Is Being A Surgeon Worth It? An In-Depth Look At The Pros And Cons

Deciding on a career as a surgeon is not an easy choice. The profession demands years of training, long work hours, and high levels of responsibility. However, surgeons are also highly respected and well-compensated. So is following this challenging career path worth it?

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer to your question: being a surgeon can be an extremely rewarding career for those willing to commit to the rigorous education and training required. The high salary, ability to save lives, and prestige associated with the role make it worthwhile for many. However, the pressures and demands of the job are not for everyone.

Educational Requirements

Medical School

One of the first steps towards becoming a surgeon is completing medical school. Medical school typically takes four years to complete and is an intensive program that covers a wide range of medical knowledge and skills. Students learn about anatomy, physiology, pharmacology, and other important medical subjects. They also gain hands-on experience through clinical rotations, where they work directly with patients under the supervision of experienced physicians.


After completing medical school, aspiring surgeons must go through a residency program. Residency is a period of specialized training in a specific medical field, such as general surgery, orthopedic surgery, or neurosurgery. Residency programs can last anywhere from three to seven years, depending on the chosen specialty. During this time, residents work long hours and gain practical experience by assisting in surgeries, managing patient care, and participating in research projects.

Fellowships and Specialization

Once residency is completed, some surgeons choose to further specialize in a specific area through fellowships. Fellowships are additional training programs that provide in-depth knowledge and expertise in a particular surgical subspecialty, such as cardiothoracic surgery or plastic surgery. These programs typically last one to two years and involve advanced surgical techniques and research opportunities.

It is important to note that the educational requirements to become a surgeon are rigorous and demanding. Becoming a surgeon requires a significant commitment of time, effort, and dedication to learning and honing surgical skills. However, for those who have a passion for medicine and a desire to help others, the journey can be incredibly rewarding.

For more information about the educational requirements to become a surgeon, you can visit the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) website or consult with a medical school advisor.

Work Environment

Long Hours

Surgeons often work long hours and have demanding schedules. The nature of their work requires them to be available at all hours, as emergencies can occur at any time. It is not uncommon for surgeons to work well into the night or even through the weekend. The long hours can be physically and mentally exhausting, but for those passionate about their work, it can also be highly rewarding.

High Pressure

The work of a surgeon is highly demanding and comes with a lot of pressure. Surgeons are responsible for making critical decisions in high-stress situations, where the lives of their patients are at stake. The pressure to perform at their best and deliver successful outcomes can be immense. It requires a high level of focus, concentration, and the ability to handle stressful situations with composure and confidence.

Risk of Malpractice Suits

One of the major concerns for surgeons is the risk of malpractice suits. Medical malpractice occurs when a patient suffers harm as a result of a surgeon’s negligent actions or failure to provide a reasonable standard of care. Surgeons have a duty to ensure the safety and well-being of their patients, and any deviation from this duty can lead to legal consequences. It is important for surgeons to stay up-to-date with the latest medical practices and guidelines to minimize the risk of malpractice suits.

According to a study conducted by National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI), the risk of malpractice suits for surgeons is relatively high compared to other medical specialties. The study found that surgeons faced a higher risk of being sued, with certain surgical specialties being more vulnerable than others.

Despite the challenges and risks, being a surgeon can be incredibly fulfilling. The opportunity to save lives, improve the health of patients, and make a positive impact in the world is what drives many individuals to pursue a career in surgery. It takes a special kind of person to thrive in such a demanding work environment, but for those who are dedicated and passionate, the rewards can be truly remarkable.

Salary and Compensation

High Earning Potential

One of the major pros of being a surgeon is the high earning potential. Surgeons are among the highest-paid professionals in the medical field. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual wage for surgeons was $409,665 in May 2020. This means that surgeons earn significantly more than the average income in the United States. The high earning potential can provide financial stability and open up opportunities for a comfortable lifestyle, allowing surgeons to enjoy the fruits of their labor.

Salary vs. Debt from Medical School

While surgeons have the potential to earn a high salary, it is important to consider the debt incurred from medical school. Medical school is expensive, and many aspiring surgeons graduate with a significant amount of student loan debt. However, the high earning potential of surgeons can help offset this debt over time. It is also worth noting that there are various loan forgiveness and repayment programs available for medical professionals, which can help alleviate the burden of student loans. It is crucial for individuals considering a career in surgery to carefully weigh the potential salary against the cost of education and consider long-term financial planning.

Career Satisfaction

One of the main reasons why being a surgeon is worth it is the immense career satisfaction it brings. Surgeons have the unique opportunity to save lives on a daily basis, making a direct and tangible impact on the well-being of their patients. This sense of fulfillment and the knowledge that they are making a difference in the world can be incredibly rewarding.

Saving Lives

There is no greater feeling than knowing that your skills and expertise have helped save a person’s life. Surgeons are trained to perform intricate procedures that can alleviate pain, restore function, and even cure diseases. The ability to witness the transformation in a patient’s life after a successful surgery is truly remarkable and can bring a great deal of satisfaction to a surgeon.

According to a study published in the National Center for Biotechnology Information, surgeons reported high levels of job satisfaction, with 87% of surgeons expressing satisfaction with their career choice. This is a testament to the rewarding nature of the profession.

Prestige and Respect

Surgeons are held in high regard in society, and their profession is often associated with prestige and respect. The years of education, training, and experience required to become a surgeon command admiration from both peers and the general public. This recognition can boost a surgeon’s self-esteem and contribute to their overall job satisfaction.

Furthermore, the trust and confidence that patients place in their surgeon can be incredibly gratifying. Knowing that people rely on their expertise and skill can give surgeons a sense of purpose and fulfillment in their work.

Intellectually Stimulating Work

Being a surgeon involves constant learning and staying up-to-date with the latest advancements in medical science. The field of surgery is ever-evolving, and surgeons are continually challenged to expand their knowledge and skills. This intellectual stimulation can be highly rewarding and keep surgeons engaged and motivated in their careers.

In addition, the complexity of surgical procedures requires surgeons to think critically and make quick decisions under pressure. This mental agility and problem-solving aspect of the job can be intellectually stimulating and provide a sense of achievement.


Becoming a surgeon requires an immense amount of dedication and perseverance. The schooling is grueling and licensure requirements are demanding. However, surgeons earn a high salary and the opportunity to make a difference in people’s lives can provide immense fulfillment. For those willing to commit to the journey, a career as a surgeon can absolutely be rewarding and worthwhile.

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