What is a general surgeon?
This is a medical person who has advanced training in handling patients of any age from infants to the elderly and any gender. This is the physician who can operate on someone with any medical condition that involves any area of the body but primarily operate on the abdominal area and focus on your stomach, bowel, esophagus, gallbladder, liver, pancreas, bile ducts, and pancreas. They are physicians who have the expertise in using a variety of procedures such as non-invasive, minimally invasive, and invasive to treat physical injuries and conditions. Many times instead of staying a general surgeon they will continue their education and training to become an orthopedic surgeon, neurosurgeon, vascular surgeons, plastic surgeons, and more. In the United States 79% of general surgeons are men and the average age for a general surgeon is 49 years.
Job description of a general surgeon
When you see the word “surgeon” in a medical person’s title it means that they have the training and licensing to perform surgery. A general surgeon has specialized experience and knowledge related to the management of patients from the diagnosis to preoperative to operative and finally post-operative. This also includes the management of complications if there are any and the management in the nine primary components of surgery. They have the knowledge and training to perform a variety of surgeries with the aid of surgical instruments. When they see a patient it will be their job to let the patient know if they need to have surgery or not for their medical issue. If they do then the surgeon will determine the appropriate surgical technique to help the patient with their medical condition. A general surgeon may do surgeries to repair injuries and deformities, perform preventive surgeries, repair bones and the soft tissues, and help to improve the quality of life for a patient.
How to become a general surgeon?
To become a general surgeon there is at least 13 years of post-secondary education and training that they must have. When you become a general surgeon you will have a degree stating that you are a Doctor of Medicine. Although you will have a state license to practice as a general surgeon you can also choose to become board certified. As with any medical career you should make sure while in high school that you take all the science and mathematics courses that are offered. You will need to have a Bachelor’s degree to get into medical school. Although it is generally not important what your Bachelor’s degree is in it is wise that you choose a major that includes anatomy and science classes or you could take pre-med classes. Once you have your Bachelor’s degree, also known as your undergraduate degree, you will have to take the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) in order to gain admission to medical school. As the competition is very stiff to get into medical school you should make sure that you score exceptionally well on the exam along with having a high GPA in your undergraduate program.
When starting medical school you will be there for four years. Getting your degree in Doctor of Medicine (M.D.) the first two years will be mostly work in the classroom and the last two years you will spend in clinical rotations. During this time in medical school you will be exposed to a variety of fields of medicine. When doing your surgical rotation you will have the opportunity to engage in different surgical procedures.
When you receive your Doctor of Medicine degree you will enter a general surgery residency which can last from 3-7 years. During this surgical residency you would be trained in all the major areas of surgery. Many times after completing their residency they will continue to complete specialty training in a particular field of medicine. To get into a general surgery residency you must have excellent grades from medical school and good scores on all of your medical exams. This is important as the competition to get into this residency program is very competitive.
During the first year of their general surgery residency you are referred to as interns and will spend the year learning about various operating procedures that includes both pre- and post operative care. During this year you will also learn how to write in patient’s charts, being able to read a chart, and other administrative duties. In the following years they will gain more and more responsibilities and training to become a general surgeon. A general surgery residency is tough to complete as many areas of the program are exhausting, on both physical and mental levels. The intern will be required to work multi-day shifts, not be allowed to leave the hospital to get anything to eat or sleep, they may also work twenty-four hour shifts or longer, grabbing sleep while they can in the room at the hospital reserved for physicians. According to research done interns have a high risk of suffering certain psychological disorders like depression during their general surgery residency.
To receive their general surgeon, or Doctor of Medicine, license they must have successfully completed medical school and the residency program. They must also pass licensing exams. These are the general requirements to get a medical license but the requirements for being a licensed physician can vary from state to state. The common exam that is accepted by most all states is the United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE). This exam is overseen by the National Board of Medical Examiners (NBME).
Being board certified is not a requirement in order to practice your career as a general surgeon but many become board certified to enhance their professional credibility. The American Board of Surgery is the ones that oversee board certification for a general surgeon. To become board certified you must have an unrestricted state medical license along with completing a training and residency program. You also have to pass several exams. When taking the general surgery qualifying exam there are 300 questions that are multiple choice and then you have an oral examination to pass.
Work environment and schedule
When you become a general surgeon you can work in a variety of settings such as private practice, in a group practice, hospitals, or clinics. Most of the patients that a general surgeon see are one that have been referred to them by the patient’s primary care physician. Generally most surgeons who have a private practice or work in a group practice will work four to five days a week and work more than 50 hours a week. If they work in a hospital setting they are usually on call 24 hours a day for a certain number of days a week and then they will have scheduled time off but if it is necessary they may get called back to the hospital if there is are more emergencies than the on-call general surgeon cannot handle.
When they are working in their office they will see a variety of patients. During their office visit the general surgeon will go over their chart, do a physical examination on the patient, order any tests that need to be done like a blood test, skin biopsy, CAT scan, MRI, etc. Once they have all the information back they will schedule the patient for a follow-up so the general surgeon can go over everything with the patient and let them know what the best course of treatment to have. If surgery is not needed at that time the general surgeon would release the patient back to their primary care physician. They would then let the primary care physician know what the results of the tests were and the treatment that was decided on.
In an office setting the general surgeon would most likely wear business attire and wear a white lab coat. In an operating room they would wear surgical scrubs. General surgeons are required to stand for long periods of time so it is important that they wear comfortable shoes. Being a general surgeon the work would never become boring as you would have the training and experience to operate on a variety of patients with various medical conditions. If you become a general surgeon with a specialty field you would only be operating on patients with medical problems in that particular field.
Pros and cons of being a general surgeon
Each general surgeon job is very different and challenging, but the personal reward as working as one is that you get a chance to operate various people with various diagnostics. At the same time you’ll get the better expertise when taking a complex medical situation or problem and figure out what is wrong with their bodies, not to mention that you’ll be there to take them to the operating room.
Another pro is to see them getting better as they were before and to see the results of your contribution and work. You’ll get appreciations from your patients, and you’ll know that you got involved and worked hard to offer them a reason to continue living. You’ll never get bored with the cases that are different each time and with various diseases that you will encounter during your expertise.
The benefit as working as a general surgeon is that you can choose your environment in which you want to work. Whether it is a big town, a small suburb or even a rural setting, the job opportunities are right in front of your eyes to grab them. You can find any medical facility and hospital that will hire a good general surgeon.
The cons can be seen as well, because working with people is difficult, and there are times when you’ll have to deal with drunk people or with people that done harm to themselves and to others. There are even those patients that have huge expectations of creating miracles because they didn’t treat themselves for a lifetime.
If you want to become a general surgeon, you should take into consideration each advantage and disadvantage and make sure to choose what is best for you. To become a general surgeon you’ll need a starting capital and study hard since you’ll need some years of study, but nothing is impossible if you decide to go on this way.
General Surgeon job growth
For the next ten years or so, according to the BLS else known as the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the projections for all the surgeons is estimated at 18%. The job growth for these professionals is presented as being favorable, and the job openings are expected due to the number of surgeons that retired or are retiring during the decade. The salary is very good, and there are plenty of work settings where to choose from.
Even though the employment growth in the market it’s a process that is going quite slow, the future outlook for these professionals seems to be good. This is because the number of demanding is growing at fast pace, especially in the elderly population that wants more and more quality medical care and due to an expansion in the healthcare related industries.
Salary of a general surgeon
On average for a general surgeon just starting out their yearly salary can average as much as $68,320 to $102,480 and for the next 5-10 years they will see a pay increase but generally after this period of time the years of experience have very little effect on their average yearly salary becoming higher. As with any highly skilled job the average yearly salary depends on a lot of factors such as what state and city they are practicing in, is it a large city, small city, or rural area, are they specialized in any field, is a private practice or group practice, do they work in a hospital and is the hospital a large, medium, or small hospital. If you were working for general surgical and medical hospitals you could earn on average $206, 570 a year.
Some of the states that are the best in regards to the average yearly salary for a general surgeon include:
- Miami Florida–$255,000
- New York New York–$300,000
- Los Angles, California–$287,000
- Houston Texas–$264,000
- Seattle Washington–$280,00
In addition to the general surgeon salary there are also the benefit packages that go along with the salary which can include social security, pension, 401K, vacation days, sick days, paid holidays, life insurance, personal days, medical insurance, etc. They may also have their liability and malpractice insurance paid for. If your work environment requires you to be on call for any length of time you may receive a cell phone or pager that your employer pays for so they can reach you in a hurry if they need a general surgeon. Some may even pay you to go to school for continuing education. If the general surgeon travels to various clinics for their job they may be reimbursed for their mileage.
Salary of a general surgeon in 2015
Working as a general surgeon in 2015 you’ll have various opportunities and with the years of experience gathering up and with the time spend on the job your salary will start to increase. Your salary as a general surgeon will vary but compared to other careers in the medical system working as one of these professionals will get you gain a high salary.
With the years of residency ending, a general surgeon will have a salary that will range between $100,025 and $300,025 per year. The salary changes based on many factors, some of them mentioned earlier, and the age, the facility in which one works and the geographical location and area settings have their importance as well.
With the year 2015, general surgeons have a great increase in salaries due to the public demanding and the number of cases that rises up constantly. Many jobs for general surgeons are available in each state, so the opportunities for working as one, not to mention the states that pay the highest salaries for general surgeons.
General Surgeon Salary in 2016
For the year 2016, in the United States, the income of a general surgeon is comprised between $99,813 per year and up to $353,762 per year. The salaries of these professionals vary according to some factors that affect and impact directly their earnings. With other words, the incomes are influenced by the type of employment, geographical location, years of experience and work setting.
In the US, a general surgeon salary in 2016 is known to be among the best-paying salaries with a median average that reaches around $260,010 per year. The top paying salaries for these professional can reach even up to $412,010 per year or more.
Another factor that impacts the income is the gender factor. In this branch, men tend to earn more than their female counterparts. For instance, a man that is working as general surgeon can expect to take home an income that is estimated to have a median average of around $290,010 per year while a woman that is working as a general surgeon can expect an average median income of around $225,010 per year.
The work setting as reminded earlier has a strong impact on the salaries. For instance, a general surgeon that has found work in an outpatient clinic can expect at an income that goes around $247,010 per year while one that is working for a healthcare organization can expect to take home around $310,010 per year.
A general surgeon salary varies a lot from state to state. The main reason being the differences that appear within the costs of living and the living expenses of each state. For instance, those having their jobs in California as general surgeons can expect their incomes to be comprised between $91,917 per year and up to $357,524 per year. Those working in texas report yearly earnings that are comprised between $55,644 per year and up to $339,354 per year.
Discussing the geographical location factor, the earnings are affected as well by each city. For instance, general surgeons that have their jobs as general surgeons in Boston can generally expect to make between $98,266 per year and up to $254,342 per year while those in New York can anticipate taking home based earnings estimated between $51,523 per year and up to $401,336 per year.
General surgeon salary in Canada, Australia and UK
If you decide you want to become a general surgeon in Canada, Australia, or the UK it is important for you to know that of the three, the UK offers the less pay to a general surgeon. In addition, in the UK you are also paid according to your age. In the UK, if you are in your twenties you will average a yearly salary of £48,750, in your thirties you can have an average salary of £63,700, and if you are in your forties or fifties your average yearly salary would be £75,400.
In Canada a general surgeon’s yearly salary would average between C$50,335 and C$300,403. When practicing in Canada as a general surgeon there is also a yearly bonus that can range from C$145.44 to C$49,833.
In Australia a general surgeon can receive a yearly salary that averages between AU$48,796 and AU$254,341 plus they also get a yearly bonus that averages AU$51,712.
Conclusion on general surgeon salary
To become a general surgeon there is approximately 13 years of schooling and a surgery residency that they must go through before they can start to make money but when you look at the average yearly salary all those steps you had to take to get here were well worth it. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics the lowest paid average yearly salary for a general surgeon was $236,145 and the highest paid average yearly salary is $419,139 in the United States. If you were a general surgeon with a specialty the average yearly salary would be higher. After several years of being a general surgeon you could change directions and become a teacher to teach new interns who are just making their way into the field of general surgery. One last note—because general surgeons are highly educated and highly skilled they are working in a field that is highly compensated.
- First Published Date: 19 August, 2014
- Last Updated Date: 22 August, 2016