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General Surgeon

Education and Training: College, medical school, and a 5-6 year medical residency
Average Salary: $284,642 per year
Job Outlook: Very good

General Surgeons have a wide variety of responsibilities that includes treating injuries, correcting deformities and curing diseases, primarily through operations. General surgeons routinely perform many different kinds of operations, rather than specialize in any one type of procedure. Highly trained and knowledgeable about most of human anatomy and a very wide range of diseases, general surgeons perform operations on everything from the digestive tract to the skin. General surgeons may also elect to sub-specialize in areas such as laproscopic surgery, trauma surgery, and vascular surgery. General surgeons conduct pre-surgery exams or consultations, operate on patients, and provide different kinds of post-operational care.

Education and Training Requirements

Prospective general surgeons must first graduate from an accredited college or university. While in college, it is important to take a number of science classes, such as different levels of Biology and Chemistry. Candidates should then take the MCAT exam and apply to medical schools. Admission to medical school is highly competitive, and most schools require in-person interviews. Medical school takes about four years. The first two years consist of rigorous study, while the last two years focus more on clinical work and hands-on training. Some schools offer combined undergraduate and medical school programs, which allow students to accelerate their studies.

After medical school, there is a medical residency component that takes about five to six years. General surgeons need to acquire a wide range of skills during the residency component of their educations. The residency covers different areas including organ transplantation; surgical critical care; the alimentary tract; the abdomen; the endocrine system; breast, skin and soft tissue; pediatric surgery; surgical oncology; trauma, burns, and acute care surgery; and vascular surgery. General surgeons must hone their technical skills while studying so that they are able to recognize, treat, and refer patients’ conditions in emergency situations. During the final year of the general surgery residency, candidates will have to perform hundreds of operations.

After completion of the residency, general surgeons must pass an exam in order to become licensed to practice medicine. Some general surgeons also elect to take board exams in order to become board certified. General surgeons are also required to continue their educations in order to keep up with advances in medical technology and changes to the field.

Getting the Job

General surgeons may choose to open their own practices. They can also seek employment at a hospital, clinic, community health center, or emergency care center. There are numerous employment referral websites for health care professionals, and others seek employment through their schools’ job boards or career placement centers.

Job Prospects, Employment Outlook, and Career Development

The job outlook for general surgeons is very good. The healthcare industry is constantly expanding and changes to healthcare legislation are expected to result in an increased demand for healthcare providers. Employment outlook and salary may also vary if the general surgeon decides to pursue a sub-specialty.

Working Conditions and Environment

General surgery is a highly stressful occupation. General surgeons often work long and irregular hours, particularly during their first few years in the workforce. They are also often called upon to perform emergency procedures.

Salary and Benefits

General surgeons are well paid for their hard work and years of training. The salary range for general surgeons is about $200,000 to $400,000 per year. The average salary is $284,642 per year. Salary rates vary with experience, and location. General surgeons are in particularly high demand in rural areas, where salaries are typically lower. Hospitals in large cities tend to offer significantly higher salaries, but it is also significantly more difficult to get a job in a city hospital. General surgeons who are not self-employed generally enjoy generous benefit packages that include insurance and paid vacation days, etc.

Where to Go for More Information

American Board of Surgery
1617 John F. Kennedy Blvd., Ste. 860
Philadelphia, PA 19103
(215) 568-4000

American College of Surgeons
633 N. Saint Clair St.
Chicago, IL 60611-3211
(800) 621-4111

American Society of General Surgeons
P.O. Box 4834
Englewood, CO 80155
(800) 998-8322

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