Surgeons: Salary, career path, job outlook, education and more

Surgeons treat injuries, diseases, and deformities through operations. Using a variety of instruments, a surgeon corrects physical deformities, repairs bone and tissue after injuries, or performs preventive or elective surgeries on patients. Although a large number perform general surgery, many surgeons choose to specialize in a specific area. Specialties include orthopedic surgery (the treatment of the musculoskeletal system), neurological surgery (treatment of the brain and nervous system), cardiovascular surgery, and plastic or reconstructive surgery. Like other physicians, surgeons examine patients, perform and interpret diagnostic tests, and counsel patients on preventive healthcare. Some specialist physicians also perform surgery.

Physicians and surgeons may work in a number of other medical and surgical specialties and subspecialties. The following specialists are some of the most common examples:

  • Allergists (specialists in diagnosing and treating hay fever or other allergies)
  • Cardiologists (heart specialists)
  • Dermatologists (skin specialists)
  • Gastroenterologists (digestive system specialists)
  • Ophthalmologists (eye specialists)
  • Pathologists (specialists who study body tissue to see if it is normal or abnormal)
  • Radiologists (specialists who review and interpret x rays and other images and deliver radiation treatments for cancer and other illnesses)

Physicians in healthcare establishments work daily with other healthcare staff, such as registered nurses, other physicians, medical assistants, and medical records and health information technicians.

Some physicians may choose to work in fields that do not involve patient care, such as medical research or public policy. 

Education Required
Most applicants to medical school have at least a bachelor's degree, and many have advanced degrees. Although no specific major is required, students usually complete undergraduate work in biology, chemistry, physics, math, and English. Students also may take courses in the humanities and social sciences. In addition, some students volunteer at local hospitals or clinics to gain experience in a healthcare setting.
Training Required
After medical school, almost all graduates enter a residency program in their specialty of interest. A residency usually takes place in a hospital and varies in duration, generally lasting from 3 to 7 years, depending on the specialty.
Job Outlook
The projected percent change in employment from 2016 to 2026: 15% (Much faster than average)
(The average growth rate for all occupations is 7 percent.)
Licenses/Certifications
All states require physicians and surgeons to be licensed; requirements vary by state. To qualify for a license, candidates must graduate from an accredited medical school and complete residency training in their specialty.
Median pay: How much do Physicians and Surgeons make?
$208,000 Annual Salary
$100.00 per hour

Careers for Physicians and Surgeons

  • Addiction psychiatrists
  • Allergists
  • Allopathic physicians and surgeons
  • Anaesthesiologists
  • Anesthesiologists
  • Anesthetists
  • Attending anesthesiologists
  • Aviation medicine specialists
  • Board certified family physicians
  • Brain surgeons
  • Cardiac surgeons
  • Cardiologists
  • Cardiovascular surgeons
  • Child psychiatrists
  • Clinical pathologists
  • Clinical psychiatrists
  • Colorectal surgeons
  • Dermatologists
  • Doctors, medical
  • Doctors, osteopathic
  • Emergency medicine specialists
  • Emergency physicians
  • Family and general physicians
  • Family and general practitioners
  • Family medicine physicians
  • Family physicians
  • Family practice medical doctors
  • Family practice physicians
  • Family practitioners
  • Forensic psychiatrists
  • GP doctors
  • Gastroenterologists
  • General internal medicine doctors
  • General internal medicine physicians
  • General internists
  • General pediatricians
  • General practitioners
  • Geriatric psychiatrists
  • Gynecologists
  • Immunologists
  • Internal medicine physicians
  • Internists, OB specialists
  • Internists, general
  • Laryngologists
  • Neonatal doctors
  • Neonatologists
  • Nephrologists
  • Neurological surgeons
  • Neurologists
  • Neuropsychiatrists
  • Neurosurgeons
  • OB/GYN physicians
  • OB/GYNs
  • Obstetrical anesthesiologists
  • Obstetricians
  • Obstetricians and gynecologists
  • Obstetricians and gynecologists (OB/GYNs)
  • Obstetricians/Gynecologists
  • Ophthalmologists
  • Orthopaedic surgeons
  • Orthopedic surgeons
  • Osteopathic physicians and surgeons
  • Otolaryngologists
  • Pathologists
  • Pediatric psychiatrists
  • Pediatricians
  • Pediatrists
  • Physiatrists
  • Physicians
  • Plastic surgeons
  • Practitioners, family and general
  • Primary care pediatricians
  • Psychiatrists
  • Pulmonary physicians
  • Radiologists
  • Reconstructive surgeons
  • Rheumatologists
  • Staff anesthetists
  • Staff psychiatrists
  • Surgical oncologists
  • Thoracic surgeons
  • Urologists
  • Vascular surgeons

Similar Careers