If you're a hard worker who's good with her hands and doesn't mind the sight of blood, you might make a good surgeon. You’ll have to complete a bachelor’s degree, a medical degree and a residency and pass tough state licensing exams. As a surgeon, you’ll work long hours and get your scrubs dirty. However, for the right type of person, the job of surgeon has many advantages.
A surgeon's job can give her a real high from helping others and saving lives. Her dexterity and technical know-how in the operating room have a quick and visible effect on a patient's health. For example, a surgeon extends a mother's life by cutting out a cancerous tumor, or she relieves gut-wrenching pain by removing a diseased appendix. When the blood supply to a leg is blocked, she can restore circulation and make the limb healthy again. As Dr. Marty Makary of Johns Hopkins Hospital told “CNN Money,” The work is “intensely rewarding.”
As do other physicians, surgeons sharpen their brains learning new techniques long after medical school. As required by professional associations and state boards, they must complete continuing education units to stay board-certified and licensed. In the operating room, every day is unique for surgeons. When unexpected problems crop up, they must keep a cool head and find solutions on the spot. Continual growth and development are part and parcel of the professional culture, according to the American College of Surgeons. After operations, for example, surgeons get together in hospital staff forums to discuss any poor outcomes so they can learn to avoid them.
If general surgery isn't your gig, you can choose a specialty. Board certification is available in colon and rectal surgery, neurological surgery, plastic surgery, orthopedic surgery and thoracic surgery. Depending on the specialty, surgeons can choose among different types of employers. Most surgeons surveyed by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics work for physicians' offices and hospitals. However, outpatient care centers and colleges, professional schools and universities also have jobs for surgeons.
A surgeon’s pay really rocks. Among doctors, only anesthesiologists have higher average pay than surgeons, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The 2011 BLS survey reports that general surgeons averaged $231,550 per year, based on 42,340 jobs. Their largest employer was doctors' practices, where they received an average of $241,060 per year. To compare them with other highly educated workers, the average doctoral degree holder earned only $84,448 per year in 2012, while the average professional degree graduate earned $90,220.
- American College of Surgeons: So, You Want to Be a Surgeon
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook: How to Become a Surgeon
- American Board of Medical Specialties: About ABMS Member Boards
- CNNMoney: 20 Highest-Paying Jobs -- General Surgeon
- American Medical Association: Requirements for Becoming a Physician
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2011: Surgeons
- U.S. Bureau Of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook: Physicians and Surgeons -- Pay
- U.S. Bureau Of Labor Statistics: Education Pays