Becoming a surgeon might be a difficult endeavor, but it proves worth it in the end. Surgeons have one of the highest paying jobs making $17,515 more a month than the average American.
A surgeon is a physician who uses their expertise to primarily perform surgeries. They are specialized doctors who focus their education and medical practices on performing surgeries. They operate on lots of ailments from broken bones, removing cancerous tumors, and hip replacements. Ultimately, a surgeon is someone who fixes, replaces, or removes both internal and external parts of the body.
Surgeons can either become a Medical Doctor (MD) or Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (DO). An MD lets them practice conventional (allopathic) medicine. A DO lets them practice osteopathic (more holistic) medicine.
Surgeons can also specialize in certain kinds of surgeries. For example, orthopedic surgery involves the musculoskeletal system, neurological surgery involves the brain and nervous system, cardiovascular surgery has to do with the cardiovascular system, and plastic or reconstructive surgery often involves fixing cosmetic or functional issues.
Medical professions have some of the longest processes for becoming doctors and surgeons. But these professions also come with the biggest payouts in the end. Literally!
The first thing you'll need to do on your journey to become a surgeon is to get a bachelor's degree. This involves a four-year degree from an accredited post-secondary university.
You'll want to use these 4 years to major and minor in subjects that will help you pass the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) and help give you a knowledge base for medical school. Some good subjects to study include, science, biology, health science, chemistry, physics, and kinesiology.
Another thing you'll need to do during these 4 years is to take pre-med course requirements and healthcare experiences. You'll need to have both of these things for your application to medical school. Talk to your school and make sure you know what courses are required for you to take and look into doing internships, job shadowing, and volunteer experience at your local health facilities.
In your senior year of college
Now it is time to take and pass the Medical College Admission Test, most commonly referred to as the MCAT. You'll take this test in your senior year at college.
It takes some people a to pass the MCAT. You can take the MCAT 3 times in a year, 4 times in 2 years, and 7 times altogether. There are also plenty of helpful resources out there to help you practice for this exam.
Once you pass the MCAT you can enroll in medical school! In medical school, you will complete a Medical Doctor (MD) or Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (DO) degree. As stated above, an MD lets you practice allopathic medicine while a DO lets you do osteopathic medicine.
In medical school, you will learn all things related to medicinal practices. You'll learn subjects like biochemistry, physiology, human anatomy, pharmacology, pathophysiology, microbiology, and preventative medicine.
In your last 2 years at medical school, you'll start doing clinical rotations with the supervision of experienced doctors. This will help ease you into getting real first-hand, medical experience.
After you finish medical school it will be time to complete a surgical residency. This where you can start to specialize in a certain area of surgery like orthopedic, neurological, cardiovascular, thoracic, obstetrical, pediatric, or reconstructive surgery. You will do all this while still under the guidance of other experienced surgeons. A surgical residency usually lasts about 5 years.
Now that you have finished your surgical residency you can get licensed and board-certified. The requirements for a surgical license will depend on the requirements and process of the state where you want to practice. But usually, to get your surgical license you will need the following:
There are 2 types of examinations you will need to pass to get your surgical license, depending on whether you got an MD or a DO.
It's also recommended you get board certified with the American Board of Surgery (ABS).
After getting a bachelor's degree, going through medical school, and completing your residency, it can take you up to 13 years to become a surgeon.
If you're going to go through 13 years of schooling with several difficult exams and residencies, then it needs to be worth it. You're going to go through long periods of intense schooling and residency work.
According to the American Medical Student Association (AMSA), over 86% of graduates have tuition debt. In 2016 it was estimated that the average medical school student had $190,000 in student debt. But this doesn't mean you should dismiss the idea of becoming a surgeon. Student debt can be a worthwhile investment in your future. All you have to do is determine the return on investment (ROI).
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According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics surgeons in the lowest 10% percentile can make an annual wage of $94,960, while surgeons in the highest 90% percentile make around $208,000 a year. This means that in general, surgeons make a mean annual wage of $255,110 per year.
According to PayScale surgeons in the lower 10% make $87,000, the average surgeon makes $221,093, and the highest 90% make $511,000 a year.
Considering the numbers given to us by the BLS, surgeons can expect to make a mean monthly income of $21,259. But according to the average annual salaries from PayScale, surgeons make an average of $18,424 a month. This is still far greater than the average monthly income of most full-time Americans.
According to the highest estimated numbers, surgeons can even make up to $42,583 a month.
One of the most practical ways to see and understand a potential salary is to break it down into weekly pay. According to the average annual salaries, surgeons can make $5,314 or $4,606 a week and $10,645 a week at most.
The BLS states that most surgeons make about $122.65 an hour and PayScale isn't far from this number with an average of $103.50 an hour. So according to mean hourly wages, if they work 40 hours a week surgeons can expect to make roughly $4,906 a week.
How much a surgeon gets paid can depend on many factors, like what state you live in, which city in that state you live in, or what kind of facility you work in.
Top Paying States for Surgeons:
A surgeon's pay can also depend on their experience level. This can include how many years they've been working or the kinds of skills they develop.
So a surgeon who is beginning their career with 1 to 4 years of experience makes an estimated $101,736 a year, 5 to 9 years makes $150,000, 10 to 19 years makes $275,000, and 20 or more years make $395,000.
For example, having emergency or trauma skills can boost your salary by 122%! A general surgeon makes an average of $221,093 a year while a surgeon with emergency and trauma expertise can make up to $491,318 a year. That's over twice the salary!
If surgery isn’t for you there are still many potential jobs out there in the medical field. If you're looking for a little less schooling you could become a nurse! Or if you want better hours and less intensity you could become a dentist.
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