some professional responsibilities of a surgeon.
- Diagnosing the diseases in collaboration with regular physicians.
- Operating on patients over long hours.
- Updating the patient’s surgery records.
- Prescribing medicines and consulting patients for pre and post-operative care.
How Long Does it Take to Be a Surgeon?
According to the American Board of Surgery, it takes around thirteen years to graduate from a medical school as a surgeon. However, it goes through a long series of programs and training, including internships, med-school, residency, fellowship, and more. Here, it is also important to consider that you are evaluated against specific criteria at each stage for further training.
How to Become a Surgeon: A Complete Step-by-Step Guide
Want to become a surgeon but have no idea how? No worries, here is a complete step-by-step guide on how you can take your career path in surgery, starting from high school. So, give it a quick read.
Get a High School Certificate
The first step of becoming a surgeon is getting a high school diploma with relevant coursework, including physics, biology, and chemistry. If you are clear about the career line at this point, it is ideal to do extra work and take electives like physiology, anatomy, and botany. Though it can seem challenging, you can later skip these introductory courses in college.
Enroll in a Bachelor’s Degree
The next stage is enrolling in a bachelor’s degree with major courses in the medical field, including human physiology, anatomy, or STEM classes. This typically takes between two and four years. Some students prefer to substitute it with a pre-med program with similar courses in the college.
Whatever you choose, it is important to take compulsory courses, including organic chemistry, microbiology, and physiology, along with soft skill courses like communication, teamwork, and negotiation. It helps you develop the necessary social skills and basic foundation to pursue a career in the medical field.
Gain Experience in the Professional Field
Before you apply to medical school, it is preferred that you gain some professional experience through healthcare volunteer programs, internships, and other relevant opportunities. This is because med school mostly entertains applications with relevant experience.
Well, it depends on your preferences, but this step usually consists of twelve months, known as a gap year. The gap signifies the break between a bachelor’s and graduation from a medical school. Mostly, it is better than taking volunteer jobs in medical assistance, clinical setups, and community critical care centers.
Take the MDCAT Exam
Before you attend medical school, passing the MDCAT or Medical College Admission Test is a prerequisite. This test is designed to evaluate your skills and knowledge of the basic foundational courses like chemistry, biochemistry, foundational physiology, social biology, and more. You can register for the test in January.
The exam contains 230 MCQs, and the candidates have to complete them within six hours. Usually, a common practice is to take the MCAT one year before they apply to any medical school in the States. AAMC, or the Association of American Medical Colleges, administers and monitors the test.
Applications for Medical School
Now that you have passed the MDCAT exam and got the MD state license, it is time to prepare for the med-school application. Do consider that there are no specific surgery schools, so your aim should be targeting any medical school in your state. These schools give you a degree with relevant experience in a special area, which, in this case, is surgery.
Completing a medical school in all the states across America takes around four years. The first two years primarily help you learn the advanced concepts of pre-clinical training, including physiology, microbiology, biochemistry, pharmacology, and pathology. The following two years are dedicated to hands-on practice in the expertise area, like surgery.
The Residency Program
Once you complete medical school, it is time to begin residency (professional practice) and get a license. All medical school graduates go through this process to get enrolled in the residency, especially in their preferred location. At this time, you need to outline your area of specialty.
According to the American School of Surgeons, you need to dedicate five years to the residency program. During residency, you need to work around 40 to 80 hours weekly as a surgeon, which is relatively more than other residents, but you also get more than other specialties during resident surgery. This program helps you groom your skill set, socialize, and learn to make decisions in emergencies and high-risk situations.
The resident surgery program must be registered and approved by the Residency Review Committee. The area of expertise must be accredited by the Council of Graduate Medical Education.
Enroll in the Fellowship Program
Finally, the fellowship program, also known as post-residency or clinical experience, lasts around three years. Aspiring surgeons looking to narrow their sub-expertise can apply for the fellowship program through the Fellowship Council.
This program helps you refine your expertise in sub-specialized categories, like plastic surgery, orthopedic surgery, cardiac surgery, and more. The pay scale is generally higher than that of resident surgeons, given that you already have the license.
Things to Consider Before Becoming a Surgeon
Before you enter the profession, here are some things to take into consideration.
In comparison to other medical professionals, becoming a surgeon requires, by far, the longest education. Though they go through similar stages, the complex information and intense training take longer time. And there is no specific time you, as an individual, will take to pass a certain stage.
Level of Difficulty
Similarly, there is no doubt that surgery is one of the most challenging medical specialties you can opt for. It requires a high level of concentration, long hours of service, intense reading, and never-ending practice. Hence, it is better that you keep these demands in mind before entering the profession.
According to the BLS or Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median salary of a surgeon in the USA is around $2,95,000 as of 2022. However, the average salary of a surgeon depends on which stage of surgery he is in, his sub-specialty, his credentials, and much more. For instance, neuro and orthopedic surgeons earn more than other practitioners.
According to the American Board of Surgery, this profession ranks in the 20 highest-paying jobs. This surpasses the salaries of other types of medical professionals like physicians, podiatrists, family physicians, and more.
Long Hour Service
Where the financial benefits of surgery are high, you are also required to work extra hours than other medical practitioners, especially during residency and fellowship. Also, given the urgent nature of the job, you can be asked to get into surgery anytime. So, do consider that the schedules and timings are random.
How much does a surgeon make?
An average general surgeon makes anywhere around $429,100 as of 2023.
How much money does it take to become a surgeon?
According to the NCES National Center for Education Statistics, you are estimated to spend up to $38,000 before entering med school. After this, you will have to pay an average of $30,000-$57,000 in medical school.
How long does it take to become a surgeon in the States?
On average, it takes thirteen or more years to become a licensed surgeon in a specific area in the United States of America.
I hope this guide has helped you understand what steps to take to become a surgeon in the USA. Finally, I would like to offer my thanks to Jonathan Steward, who has been working in the respective field. He is currently in his fellowship program and helped me a lot through the entire process.