How do I Become an Orthopaedic Surgeon?

Orthopaedic surgeons treat patients who suffer from musculoskeletal problems, such as broken bones, congenital deformities, tumors, and osteoporosis. They work with teams of other health care professionals to conduct delicate procedures. Since the job requires immense knowledge of physiology, diseases, and techniques, the educational and training requirements to become an orthopaedic surgeon are among the most extensive of any medical profession. An individual who wants to become an orthopaedic surgeon is typically required to complete medical school, up to five years in a residency program, and an additional year or two in a specialty fellowship. It also may be noted, the word orthopaedic also is commonly spelled orthopedic in the United States.

A person who believes that he or she might want to become an orthopaedic surgeon can pursue a bachelor's degree from an accredited four-year college or university. Most future surgeons choose to major in premedical studies to learn the fundamentals of the profession. Students have the opportunity to take courses in anatomy, physiology, biology, and several other subjects related to human health. Near the end of a bachelor's degree program, a student can take a standardized medical school admissions test and begin applying to accredited institutions.

Gaining admissions into medical school can be difficult considering the relatively low number of new students who are accepted each year. Schools tend to select only those applicants who have outstanding grades, test scores, recommendation letters, and reasons for wanting to continue their education. Once an individual is accepted, he or she meets with advisers and professors to create a personalized curriculum and degree plan. A student who wants to become an orthopaedic surgeon can expect to spend four years in classroom, laboratory, and practical health-care settings to gain a detailed understanding of medicine and operative procedures. An individual who fulfills all of the requirements for graduation is awarded a Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine degree and allowed to pursue a residency position.

Most new orthopaedic surgeons begin their residency training at general hospitals. They spend one to two years assisting experienced surgeons during a variety of procedures. The next three or four years are spent in a residency program dedicated specifically to orthopaedic medicine. During the course of a residency, a new surgeon is given more responsibilities as his or her skills develop. Many professionals continue their training after their residencies are completed, joining one- to two-year fellowships in sub-specialties, such as oncology, pediatrics, or trauma.

A successful fellowship grants an individual the opportunity to take a licensing examination and officially become an orthopaedic surgeon. Exams are administered by regional or national governing boards and usually consist of written and oral components. After earning a license, a new orthopaedic surgeon can choose to work at a hospital, specialty clinic, or joint private practice with other surgeons and physicians.


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