From internal bleeding to gunshot wounds, people suffering from a variety of traumatic injuries find themselves in the emergency room every day, and it's up to a surgeon to perform the potentially life-saving operations they need. If you are interested in a career that allows you to help others while dealing with new challenges -- no two days of work will ever be the same -- a career as an ER surgeon might be right up your alley. Becoming an ER surgeon is almost as challenging as the job itself and involves over a decade of education and training.
Enroll in a bachelor's degree program. Most medical schools require that applicants have at least a bachelor's degree. There is no specific major, though it is recommended that you pursue a degree in pre-medical studies or a science-related discipline. Whatever you choose, make sure your degree has at least a year of core or elective courses in biology, chemistry, physics and English, as these classes are required for entrance to most medical colleges.
Participate in volunteer opportunities. Medical schools like to see candidates who are self-driven leaders, and volunteering is an excellent way to showcase these traits. Volunteering at a local hospital or clinic will give you experience working in a medical setting that will be desirable to admissions boards.
Take the Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT). You will most likely take this exam during your junior year of college, and your scores will be weighed pretty heavily by admissions boards when reviewing your med school application. The MCAT is a standardized test that includes questions related to physical science, biological science and verbal reasoning, and is designed to test your readiness for medical school.
Apply to medical school. Applying to medical school isn't as simple as filling out a sheet of paper and sending it off to the school of your dreams; it's a pretty lengthy, complicated process. Compile a handful of recommendation letters from your professors and employers, as well as a resume filled with volunteer and work experience to demonstrate your leadership capabilities. Submit a transcript that shows a high GPA and MCAT scores that demonstrate your science and reasoning smarts. The Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) recommends that aspiring doctors apply to more than one medical school to maximize their chances of getting in.
Complete a medical school program. Medical school lasts four years, and by the end of the program you'll officially be able to call yourself either a Doctor of Osteopathy (D.O.) or Doctor of Medicine (M.D.). The first two years of study will be spent in the classroom learning about advanced topics in anatomy and physiology, as well as completing laboratory experience. During the final two years, you'll put on your lab coat and head into the field, completing supervised clinical rotations in various medical specialties, including neurology, cardiology and trauma care.
Complete a residency in general surgery. In order to prepare you for a career in the operating room, you will participate in a five-year residency in general surgery once you've finished medical school. During your general surgery residency, you'll gain first-hand experience working with patients and supervising surgical procedures. You will complete rotations in various surgical specialties, including acute and critical care. You'll attend advanced lectures and seminars and participate in research opportunities. Eventually, you'll scrub in to assist in surgical operations
Complete a fellowship in trauma or acute care surgery. A fellowship is where you will finish out your education to become an ER surgeon, and where you will focus your studies in acute care, trauma and emergency surgery. Your fellowship will contain rotations in even further specialties, including thoracic surgery, transplant surgery and neurological surgery. The fellowship will last roughly two years, and you will participate in a wide variety of surgeries in an ER setting throughout the program.
Earn a medical license. For M.D.s, licensure is earned by taking the United States Medical Licensing Examination, USMLE, a three-part test. D.O.s earn their licenses by taking the Comprehensive Osteopathic Medical Licensing Examination (COMLEX-USA).
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Physicians and Surgerons
- American Association for the Surgery of Trauma: Acute Care Surgery Fellowship Training Curriculum
- Association of American Medical Colleges: About the MCAT Exam
- Association of American Medical Colleges: Admission Requirements
- United States Medical Licensing Examination: FAQs
- Emory University: General Surgery Residency
- Jupiterimages/Polka Dot/Getty Images