What Are the Education Requirements to Be an Orthopedic Surgeon?

Orthopedic surgeons use both surgical and non-surgical methods to treat ailments of the skeleton, joints, and tendons, and they may specialize in branches of the field, such as sports medicine or reconstructive surgery. Prospective orthopedic surgeons must complete extensive undergraduate and professional training lasting more than eight years. Schools offering Surgical Technology degrees can also be found in these popular choices.


The educational journey for an aspiring orthopedic surgeon starts with undergraduate preparation that is followed by medical school and a specialized residency, as well as an optional fellowship. Upon completing these educational requirements, a candidate may explore a potentially lucrative career in orthopedic surgery. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts physicians and surgeons in general will see faster than average job growth in the coming years.

Important Facts About Orthopedic Surgeons

Job Outlook (2014-2024) 20% (for all surgeons)*
Professional Certification Voluntary board certification and sub-specialty certifications are available
Median Salary (2015) $319,782 per year**
Similar Occupations General physician, podiatrist, registered nurse, dentist

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **PayScale.com

Undergraduate Preparation

Preliminary, undergraduate studies in biology, chemistry, physics, and mathematics are essential for entrance into medical school. Many students major in the sciences then take the necessary courses independently, or you could enroll in a pre-medical program that offers assistance scheduling courses needed to apply to medical school. Other courses required for admission into medical school may include humanities, social studies, and English.

It is not always mandatory to earn an undergraduate degree to apply to medical school, but the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS, www.bls.gov) reports that most medical school applicants have at least bachelor's degrees. Applying to medical school can be very competitive. Along with completing the mandatory undergraduate coursework, you'll have to score well on the Medical College Admission Test. Some programs also expect letters of recommendation from professors.

Medical School

Medical school is traditionally a four-year program that leads to either a Doctor of Medicine (M.D.) or Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (D.O.) degree. The first two years of the program prepare you for advancement into clinical courses and include studies in anatomy, genetics, pathology, microbiology, pharmacology, and neurology. You will also be introduced to the process of developing clinical and diagnostic skills.

Third-year students focus on clinical rotations in a number of different practices, including surgery, internal medicine, and pediatrics. In the fourth year, you may complete rotations in specific electives, which can include orthopedics. Some programs also include an internship or residency 'boot camp' to prepare you for the next phase of medical training after graduation.


Much like medical school, getting accepted into a residency program can be very competitive, and you may be required to apply through the Electronic Residency Application Service. The five-year orthopedic surgery residency program focuses on clinical, didactic, and research applications. You will be introduced to surgical rounds, in which you'll learn to diagnose and treat a number of orthopedic illnesses. You're also required to attend conferences and lectures throughout your residency, which allow you to interact with leaders in the field of orthopedics. Your residency may also include rotations in a number of subspecialties, like sports medicine, hand surgery, musculoskeletal oncology and pediatric orthopedic surgery, among others.

Upon completion of a residency, you may qualify for licensure through your state medical board and begin to practice as an orthopedic surgeon. You might also choose to continue your training with a fellowship in a subspecialty of orthopedic surgery.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

  • 1. Degree Options:
The schools in the listing below are not free and may include sponsored content but are popular choices among our users. Tuition and costs will vary across programs and locations. Be sure to always request tuition information before starting a program.

Popular Schools