Orthopedic Surgeon Degree Programs
Orthopedic surgeons perform invasive procedures on the musculoskeletal system. Learn about the required education, training and licensure for this profession.
What Does an Orthopedic Surgeon Specialize in?
Orthopedic surgeons specialize in preventing, diagnosing and treating conditions that affect the musculoskeletal system. As an orthopedic surgeon, you'll be trained in the surgical repair of bones, joints, muscles and tendons. If you want to specialize your practice even further, you can choose from subspecialties in sports medicine or hand surgery. In addition to performing surgeries, you'll also be responsible for conducting patient exams and providing follow-up care.
|Specializations||Sports medicine, hand surgery|
|Education Requirements||Bachelor's degree with prerequisite courses, medical school, appropriate clinical rotations|
|Residency Information||After medical school, you will need to complete an orthopedic surgery residency|
|Other Qualifications||You will have to pass the USMLE exam or COMLEX exam depending on what medical school you attended; can also opt for board certification|
|Median Salary (2019)||$371,406 (for all orthopedic surgeons)*|
|Job Outlook (2016-2026)||14% growth (for all surgeons)**|
Sources: *PayScale.com, **U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
How Much Education Do I Need?
You'll need extensive education to work as an orthopedic surgeon. Most medical schools require that you complete at least a bachelor's degree program to be accepted. While your undergraduate degree doesn't have to be in a specific subject, you'll need to take science prerequisites, including inorganic and organic chemistry, biology and physics. Once in a medical school program, you'll spend your first two years taking basic science courses, such as anatomy, physiology, biochemistry, pharmacology and pathology. You'll spend your final two years in clinical rotations, learning how to care for patients under the supervision of experienced physicians.
What Happens After Medical School?
After you graduate from medical school, you'll need to enter a residency program in orthopedic surgery. These programs are usually around five years in length. While you are enrolled in an orthopedic surgery residency program, you'll be required to complete training in general surgery your first year before you begin your orthopedic surgery training. As a resident, you'll attend lectures and conferences, conduct research and complete clinical rotations in areas such as hand, spine, trauma and shoulder surgery. If you would like to further specialize in the area of orthopedics, you can opt to complete a fellowship program after you complete your residency, which usually takes an additional year.
Do I Need Any Additional Qualifications?
You must earn a medical license in order to practice. If you graduate from an allopathic medical school, you'll need to pass the United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE). If you graduate from an osteopathic medical school, you must pass the Comprehensive Osteopathic Medical Licensing Exam (COMLEX).
As an allopathic surgeon, you may also opt to earn board certification in orthopedic surgery through the American Board of Orthopaedic Surgery (www.abos.org). You can apply to take the certification exams after graduating from an accredited medical school, earning your medical license and completing at least five years of residency training. You'll need to first pass a written exam, then go into practice for at least 22 months and undergo a peer review, after which you can take the oral examination to become board certified. You need to complete 120 hours of continuing education every three years and pass a recertification exam every ten years to maintain your certification. If you have completed a fellowship in hand surgery, you can also earn subspecialty certification, which is valid for ten years.
If you are an osteopathic surgeon, you may earn optional board certification through the American Osteopathic Board of Surgery, which entails a similar process and similar eligibility requirements (www.aobos.org). However, in addition to written and oral examinations, you'll need to pass a clinical exam. Osteopathic board certification is good for ten years, after which time you'll need to pass an exam to recertify. As with allopathic surgeons, you'll also need to complete 120 hours of continuing education every three years. The AOBOS does not offer subspecialty certification.