Orthopedic Surgeon: Career Info & Requirements
An orthopedic surgery career offers board-certified surgeons the opportunity to specialize in treating the musculoskeletal system, including such subspecialties as sports medicine and hand surgery. The orthopedic surgery career path requires 8-9 years of post-baccalaureate education, along with continued maintenance of board certification. Continue reading for more information about becoming an orthopedic surgeon.
Orthopedic surgeons operate on patients with musculoskeletal problems, including arm, leg, neck, bone and tissue ailments. Orthopedic disorders and conditions may range from congenital deformities to musculoskeletal injuries, trauma and tumors. These surgeons perform operations on patients who are under general anesthesia. The field offers qualified individuals the chance to build lucrative careers in hospitals, academic medical centers or private practice environments.
Career and Earnings Outlook
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) forecasted 24% growth for physicians and surgeons from 2010-2020, particularly in rural areas of the U.S. where there is a low ratio of physicians to the population (www.bls.gov). The BLS reports that surgeons made an average salary of $230,540 annually as of May 2012. The highest salaries are often found in the private practice arena. Because orthopedic surgery is a popular area of specialty, jobs may be more competitive in traditional environments, such as hospitals and health centers.
After completing a 4-year bachelor's degree program in biology, pre-medicine or a related field, aspiring orthopedic surgeons must complete four additional years of medical school, followed by a 4- to 5-year orthopedic surgery residency in a hospital. The first year of residency usually covers general surgery, with the remaining years devoted to orthopedic-specific training. Surgeons wishing to specialize further in subspecialties, such as orthopedic sports medicine or pediatric orthopedics, must also complete a 1- to 2-year fellowship after their residency.
Required Licensing and Certification
Like all doctors, orthopedic surgeons must pass the U.S. Medical Licensing Examination to legally practice (www.usmle.org). This exam can be taken in several parts, usually while students are still involved in their residencies. After completing their residencies, orthopedic surgeons must also pass an exam by the American Board of Orthopedic Surgery, a division of the American Board of Medical Specialties, in order to be certified in their area of surgery (www.abos.org). Recertification is required every 7-10 years.
Orthopedic surgeons must have a thorough understanding of current medical technologies, medical ethics, pharmacology and physiology. A particular aptitude for musculoskeletal health, disease prevention and treatment is essential.
An orthopedic surgery career also requires an ability to work long hours and make solid decisions under pressure. Orthopedic surgeons must stay abreast of new developments in the orthopedic surgery field.
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