Surgeon Job Description

Surgeon team performing a surgery

Surgeon Job Description: Surgeons specialize in the treatment of injury, disease, and deformity through operations. Using a variety of instruments, and with patients under anesthesia, a surgeon corrects physical deformities, repairs bone and tissue after injuries, or performs preventive surgeries on patients with debilitating diseases or disorders. Although a large number perform general surgery, many surgeons choose to specialize in a specific area.

One of the most prevalent specialties is orthopedic surgery: the treatment of the musculoskeletal system. Others include neurological surgery (treatment of the brain and nervous system), cardiovascular surgery, otolaryngology (treatment of the ear, nose, and throat), and plastic or reconstructive surgery. Like other physicians, surgeons also examine patients, perform and interpret diagnostic tests, and counsel patients on preventive health care.

Physicians and surgeons diagnose illnesses and prescribe and administer treatment for people suffering from injury or disease. Physicians examine patients, obtain medical histories, and order, perform, and interpret diagnostic tests. They counsel patients on diet, hygiene, and preventive health care.

There are two types of physicians: M.D.—Doctor of Medicine—and D.O.—Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine. M.D.s also are known as allopathic physicians. While both M.D.s and D.O.s may use all accepted methods of treatment, including drugs and surgery, D.O.s place special emphasis on the body’s musculoskeletal system, preventive medicine, and holistic patient care. D.O.s are most likely to be primary care specialists although they can be found in all specialties. About half of D.O.s practice general or family medicine, general internal medicine, or general pediatrics.

Surgeons who are in private practice are responsible for running a small business. They may hire employees, order supplies, and keep records, among other tasks.

Working Environment

Working conditions are usually pleasant with the work environment being indoors in well lighted exam rooms and hospitals. Hours of work frequently exceed 60 hours a week in the busier practices. This typically can result in being awakened at all hours of the night and/or being asked to come in at irregular times to evaluate a patient. Additionally, surgeons spend many hours in the operating room. prolonged standing for several hours occurs frequently.

Training and Qualifications - to be a Surgeon

Formal education and training requirements for physicians are among the most demanding of any occupation—4 years of undergraduate school, 4 years of medical school, and 2 to 8 years of internship and residency, depending on the specialty selected. A few medical schools offer combined undergraduate and medical school programs that last 6 rather than the customary 8 years.

Premedical students must complete undergraduate work in physics, biology, mathematics, English, and inorganic and organic chemistry. Students also take courses in the humanities and the social sciences. Some students volunteer at local hospitals or clinics to gain practical experience in the health professions.

Surgeons are required to have excellent eye, hand and fine motor coordination.

Licensing and Credentialing

In all 50 states and the U.S. Territories Physicians are regulated. The usual method to be a credentialed and licensed Surgeon is:

  1. Possess the amount of training and/or a degree from an accredited school of medicine or osteopathy.
  2. Complete an internship as a surgical resident
    Pass a national exam 
  3. Apply for licensure in the state you wish to practice in.

Significant Points of the Surgeon Job Description

Many surgeons work long, irregular hours.  In 2012 approximately 70% of surgeons and other physicians surveyed reported working over 40 hours per week.


Formal education and training requirements are among the most demanding of any occupation, but earnings are among the highest.

Job opportunities should be very good.  Projected demand is that 20,000 more surgeons will be needed by the year 2022.

New physicians are much less likely to enter solo practice and more likely to work as salaried employees of group medical practices, clinics, hospitals, or health networks

Career Progression.

The outlook for physicians is projected to be very good. Significant shortages exist in rural and underserved areas. The trend towards group practices will provide opportunities for more doctors to hold positions of leadership and authority. This still remains one of the best paying professions in the healthcare industry.

Resources for Physicians and Surgeons Job Description:

Physicians and Surgeons: Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition.

American Surgical Association: ASA