How Do You Become a Surgeon?

surgeonChoosing to become a surgeon is very desirable for aspiring doctors looking to enter one of the mostly highly educated and well-paid professions in America. Surgeons specialize their medical skills in treating patients’ injuries, diseases, and other conditions through operations. Surgeons will examine their patients, interpret diagnostic testing, use instruments to cut open the body, and implement an invasive treatment plan. Most surgeons will also provide post-operative care and medications for patients to recover from the procedure. Due to the significant responsibility placed in a surgeon’s hands, it’s no surprise that the training process is lengthy. The following is a step-by-step guide on how you can obtain your goals of promoting wellness through surgery.

Obtain a Bachelor’s Degree

After graduating from high school, the first step towards becoming a surgeon is to achieve a four-year bachelor’s degree from an accredited post-secondary institution. While there isn’t a required undergraduate major for future surgeons, most choose to study science. You may wish to declare a major in biology, health science, chemistry, physics, kinesiology, or any other field. Make certain you’re fulfilling the pre-med course requirements and obtaining real-world healthcare experience to boost your medical school application. You’ll also need to take and pass the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) in your senior year, according to the Association of American Medical Colleges.

Enroll in Medical School

Next, aspiring surgeons must attend medical school to complete a Medical Doctor (M.D.) or Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (D.O.) degree. Remember that an M.D. prepares you for practicing allopathic medicine, whereas the D.O. will focus on osteopathic medicine from a more holistic viewpoint. In the first two years, you’ll spend time taking advanced courses related to biochemistry, physiology, human anatomy, pharmacology, pathophysiology, microbiology, and preventative medicine. The last two years are then dedicated to obtaining patient care practice by completing clinical rotations under the supervision of doctors.

Complete a Surgical Residency

Once you’ve completed medical school, you’ll then need to participate in a surgical residency program. During your residency, you’ll have the freedom to specialize in a certain type of surgery, such as orthopedic, neurological, cardiovascular, thoracic, obstetrical, pediatric, or reconstructive. Residents work within their hospital or surgical center to treat patients with guidance from experienced surgeons. According to the American Medical Association (AMA), general surgery residencies usually are five years in length, but sub-specialties in surgery will tack on an additional one to three years full-time.

Pursue Licensing and Board Certification

All 50 states across the United States require practicing surgeons to be licensed. Requirements vary from state to state, but most will mandate that surgeons have graduated from medical school, completed a residency, and passed an examination. M.D. degree holders will sit for the U.S. Medical Licensing Exam (USMLE). D.O. surgeons also have the choice of taking the Comprehensive Osteopathic Medical Licensing Exam (COMLEX). Although it’s not yet required, it’s highly recommended that surgeons also become board certified through the American Board of Surgery (ABS).

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Overall, surgeons play an important role in our healthcare system to repair, replace, or remove portions of the internal body. Since human life is at risk on the operating table, surgeons are highly trained to carry out emergency tactics that save patients. Although the road to become a surgeon is long, there’s a strong demand for qualified surgeons as employment growth will continue rapidly soaring by 18 percent over the next decade.