Orthopedic surgery is a branch of surgery concerned with medical conditions involving the musculoskeletal system. Orthopedic surgeons use both surgical and non-surgical methods to treat sports injuries, degenerative diseases, tumors, musculoskeletal trauma, infections, and congenital disorders. They deal mainly with injuries and conditions of the tendons, ligaments, bones, joints, and muscles. Some may choose to specialize on a particular joint or part of the body, such as spinal orthopedic surgeons, while others may focus on certain types of conditions, such as sports-related.
Like most surgeons and physicians, orthopedic surgeons must obtain a medical degree from an accredited medical school. This takes four years, on average, after receiving a four-year undergraduate bachelor’s degree from a university, usually in the area of science. After completing an undergraduate degree, a candidate must study for and pass the Medical College Admission Test.
It is known to be an incredibly difficult test, comprised of four challenging sections including biological sciences, physical sciences, verbal, and a written sample. Getting into the right medical school can also be extremely competitive as many only admit between 5-10% of applicants.
During their time in medical school, a candidate spends two years in a classroom based environment, and two more years of hospital-based training. During these four years of studies, they must pass their National Board Exams. These are solid days of testing spread throughout their time in school. The first is taken after the 2nd year and the next after their 3rd year. Both are full days of testing on the fundamental medical knowledge that the candidate should be proficient with at that point in their studies. Applications for residency programs begin the fall before the orthopedic residency would begin, and interviews usually take place in the winter time of the candidate’s 4th year of medical school.
After graduating from medical school, a prospective candidate must complete a residency training program specifying in orthopedic surgery. The first year of this residency is called an internship. The remaining four years, a candidate would spend rotating through the various specialties at several different hospitals to gain real exposure to the global practice of the surgery. The entire residency program lasts five years.
If one so chooses, he or she may also participate in an extra year or two of additional training to specialize in a particular area of orthopedics – such as pediatric, or spinal. This is called a fellowship, and can also be very competitive.
Being one of the most competitive fields of medicine, orthopedic surgeons are also among the highest paid, depending on their specialization. Some can earn up to $700,000 annually. On average, a general orthopedic surgeon will make $514,659.
Orthopedic surgeons are one of the most well-paid professionals today, but they also require one of the most mentally challenging educational programs anywhere in the world including almost 20 years of post-secondary education