The Pros and Cons of Becoming a Surgeon

Written by
Rebecca Smith

Oct 24, 2018

Oct 24, 2018 • by Rebecca Smith

In May of 2016, the average salary for surgeons was $252,910. This makes it one of the most lucrative careers a person can pursue; either in medicine or any other sector.

However, with great income comes great responsibility. What this means is that the life of a surgeon is not always charmed. While surgeons can make a lot of money, and while their lives can be very fulfilling, there are a number of pitfalls which they must face.

Curious as to what these pitfalls are? Wondering if they're worth the effort? Here are the pros and cons of becoming a surgeon.

The Pros of Being a Surgeon

While a large salary is certainly a big perk of being a surgeon, it's far from the only perk. There are a variety of benefits of being a surgeon. They are as follows:

You're Paid Handsomely (Eventually)

As we've so glaringly pointed out, surgeons are paid handsomely. For some -- particularly those with a focus on medicine -- this is the major draw of the profession.

While the average pay for a surgeon is around $250,000 annually, surgeons are actually paid anywhere between $100,000 and $500,000 a year. The more experience you have as a surgeon, the more money you will typically be paid.

You Have a Huge Positive Impact on Peoples' Lives

If you love to help others, becoming a surgeon could be just the thing for you. As a surgeon, you will -- quite literally -- be saving lives. There's no other way that you can help another person as much as you can as a surgeon.

Not only will you get to experience positive feelings from helping people, you will get to experience gratification from your patients and their families as well.

There are Plenty of Specializations to Choose From

There is no limit to what fields surgeons can pursue in medicine. Surgeons are needed for just about everything you can think of, from heart disease to lung disease, and much, much more.

As a surgeon, you can pursue orthopedic surgery, general surgery, plastic surgery, vascular surgery, neurological surgery, and a variety of other types of surgery.

You're Respected Within Society

You may or may not care what the rest of society thinks about you. However, if you do care, becoming a surgeon would be a wise career choice. Surgeons are some of the most respected individuals in society, receiving accolades from patients, other medical professionals, and those in their personal lives.

Your Job is Never Boring

There are tons of boring jobs out there. However, being a surgeon is not one of them. In fact, it's safe to say that being a surgeon is one of the most interesting and stimulating jobs there is.

As a surgeon, you will constantly be presented with new and exiting cases. These cases will test both your intellectual and technical skill, keeping you on your toes at all times.

Your Build Strong Relationships

Becoming a surgeon means working closely with other medical professionals. Over time, as you and your colleagues spend endless hours together, you will build some of the strongest relationships that you have ever known. These relationships will be important not only in your personal life but in your professional life as well.

The Cons of Being a Surgeon

The pros of being a surgeon are certainly enticing. However, the cons associated with the profession can be enough to turn a once-eager person away. Some of the more prominent cons will be discussed below.

It Can Be Extremely Stressful

While being a surgeon can be hugely rewarding, it's not all about fulfillment. The fact of the matter is that there is a great deal of stress involved with this profession.

As a surgeon, you will have peoples' lives in your hands. This is a huge responsibility which -- over time -- can take quite a toll on you. When you factor in the long work hours, the stress can eat away at you.

In essence, if you can't handle a great deal of stress, you probably shouldn't be a surgeon.

You're Prone to Lawsuits

While you hope for your surgeries to go successfully, mistakes can happen. When these mistakes happen, patients and patients' families can file malpractice lawsuits against you.

Whether you win these lawsuits or not, they can be exceedingly stressful to go through. This is true regardless of whether or not your hospital is on your side.

It's Emotionally Taxing

Extremely high highs and extremely low lows are the reality of being a surgeon. When you save a life against the odds, you will feel elated. When you lose a patient who never should have been lost, you will feel as if your entire world is crashing down around you.

In essence, being a surgeon is like being on an emotional roller-coaster. You must have a steely resolve in order to endure the swings of emotion.

It Requires a Great Deal of Education

You should know that, if you decide to become a surgeon, you'll be subjecting yourself to a great deal of education. In fact, it can take anywhere from 10 to 20 years for a person to finally become licensed as a surgeon.

Not only do surgeons have to earn their undergraduate and medical degrees, but they also have to participate in hospital residencies as well. They will also typically have to continue their education after their careers have begun.

It Costs a Lot of Money

It's simple: becoming a surgeon costs a lot of money. Not only will you need to pay tuition for your undergrad degree, but for your medical degree as well. After all is said and done, you will more than likely be around $200,000 in debt.

While you'll usually be paid during your residency, your pay will likely be fairly low; around $50,000. Therefore, until you finally earn your license, you aren't exactly going to be rolling in the dough.

You Work Long Hours

Though not all surgeons work long hours, many of them do. Work schedules can be sporadic, making it difficult for surgeons to have lives outside of their professions. If you're a person who values your free time, being a surgeon is probably not for you.

What Does it Take to Be a Surgeon?

As described above, becoming a surgeon requires a great deal of time, work, and dedication. It's not something that happens overnight, or even within a few years. In fact, it typically takes 10 to 20 years of training and education for a person to finally become licensed as a surgeon.


As is the case with any career, becoming a surgeon begins with education. After you've graduated from high school, you will need to complete a four-year degree at an accredited university. While there is no particular degree that you're necessarily required to pursue, it is advised that you pursue a Bachelor of Science Degree.

Surgeons need a great deal of knowledge in biology, anatomy, math, chemistry, and other such subjects. For this reason, future surgeons will often pursue degrees in these subjects.

After you have graduated with an undergraduate degree, you will need to apply to medical school. At medical school, you will pursue a Medical Doctor degree. This degree requires four years to obtain and is generally divided into two sections.

The first section will last 2 years and will involve obtaining knowledge within the classroom. The second section will also last 2 years, but will instead involve putting your knowledge into action in real-world situations. You will work alongside doctors and patients so that you can garner real-world experience.

Typically, after a future surgeon graduates from medical school, he or she will participate in a residency program at a hospital. During this residency, the prospective surgeon will work with real patients, working under the supervision of trained and licensed surgeons.

There are all types of residencies available, some of which are focused on being an orthopedic surgeon, some of which are focused on being a general surgeon, and some of which are focused on a variety of other specialties. The specialty you choose is up to you.

Generally, residencies last from 3 to 7 years. However, some specialties will necessitate that you remain in them a little longer.


After you have completed your residency, you're almost ready to be a surgeon. However, you first must obtain your license.

All surgeons in the United States must pass the United States Medical Licensing Examination. Then, they must become certified by the American Board of Medical Specialists. You can find more info on this by clicking on the link.

However, your training doesn't stop at board certification. Most surgeons are required to continue their education throughout the duration of their careers.

Are You Interested in Becoming a Surgeon?

What do you think? Are you interested in becoming a surgeon, or do the cons of the profession weigh too heavily for you to take the plunge? In any case, we hope that this article has benefited you.

Interested in learning about other careers? You're in the right place. Our Career blog has all types of information on careers in technology, medicine, telecommunications, and much, much more.

Check out the rest of our Career blog now!