According to data from the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC), the demand for specialized surgeons is substantial, with a projected shortage of as many as 28,700 surgeons in the United States by the year 2033.
But, before you set sail on your career path or consider pursuing medical school, there's a crucial decision to make: what type of surgeon do you aspire to be? We've put together a comprehensive list that explores some of the most prevalent surgical specialties, drawing from the insights of the American College of Surgeons (ACS). This will provide you with a window into the various medical conditions and scopes of practice that each specialty addresses. You'll also discover how each surgeon wields their skills to make a profound and lasting impact on the lives of their patients each and every day.
In addition, we'll delve deeper into crucial aspects such as salary expectations, the number of practicing surgeons in each field, the current job demand trends, and even a list of renowned hospitals renowned for their excellence in surgical care. So, let's embark on this informative journey, covering all these facets and more, to help you navigate your way through the exciting world of surgical specialties.
What is a Surgeon?
Surgeons are esteemed professionals distinguished by their specialized training in performing intricate surgical procedures. They are regarded as experts in the precise art of healing through surgical intervention. Within this cadre, there exist general surgeons who possess the capacity to address a wide spectrum of medical conditions spanning diverse anatomical regions. Additionally, there are specialized surgeons, each attaining mastery in their chosen field, focusing their expertise on specific areas of the body. The daily responsibilities of these surgical professionals encompass a methodical approach that includes diagnostic precision, performing intricate surgeries, postoperative care, patient follow-up, and more.
Who Is Capable Of Doing A Surgery?
In the United States, both Medical Doctors (MDs) and Doctors of Osteopathic Medicine (DOs) have the opportunity to become skilled surgeons, provided they complete the rigorous educational and training pathway required for surgical practice.
This journey commences with undergraduate education in pre-medical or related fields, encompassing subjects like biology and chemistry. Afterward, they progress to medical school, culminating in either an M.D. or D.O. degree, where they study medical sciences, pharmacology, and clinical skills.
The next phase involves residency training, which is specific to their chosen surgical specialty and typically spans five to seven years. During this period, they gain hands-on experience in surgical procedures and patient care under experienced supervision. Some surgeons opt for additional fellowship training to specialize further within their field. Following completion of their training, surgeons must obtain a medical license, often requiring the successful passage of standardized exams like the United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE) or the Comprehensive Osteopathic Medical Licensing Examination (COMLEX). Many also pursue board certification to demonstrate their expertise.
Surgeons are obligated to participate in ongoing continuing medical education to stay abreast of advancements in their field. This continuous learning helps them maintain their licensure and board certification, ensuring they deliver the highest standard of care.
Exploring All The Surgical Specialties: Salaries, Job Availability, No. Of Surgeons, And More!
In surgery, there are 14 different specialties recognized by the American College of Surgeons, each with its own subspecialties. Each specialty focuses on a unique area. Some specialties focus on body systems, like the cardiovascular or nervous system. Others cater to specific patient populations based on age or gender. To become a surgeon, you must be dedicated to learning and improving your skills, no matter which path you choose. As you explore the choices, think about the details of each specialty. Let your passion and skills guide you to the surgical field that suits your goals.
1 General Surgeon
Notably, general surgeons often find themselves at the forefront of healthcare, entrusted with the comprehensive care of trauma patients and those facing critical medical conditions. Their skillset is as diverse as the surgical terrain they navigate, requiring proficiency in various surgical procedures and the ability to adapt to unforeseen challenges in the operating room.
3 Bariatric Surgery
Bariatric surgeons aim to alter the digestive system, limit food intake, and enhance satiety, ultimately aiding patients in their journey towards a healthy lifestyle. In addition to their surgical skills, bariatric surgeons also provide comprehensive pre-operative and post-operative care.
4 Cardiothoracic surgeon
The scope of cardiothoracic surgery is vast and diverse. It encompasses intricate procedures like organ transplants and the treatment of anomalies related to major blood vessels and heart valves. Additionally, cardiothoracic surgeons address a wide range of conditions and diseases, including angina pectoris (heart pain), lung, esophageal, and chest wall cancers, congenital abnormalities, coronary artery disease, diaphragmatic disorders, cardiac ailments, chest injuries, airway blockages, and mediastinal tumors.
5 Colon and rectal surgeon
Their responsibilities span critical care, where they provide essential nonoperative management, along with diagnosis, evaluation, preventive measures, and rehabilitation to optimize patient outcomes. Neurological surgeons are well-versed in a range of procedures, including endovascular surgery, functional and restorative surgery, spinal fusion, and stereotactic radiosurgery.
They also address a spectrum of conditions affecting the brain, extracranial carotid and vertebral arteries, meninges, and skull. Furthermore, their expertise extends to the treatment of disorders affecting cranial and spinal nerves, the spinal cord, the pituitary gland, and the vertebral column.
7 Orthopedic Surgeons
Beyond surgical interventions, orthopedic surgeons also excel in the diagnosis and non-surgical management of musculoskeletal issues, even in pediatric patients. This includes addressing developmental disorders and fractures in children, ensuring that individuals of all ages receive comprehensive care for their musculoskeletal health.
8 Ophthalmic Surgeons
In addition to their core specialties, many ophthalmic surgeons choose to further expand their surgical expertise. For instance, oculoplastic surgeons, a specialized branch within ophthalmology, are adept at performing both cosmetic and reconstructive surgeries. Their scope extends to procedures involving the eye socket, tear ducts, eyelids, and even facial structures, allowing them to offer diverse range of surgical solutions to patients seeking vision enhancement and facial rejuvenation.
9 Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons
It's noteworthy that Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery represents a unique blend of dental and medical specialization. These surgeons typically undergo rigorous dental training in dental school, and many further their education by attending medical school, depending on the requirements of their specific residency program. This distinctive combination of dental and medical knowledge equips them with the skill set necessary to provide specialized surgical care for patients with complex conditions in the craniofacial region.
10 Otolaryngology Surgeons
Otolaryngology surgeons are dedicated specialists who focus on the treatment of conditions pertaining to the ears, nose, and throat. Although this medical specialty is sometimes less recognized, it holds the distinction of being the oldest in the nation.
11 Obstetrician and gynecologist
13 Pediatric surgeon
A pivotal aspect of the role is creating a reassuring environment for children and alleviating the concerns of their anxious parents. Opting for a career in this field requires not only exceptional medical expertise but also outstanding interpersonal skills, boundless compassion, and unwavering patience.
14 Plastic surgeon
Plastic surgeons are skilled in performing intricate procedures that involve techniques like the transfer of skin flaps, tissue transplantation, and the meticulous replantation of anatomical structures. They address a wide array of conditions, including congenital deformities, nose reshaping, breast augmentation for cosmetic or post-mastectomy reconstruction, reconstructive surgery for individuals who have experienced burns, scars, or trauma affecting the face, hands, or lower limbs, as well as procedures to remove excess skin or body fat.
15 Thoracic surgeon
Their primary responsibilities encompass consulting with and diagnosing patients presenting with intrathoracic abnormalities. In addition to diagnosis, they are highly proficient in performing surgical procedures, utilizing advanced techniques and systems such as extracorporeal circulation, cardiac assist devices, management of cardiac dysrhythmias, pleural drainage, respiratory support systems, and endoscopy.
16 Trauma Surgeon
After surgical procedures, trauma surgeons offer ongoing follow-up care. They may also participate in board meetings to review cases, discuss patient care plans, and propose enhancements to emergency medical services.
19 Vascular Surgeon
Their expertise extends to performing a wide spectrum of procedures, ranging from intricate open surgeries to minimally invasive endovascular techniques. Beyond surgical interventions, vascular surgeons may also explore alternative treatment avenues for their patients, such as medication or exercise regimens.
Ready To Start Your Surgical Journey?
Having delved into the diverse field of surgical specialties within the healthcare system, you now have a clearer understanding of the range of options available to you. Each specialty offers its own unique challenges and opportunities, and your choice will shape your entire career. Make your decision thoughtfully, as it will influence your professional journey and the impact you can have on patients' lives.