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Become An Orthopedic Surgeon

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Working As An Orthopedic Surgeon

  • Assisting and Caring for Others
  • Making Decisions and Solving Problems
  • Updating and Using Relevant Knowledge
  • Documenting/Recording Information
  • Analyzing Data or Information
  • Deal with People

  • Unpleasant/Hazardous Environment

  • Stressful

  • Make Decisions

  • $385,661

    Average Salary

What Does An Orthopedic Surgeon Do

Physicians and surgeons diagnose and treat injuries or illnesses. Physicians examine patients; take medical histories; prescribe medications; and order, perform, and interpret diagnostic tests. They often counsel patients on diet, hygiene, and preventive healthcare. Surgeons operate on patients to treat injuries, such as broken bones; diseases, such as cancerous tumors; and deformities, such as cleft palates.

There are two types of physicians, with corresponding degrees: M.D. (Medical Doctor) and D.O. (Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine). Both use the same methods of treatment, including drugs and surgery, but D.O.s place additional emphasis on the body's musculoskeletal system, preventive medicine, and holistic (whole-person) patient care. D.O.s are most likely to be primary care physicians, although they can be found in all specialties.


Physicians and surgeons typically do the following:

  • Take a patient’s medical history
  • Update charts and patient information to show current findings and treatments
  • Order tests for nurses or other healthcare staff to perform
  • Review test results to identify any abnormal findings
  • Recommend and design a plan of treatment
  • Address concerns or answer questions that patients have about their health and well-being
  • Help patients take care of their health by discussing topics such as proper nutrition and hygiene

Physicians and surgeons work in one or more specialties. The following are examples of types of physicians and surgeons:

Anesthesiologists focus on the care of surgical patients and on pain relief. They administer drugs (anesthetics) that reduce or eliminate the sensation of pain during an operation or another medical procedure. During surgery, they are responsible for adjusting the amount of anesthetic as needed and monitoring the patient's heart rate, body temperature, blood pressure, and breathing. They also work outside of the operating room, providing pain relief in the intensive care unit, during labor and delivery of babies, and for patients who suffer from chronic pain. Anesthesiologists work with other physicians and surgeons to decide on treatments and procedures before, during, and after surgery. 

Family and general physicians assess and treat a range of conditions that occur in everyday life. These conditions include anything from sinus and respiratory infections to broken bones. Family and general physicians typically have regular, long-term patients.

General internists diagnose and provide nonsurgical treatment for a range of problems that affect internal organ systems such as the stomach, kidneys, liver, and digestive tract. Internists use a variety of diagnostic techniques to treat patients through medication or hospitalization. They work mostly with adult patients.

General pediatricians provide care for infants, children, teenagers, and young adults. They specialize in diagnosing and treating problems specific to younger people. Most pediatricians treat common illnesses, minor injuries, and infectious diseases, and administer vaccinations. Some pediatricians specialize in pediatric surgery or serious medical conditions that commonly affect younger patients, such as autoimmune disorders or chronic ailments.

Obstetricians and gynecologists (OB/GYNs) provide care related to pregnancy, childbirth, and the female reproductive system. They treat and counsel women throughout their pregnancy and deliver babies. They also diagnose and treat health issues specific to women, such as breast cancer, cervical cancer, hormonal disorders, and symptoms related to menopause.

Psychiatrists are primary mental health physicians. They diagnose and treat mental illnesses through a combination of personal counseling (psychotherapy), psychoanalysis, hospitalization, and medication. Psychotherapy involves regular discussions with patients about their problems. The psychiatrist helps them find solutions through changes in their behavioral patterns, explorations of their past experiences, or group and family therapy sessions. Psychoanalysis involves long-term psychotherapy and counseling for patients. Psychiatrists may prescribe medications to correct chemical imbalances that cause some mental illnesses.

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

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How To Become An Orthopedic Surgeon

Physicians and surgeons have demanding education and training requirements. Almost all physicians complete at least 4 years of undergraduate school, 4 years of medical school, and, depending on their specialty, 3 to 7 years in internship and residency programs.


Most applicants to medical school have at least a bachelor's degree, and many have advanced degrees. Although no specific major is required, all students must complete undergraduate work in biology, chemistry, physics, math, and English. Students also 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.

Medical schools are highly competitive. Most applicants must submit transcripts, scores from the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT), and letters of recommendation. Schools also consider an applicant’s personality, leadership qualities, and participation in extracurricular activities. Most schools require applicants to interview with members of the admissions committee.

A few medical schools offer combined undergraduate and medical school programs that last 6 or 7 years.

Students spend most of the first 2 years of medical school in laboratories and classrooms, taking courses such as anatomy, biochemistry, pharmacology, psychology, medical ethics, and the laws governing medicine. They also gain practical skills, learning to take medical histories, examine patients, and diagnose illnesses.

During their last 2 years, medical students work with patients under the supervision of experienced physicians in hospitals and clinics. Through rotations in internal medicine, family practice, obstetrics and gynecology, pediatrics, psychiatry, and surgery, they gain experience in diagnosing and treating illnesses in a variety of areas.

Important Qualities

Communication skills. Physicians and surgeons need to be excellent communicators. They must be able to communicate effectively with their patients and other healthcare support staff.

Compassion. Physicians and surgeons deal with patients who are sick or injured and may be in extreme pain or distress. Physicians and surgeons must be able to treat patients and their families with compassion and understanding.

Detail oriented. Physicians and surgeons must ensure that patients are receiving appropriate treatment and medications. They must also monitor and record various pieces of information related to patient care.

Dexterity. Physicians and surgeons must be good at working with their hands. They may work with very precise and sometimes sharp tools, and mistakes can have serious consequences.

Leadership skills. Physicians who work in their own practice need to be effective leaders. They must be able to manage a staff of other professionals to run their practice.

Organizational skills. Some physicians own their own practice. Strong organizational skills, including good recordkeeping, are critical in both medical and business settings.

Patience. Physicians and surgeons may work for long periods with patients who need special attention. Persons who fear medical treatment may require more patience.

Physical stamina. Physicians and surgeons should be comfortable performing physical tasks, such as lifting or turning disabled patients. Surgeons may spend a great deal of time bending over patients during surgery.

Problem-solving skills. Physicians and surgeons need to evaluate patients’ symptoms and administer the appropriate treatments. They need to do this quickly if a patient’s life is threatened.


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.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

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.

All physicians and surgeons also must pass a standardized national licensure exam. M.D.s take the U.S. Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE). D.O.s take the Comprehensive Osteopathic Medical Licensing Examination (COMLEX-USA). For specific state information about licensing, contact your state’s medical board. 

Certification is not required for physicians and surgeons; however, it may increase their employment opportunities. M.D.s and D.O.s seeking board certification in a specialty may spend up to 7 years in residency training; the length of time varies with the specialty. To become board certified, candidates must complete a residency program and pass a specialty certification exam from the American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS), the American Osteopathic Association (AOA), or the American Board of Physician Specialties (ABPS).

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Orthopedic Surgeon Demographics










Hispanic or Latino




Black or African American



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Languages Spoken
























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Orthopedic Surgeon Education


Boston University


University of Florida


Bergen Community College


Florida International University


West Virginia University


University of Texas at Austin


Florida State University


Auburn University


Holyoke Community College


Southern Illinois University Carbondale


University of California - San Diego


New York University


Quinnipiac University


Howard University


Cornell University


Duke University


Syracuse University


University of Rochester


Georgia Southern University


Temple University

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Medical Assisting Services


Special Education


Health Care Administration




Medical Clinical Sciences




Physician Assistant


Medical Technician


Public Health


Athletic Training


Liberal Arts


Elementary Education


Criminal Justice




Food And Nutrition


Nuclear And Industrial Radiologic Technologies

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Real Orthopedic Surgeon Salaries

Job Title Company Location Start Date Salary
Orthopedic Surgeon Grace Clinic of Lubbock Lubbock, TX Jul 01, 2014 $750,000
Orthopedic Spine Surgeon Mid-Tennessee Bone & Joint Clinic, P.C. Columbia, TN Dec 15, 2015 $650,004
Orthopedic Surgeon Christie Clinic, LLC Champaign, IL Nov 20, 2015 $650,000
Orthopedic Surgeon, Spine Mid-Tennessee Bone & Joint Clinic, P.C. Columbia, TN Sep 06, 2013 $650,000
Orthopedic Surgeon Three Rivers Health Three Rivers, MI Jun 24, 2016 $625,000
Orthopedic Surgeon Integrated Health Systems, Inc. Three Rivers, MI Jun 15, 2016 $625,000
Orthopedic Surgeon Avera Marshall Regional Medical Center Marshall, MN Nov 09, 2016 $600,000
Orthopedic Surgeon Innovis Health, LLC Fosston, MN Sep 26, 2016 $600,000
Orthopedic Surgeon Innovis Health, LLC Detroit Lakes, MN Sep 26, 2016 $600,000
Orthopedic Surgeon Innovis Health, LLC Park Rapids, MN Sep 26, 2016 $600,000
Orthopedic Surgeon Campbell County Memorial Hospital Gillette, WY Aug 01, 2015 $597,460
Orthopedic Surgeon Campbell County Memorial Hospital Gillette, WY Jan 23, 2015 $597,460
Orthopedic Surgeon Williamson HMA Physician Management LLC Williamson, WV Mar 20, 2015 $495,000 -
Orthopedic Surgeon Carthage Area Hospital, Inc. Carthage, NY Jul 01, 2013 $495,000
Orthopedic & Spine Surgeon Muskogee Regional Medical Center, LLC Muskogee, OK Feb 17, 2014 $489,000
Orthopedic Surgeon San Miguel Clinic Corporation Las Vegas, NM Apr 16, 2015 $485,000
Orthopedic Surgeon & Physician Knapp Medical Group Weslaco, TX Jul 10, 2015 $473,370
Orthopedic Surgeon Baystate Medical Practices, Inc. Greenfield Town, MA Aug 01, 2014 $467,500
Orthopedic Surgeon Baystate Medical Practices, Inc. Greenfield Town, MA Oct 05, 2015 $467,500
Orthopedic Surgeon Claxton-Hepburn Medical Center Ogdensburg, NY Jan 10, 2016 $451,502
Orthopedic Surgeon Bradford Regional Medical Center Bradford, PA Aug 25, 2014 $339,654
Orthopedic Spine Surgeon Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center Syracuse, NY Oct 01, 2013 $329,000
Orthopedic Surgeon Einstein Practice Plan, Inc. Philadelphia, PA Aug 01, 2013 $325,000
Orthopedic Surgeon Pacific Orthopedic Consultants, LLC Aug 15, 2013 $325,000
Orthopedic Surgeon Pacific Orthopedic Consultants, LLC Aug 12, 2013 $325,000
Orthopedic Surgeon Rochester General Hospital Rochester, NY Feb 04, 2013 $322,425 -
Orthopedic Surgeon Shriners Hospital for Children, Portland Portland, OR Sep 19, 2016 $320,000
Orthopedic Surgeon Jackson Physician Corp Jackson, KY Mar 08, 2016 $308,750

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Top Skills for An Orthopedic Surgeon

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  1. Plastic Surgery
  2. Insurance Companies
  3. Clinic
You can check out examples of real life uses of top skills on resumes here:
  • Shadowed Allergy specialist Shadowed Cardiologist Witnessed open heart surgery Witnessed a plastic surgery
  • Maintained Physician schedule and appropriate records made available, completed reports/forms from insurance companies and/or office correspondence.
  • Managed a three-room clinic OR and assisted as a private scrub* Responsible for hiring staff, ordering supplies, and managing budget
  • Practiced arthroscopic surgery, sports medicine, shoulderand knee reconstruction, general orthopedics
  • Provided triage of phone calls, performed appointment scheduling, and administered medications.

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Top Orthopedic Surgeon Employers

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Jobs From Top Orthopedic Surgeon Employers

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