The Reasons to Be a Surgeon

A career as a surgeon can be emotionally and financially rewarding.
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A career as a surgeon can be emotionally and financially rewarding.

Nearly every mother wants her son or daughter to grow up to be a doctor, especially a surgeon. The medical profession is highly respected, and surgeons are generally considered in the upper echelon among doctors. Surgeons can choose from more than a dozen specialty areas, including general surgery, orthopedic surgery and plastic surgery. They typically earn a very comfortable living, with some cardiac and neurosurgeons taking home total compensation in excess of $500,000 annually. Surgeons also generally report that their job is intellectually stimulating with relatively high job satisfaction.


In most countries, including the U.S., being a member of the medical profession carries a certain prestige, and being a doctor is considered even more prestigious. The profession of surgeon is probably the most respected position in the field of medicine, and not surprisingly, given that surgeons have at least 12 years of post-secondary training and literally hold the lives of patients in their hands.

Excellent Pay and Benefits

Surgeons enjoy excellent pay and benefits. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, surgeons took home a mean annual salary of $231,550 in 2011, and they can also count on a generous benefits package including health insurance and paid vacation. The Medical Group Management Association reports that general surgeons took home a median annual compensation of $343,958 in 2010.

Intellectual Stimulation

While some surgeons experience burnout from the pace and stress of the job, very few lack for intellectual stimulation. The practice of medicine, especially surgery, requires ongoing continuing education. New techniques and new surgical and assistive technologies are constantly being developed, which means that surgeons have to spend as good bit of time attending conferences and trainings, as well as reading and discussing developments with colleagues.

Job Satisfaction

Having a job that involves improving someone's quality of life or saving a life is intrinsically emotionally rewarding. Obviously there is significant stress as well, but most surveys show relatively high job satisfaction among surgeons. The 2011 Medscape Physician Compensation Report lists 66 percent of plastic surgeons, 65 percent of orthopedic surgeons and 58 percent of general surgeons as reporting overall satisfaction with their jobs. Furthermore, 82 percent of surgeons, 83 percent of orthopedic surgeons and 60 percent of general surgeons also said they would choose the same specialty again.

2016 Salary Information for Physicians and Surgeons

Physicians and surgeons earned a median annual salary of $204,950 in 2016, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. On the low end, physicians and surgeons earned a 25th percentile salary of $131,980, meaning 75 percent earned more than this amount. The 75th percentile salary is $261,170, meaning 25 percent earn more. In 2016, 713,800 people were employed in the U.S. as physicians and surgeons.

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