So you want to become a specialist surgeon?

First, you will need to become a medical doctor (general practitioner). Becoming a medical doctor requires, depending on the state/country you live in, that you obtain a premedical science degree and follow it up with a medical degree. Some medical schools combine these two degrees into a single degree.

Second, you would be wise to gain practical experience for at least a number of years as a general practitioner before considering specializing in one of the branches of medicine.

Third, you’ll have to apply for admission as a candidate to the training program of the surgical department of a medical school. The admission criteria for a trainee as a general surgeon are strict and competition is usually fierce.

What are the attributes that I need to become a surgeon?

how to become a surgeon

  • A strong desire to become a surgeon. This is very important. Do not even think of pursuing surgery as a career if you are still in any measure unsure about your decision.
  • Perseverance. Embarking a career that will require formal studies of 10 years or longer will stretch and strengthen your ability to persevere.
  • The ability to work under pressure.
  • The ability to handle crises.
  • The ability to work hard, and for long hours continuously.
  • The ability to keep your concentration for extended periods of time.
  • A fair amount of physical dexterity. Dexterity is an acquired skill – although only to a certain extent. If you have 5 thumbs on each hand, do not hope to become a micro-surgeon!
  • You need to like working with your mind and your hands.
  • You need to like working with people.
  • Respect for the human body and for human life.
  • If you are a medical student you need to love anatomy. A thorough knowledge of anatomy is the foundation of surgery.
  • Intelligence. If you really struggle with your studies despite putting in effort daily, you may benefit from submitting yourself for psychological assessment to ascertain if you have the intellectual ability to become a doctor or a surgeon.

The History of Surgery

The Egyptians practiced surgery as early as 1600 B.C. and papyrus scrolls vividly describe the splinting of fractures, the care of wounds, the drainage of abscesses, etc.

Hippocrates (400 B.C.) commonly described as “the father of medicine”, for example, wrote books on surgery; surgery of piles and the treatment of head injuries.

During the Middle Ages surgery was mainly performed by barbers as part of their duties. Surgery was progressively reclaimed by scientific medicine in the 16th to 18th centuries.

John Hunter, a Scottish surgeon (1728-1793) taught his students that a surgical operation was the last resort – an admission that other methods had failed.

Two seemingly insurmountable stumbling blocks prevented any progress in the field of surgery, namely the excruciating pain associated with undergoing surgery and the almost inevitable fatal wound infections occurring after surgery – especially surgery to the abdomen, chest, and skull.

One of these obstacles was overcome in the 1840’s with the introduction of anesthetics, and the other in the 1860’s when an English surgeon, Joseph Lister introduced the principles of surgery without infection.

The 20th century saw a rapid expansion and refinement in anesthetic technique, anesthetic agents and machines, sterility and asepsis and the discovery of antibiotics – all allowing surgery to expand into many sub-surgical disciplines, with new, safer and less invasive surgical techniques becoming the routine surgical procedures of today.

The development of the heart-lung machine made safe surgery to the heart possible – culminating in the first successful human heart transplant by Professor Christiaan Barnard, a South African heart surgeon in 1967.

Basic Principles Applied in Surgery

  • Diagnosis and preoperative assessment
    A wrong diagnosis usually implies inappropriate, ineffective and occasionally outright dangerous treatment!
  • The consideration of alternative non-surgical treatment modalities. Surgery is and should be the last resort!
  • Proper treatment planning
    It is said that a good surgeon always operates twice – firstly he /she plans the operation in detail in his/her mind before doing the real operation. Assisting the surgeon in this planning process are: tracings, computer assisted simulations, model surgery etc.
  • Minimum invasion
    • Scope assisted surgery versus an open surgical procedure.
    • Interventive radiology/angiography
      Surgical procedures to the heart requiring opening of the chest, are being replaced in some instances by minimally invasive procedures performed by accessing the inside of an artery and performing the relevant procedure with radiographic (X-ray) assistance!
  • Good visual conditions
    • Exposure of the surgical site. This takes place when the surgical incision is made and dissection is performed to reach the intended surgical site.
    • Retraction. Retraction is the “pulling” away of tissue to offer the surgeon maximum exposure to the surgical site.
    • Lighting. Surgical assistants and nursing staff have noted that good surgeons always seem to complain about the light.
    • Suctioning and sponging. This is necessary to remove excess blood which may obscure the operative field.
    • Some noted physicians in history were handicapped by blindness, not so with surgeons though!
  • Handle tissue gently causing as little injury as possible
  • This basically amounts to having respect for the human body as well as an understanding of the processes involved in the repair and healing of wounds.
  • Good control of bleeding within the limits of:
    • Minimal electrocautery
    • Minimal suturing
    • Minimal sponging
  • Every action must be purposeful. For safety and economical reasons theatre time is of essence. Do not waste time in an operating theatre.
  • Sterility and asepsis. All surgical instruments must be sterile (the complete absence of microorganisms) and the operative field must be as aseptic (minimizing and weakening microorganisms) as possible.
  • Anatomical considerations. A surgeon needs to have a detailed knowledge of the structure of the human body.
  • Physiological considerations. A surgeon needs to have a comprehensive knowledge of the functioning of the human body.
  • Patient considerations
  • Social. Certain diseases are more prevalent in specific socioeconomic groups.
  • Religious. The transfusion of blood or transplantation of organs is a taboo in certain religious groups.
  • Financial. What are the financial implications of the proposed operation to the patient/healthcare organization?
  • Expectations as to the outcome and success of the operation.
  • Communication
  • Information (e.g., proposed procedure and alternative procedures, pain and discomfort, pre- and postoperative instructions)
  • Implications. Will the patient be able to continue with normal activities e.g. studies/work/sport/hobbies? If not, will this be temporary or permanent? Does the patient need a medical certificate?
  • Complications. What can go wrong during and after the operation?
  • Prognosis. What is the success rate of the surgical procedure, and for how long will the benefits of the operation last?

Various disciplines in the field of surgery:

  • General surgery (the whole body)
    General surgery has a number of sub-specialties e.g.:

    • Vascular surgery (arteries and veins)
    • Pediatric surgery (babies and children)
    • Head and neck surgeon
    • Proctologist (anal and rectal areas)
  • Thoracic surgery (heart and lungs)
  • Plastic and reconstructive surgery (cosmetic procedures and the repair of a body part after the loss of tissue e.g. an ear)
  • Ear, nose and throat surgery
  • Neurosurgery (brain and spinal cord)
  • Orthopedic surgery (bones, muscles and joints)
  • Maxillofacial and Oral surgery (face, facial skeleton, mouth and related organs)
  • Dental surgery (teeth, mouth and jaws)
  • Obstetrics and gynecology (pertaining to the developing fetus and the female reproductive organs)
  • Urology (male and female urinary tract)
  • Ophthalmic surgery (contents of the eye socket)

Types of surgery

  • Open surgery. An example of open surgery would be a surgeon making an incision with a steel scalpel in the abdominal skin to perform an abdominal operation.
  • Scope surgery. An example would be when a surgeon makes a number of small stab incisions in the abdominal wall to perform an operation within the abdominal cavity using a scope to visualize the operative field.
  • Electrosurgery. A surgeon can “burn” away diseased tissue or make a surgical incision while electric current seals off blood vessels at the same time, thus avoiding excessive bleeding!
  • Aspiration. Fluid and diseased tissue can be removed by a needle for laboratory examination.
  • Cryosurgery. Diseased tissue can be destroyed by freezing it.
  • LASER surgery. Applications of this type of surgery are: ophthalmic surgery, cosmetic surgery, surgery to the skin and mucous membranes.
  • Ultrasonic scalpels. These scalpels make surgical incisions with minimal bleeding possible.
  • Shock waves . An example of this type of surgery is the breaking-up of a kidney stone by shock waves instead of removing it by open or scope surgery.

Complications of surgery

  • Common to all surgery
    • Excessive bleeding during or after an operation
    • Infection of a surgical wound
  • Loss of function. An inability to perform tasks or activities after the operation that were possible before the operation.
  • Non pleasing aesthetic outcome. This is often very subjective (a specific individual’s opinion) and relates to unrealistic patient expectations.
  • Sinuses and fistulas (small canals and holes)
  • Delayed healing and non-healing wounds. For example, a broken bone may take a very long time to heal, or not grow together at all.
  • Pigmentation and loss of normal pigmentation
  • Over exuberant healing
    • Keloid (a growth-like scar of a surgical wound)
    • Scarring (usually harder than the adjacent tissue and often cosmetically not pleasing)
  • Neurological complications. This may manifest as loss of special sense e.g. vision, loss of feeling in a specific area, loss of control of a voluntary muscle and loss of autonomic functions e.g. bladder control.
  • Rejection. An example would be the rejection of a transplanted kidney.

Frontiers of surgery

  • Robotic surgery. A surgeon performing a delicate operation using a simulator is actually operating on a patient quite a distance away. Possible applications are, operating in a battlefield situation and performing an operation in space on an astronaut.
  • Tissue engineering. This is an exciting frontier. Medical scientists can already grow specific types of tissue e.g. cartilage and bone from the patient’s own cells, thereby avoiding the risk of rejection! The growing of an organ e.g. a kidney from the patient’s own cells appears to be just around the corner!

I really want to become a surgeon – Is there anything I can do straight away?

Indeed yes!

Dr Anton Scheepers, an Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeon conducts Suturing Workshops widely. He has developed a basic How to Suture Course used by Medical students all over the world. If you want to become a Surgeon – why not learn how to suture wounds now? The Apprentice Doctor® Suturing Course and Kit is the resource that will teach you how to suture wounds in a couple of hours!

He has also specially developed training material to assist high school students who want to become a doctor. The Apprentice Doctor®For Future Doctors premedical course and kit will assist in maximizing your chances of being accepted in to medical school, and includes:

  1. An Accredited Premedical Course on DVD
  2. Over 50 fun  Medical Practical Projects to Perform
  3. Authentic Medical Instruments for the Practical Projects

Relevant practical projects on becoming a surgeon (to mention just a few) are:

    You will learn how to professionally examine the body using the time-honored examination skills that a surgeon uses every day!
    This is the first step towards learning surgical anatomy!
    It is important to know the subdivisions of the various bodily regions for diagnostic, assessment and for purposes of communication with fellow healthcare professionals and colleagues.
    Most medical and surgical assessments include the examination of a patient’s lymph nodes. Get insight into the importance of this examination skill.
    Learn how to ensure that your hands are hygienically clean to ensure that you do not spread microorganisms from one patient to the next.



  1. says

    Hi am a 16 years old and I will be a Junior in high school next fall 2015-2016. I have recently found a passion for pediatric surgery and I want to be as successful as I can for it. I am going to start taking college classes at my community college to get the basic courses out of the way for my bachelors degree. I haven’t always been very good at chemistry, but I love biology, astronomy and math most of the time. haha

    I was just wondering if anyone had advice on things I could be working on during this summer to help me prepare voluntarily (with hospitals or other medical facilities) and such or academic (classes I could be taking)? Also if I were to continue this process, what is the reality getting into medical school and fulfilling my dream of become a surgeon. My older sister is a senior in working for her biology degree and she said it is a lot harder than she anticipated and she is really smart! So it kind of scares me….haha :)

    Thanks in advance!

  2. Brenda says

    My story is i need to get my record from domestic conduct expunged. Of i have my record expunged is there a light of hope to pursue my dream as a plastic sergeon?

  3. Jae-Hee says

    Hi! I am in the third year in high school now and I am really interested in being a cardio thoracic surgeon. I love circulatory system out of all system. I have a few questions for you. What should I do to prepare? What degree must I have? How many years of training to be exact? And what subject should I excel? Can you recommend me what books should I have?

  4. Kira says

    Hello, I’m 16 years old and I am really interested in becoming a surgeon. I have a 3.95 GPA and I am planning on taking some courses next year like medical terminology and intro to emergency health care. I’m not sure what courses to take exactly but I’m trying those. My main question is that I have a fear of needles… it is really bad and is there any way that I can become a surgeon with that fear? Thank you

    • says

      Hi Kira – the short answer is “Yes”! Most medical professionals are not as brave when they are patients as one might expect.
      Just last week I had a very capable urologist in my chair – physically trembling when I cam closer with a needle!
      Fears are there for us to overcome them – not for them to influence our behavoiur. That actually goes for all negative emotions.

  5. Ana Gómez Huguet says

    Hi! I would love to become a surgeon one day so i would like to do an apprenticeship as a doctor now that i am 16. The only problem is that i live in Spain so i have to do it in summer for just 1 month and i have a B2 level in english so there are a lot of things that i would not understand.
    Do you think there is somewhere to go and do this apprentice?
    Thamk you!

  6. Laura says

    Hi! So i would love to be a surgeon someday, I am 14 and I still have 3 and 1/2 years of high school so do. The thing is that I am and have always been really bad at maths, but I find biology, anatomy and physics very interesting. Do you think that could be a major problem for me? Thank you!

  7. Eddy says

    Hi. I am a sophomore in high school but my grades throughout high school aren’t so great,I really would love to become a surgeon, I was wondering if I attended a community college for two years and get better grades so I can transfer to a university? Would it be a waste of time? And would the two years at a community college count for the years I need to graduate? And do they have classes for surgeons at community colleges?

    • says

      Yes 2 years of community college will be a good idea- Community college do not offer any surgery subjects.
      You may get one year off from your premed degree – but I am speaking under correction though.

  8. Rafaella Braga says

    HI. I am in my first year in college, trying to get in the program of surgical tech, I am also going to get my associates degree in biology. I would like to know if Biology would be the best way to start after getting my certificate as a surgical tech and if being a surgical tech will eventually help me into getting a better insight in this wonderful carrier as a surgeon, although I am not sure what I want to be specialized in yet. (Rafaella) Thank you

  9. says

    hello! i’m a 3rd yr high school student from Korea and i really really want to be a surgeon someday. i’m already studying little by little but i don’t know what kind of book i should be reading and what i should be reviewing about. What kind of book should i read and study about first?? and how many years does it take all in all to be a surgeon?

  10. Mark says


    I am a 32 year old male, first year IMG MD student. I have been wondering how realistic being accepted to a General Surgery residency are for someone with my profile, assuming my Step 1 scores are within range. Prior to medical school, I graduated with a BS in Biomedical Engineering and worked with medical device organizations in a variety of roles (development, regulatory, sales) for roughly ten years.

    Thank you for any insight you can provide,

    • says

      Hi Mark – I probably won’t be of much help to you – as I simply don’t have enough insight into your specifics. With your background I would have thought that you would rather choose Orthopedics! In general – keep on pursuing your dream – the doors will eventually open for you. A.S.

  11. Andrey says

    I really want to be a surgeon, but I’m afraid of how hard it is? How hard is the chemistry, physics? I have much more questions…

  12. Abby says

    I’m currently attending school for a doctorate of physical therapy, but have recently been very interested in pursuing surgery (probably orthopedic) as a career. I really like PT though and was wondering if you think I would be able to complete my degree and then go to med school after. I have also been considering switching to pre-med, but I am not sure I want to give up PT. Do you think it’s possible to work as a physical therapist while pursuing surgery as a second career?

  13. kamal bhusal says

    I am from Nepal and I want to do surgery post graduate in USA,,, which would be the best way for me to go through???

    • says

      Important note to all aspiring doctors outside of the USA
      We get masses of emails of students from India, other pats of Asia and Africa who would like to study medicine or specialize in the USA.
      In short – all countries have as their primary responsibility to assist citizens and their children towards an education – and the USA is the same – they train USA citizens almost exclusively – and only a few med schools will even consider outside applicants – and at a much higher fee (no federal subsidy for foreign students).
      Bursaries for foreign students to study medicine in the USA are virtually unavailable.
      My advice is – study medicine in the country of your birth – and make a difference there – or pursue emigration to the USA after qualifying as a doctor in your home country – the following websites my help:
      Trust it helps!

  14. Kendal King says

    I am a 16 year old sophomore with a 4.0 GPA that works hard and knows exactly what I want to do as an aspiring surgeon. Is there any way I could get ahead of the game? Like good online courses to take while I do collegiate high school? Or what do you recommend?

  15. YAsmine says

    I want to become a surgeon in America, although I am currently living in England. Would it be possible to be a surgeon in America ?

  16. Liv says

    I’m about to finish high school and I will be 16 so would it be possible for me to be apply into a university? and again I think I want to go into surgery because I find it amazing how doctors repair problems people have in or on their body. I also watch a lot of surgical shows but my greatest problem is the fear of failing at achieving this goal and I’m also not a fan of reading so much. I also think I have a problem with remembering things learnt for a long period of time. So I really want to know if I should keep aiming for this goal.

  17. Moses Sobers says

    Hi Dr. Scheepers, I am a High school sophomore and I have outstanding qualities such as my knowledge and maturity which shows in tests and have always been interested in science and art and groomed my entire life to have a career like surgery. the types of surgery that I’m interested in pursuing are Neurosurgery, Plastic and reconstructive surgery, thoracic surgery, or general surgery. The one problem I have is that I have a 3.0 GPA.
    I live in Southern California and I would like know where I start in my surgical career at this point? What are the skills that I will need to have in the future and how do I better them?. What online and in state courses and learning opportunities are available to me right now? What things can I do to insure that I get into a good medical school and college? And lastly what would you or any other doctor do at this point to make themselves an outstanding candidate to be accepted into medical school? Thank you!

  18. drew obrien says

    I am a junior in high school. What kind of classes would prepare me for college. I’d like to get as much as I can out of next year because I was not able to choose my classes in the past

    • says

      Premed degree 4 years, then medical school another 4 years followed by residency – your training after med school. Surgical residency varies from 5 – 7 years, and you can add more time on if you want to practice a surgical super/sub-specialty.

  19. Amanda says

    Hi, I am a sophomore in high school, without a doubt, extremely interested in becoming an Oral Surgeon. I heard there were two ways to pursue this career.

    1. to go to a four year college, Take the Dental Admissions Test, if all goes well then off to dental school, residency, then take a written and oral exam to become board certified in Oral Surgery.

    2. to earn a dual degree, becoming both Dentist and Medical Doctor.

    My first question is what exactly is the difference between the two, other than earning 2 degrees in one and not the other? which path you would recommend? From what I understand, I will earn another degree and more experience from taking a double major. However, what exactly would I be getting myself into? Would it be too much work? Does that effect schooling expenses or the college i choose?

    Next, I would like to know what high school courses I should take in my remaining years. Should I take AP in those classes? And what college majors would be best for becoming an Oral Surgeon.

    Lastly, I would enjoy hearing the steps you took to get where you are today as a successful doctor.

    Thank for you for your time. Much appreciated. And your advice will be very much considered.

    • says

      Hi Amanda – as an Maxillofacial and Oral Surgeon I appreciate your question.
      Becoming an “Oral Surgeon” with only your Dental qualification will restrict you to “Dento-alveolar surgery” – like removal of impacted wisdom teeth, Dental implant surgery etc.
      So it is highly recommended to do the dual qualification program (both medical and dental degrees). It will open up all the areas of cranio-facial, head and neck/oncology and facial cosmetic surgery fields to practice in. As a Maxillofacial and Oral Surgeon one stand with one foot in medicine and the other in dentistry – so the dual qualification is in fact necessary in my opinion! Most programs will give one credit for the basic sciences – like anatomy, physiology and pathology – thus one do not have to complete all the required years in both dentistry and medicine and thus reduce the number of study years a bit. at the end of the day one works at a highly interesting and challenging part of the human body – I can personally recommend this career as immensely intriguing and fulfilling!
      Build a good resume stating straight away! This will help:
      Best schools? One will have to do a bit of research on that one – where do you stay? Best major – Biology/Biomedical Science
      Also I would like to extend a personal invitation to our 2015 Summer Program:
      Kind regards Dr Anton

  20. Alex Herrera says

    I am a 15 year old girl. I was wondering if a surgeon would like to be interviewed for an S.A.E (Supervised Agricultural Expierience) essay that I am doing for class. I have a few questions I would be delighted in asking , the questions are based on how you fancy the job you have diligently selected, what you specalize in, how long you have trained, would you highly suggest the career you have chosen and a variety of questions I am enlivened to hear the answers to.
    If you could reply soon that would be superb! Thank You,

    • says

      Hi Alex – most surgeons are very busy people – but would usually not mind a short interview. I am an Maxillofacial and Oral surgeon and if you can ask all your questions – I can answer per email – but if you need a formal interview you may have to contact your local hospital and make an appointment with a surgeon. Dr Anton

  21. Israel Sanchez says

    I would like some more advice on what I should study and classes I should take if at the end of this school year I’m going to be a freshman because I would really like to be a surgeon someday

  22. cynthia mukami marangu says

    i really want to pursue my career of becoming a surgeon one day right now i am in form one this year and thanks for giving me the tips for becoming one and i will practice what you have told me.thanks so much

  23. Raul says

    What exactly do you need to major in to become a surgeon? and is it necessary to be in a Pre-Med program in college?
    If so then what classes can I expect to take?

  24. Brianna says

    Hi if i wanted to be a specialist in surgery what is the knowledge that i have to know, the attitudes that i have to have and the education needed to become one?

  25. Arash says

    Hello there. I am 12 years o,d and it has always been my dream to be s surgeon. What can I do now that can help me with my dream. Thank you in advance.

  26. Fosua Mary says

    I offered general arts in SHS.My electives were geography,economics,litterature and french.I now want to pursue a course in medicine and later further to become a surgeon.Please what do I do?

  27. hajirah says

    Do you have toe great at math to become a surgeon? Should I take additional courses in college to learn more math to ecome a genreral surgeon?

  28. peter franklin .c. says

    pls i need help and an answer to my question.a scholar specifically from nigeria with a university degree in orthopaedics/prosthetics(B.TECH)how do i gain access to a medical school in study.aspiring to become an orthopaedic surgeon

    • says

      We get masses of questions of students from India, other pats of Asia and Africa who would like to study medicine in the USA.
      In short – all countries have as their primary responsibility to assist citizens and their children towards an education – and the USA is the same – they train USA citizens almost exclusively – and only a few med schools will even consider outside applicants – and at a much higher fee (no federal subsidy for foreign students).
      Bursaries for foreign students to study medicine in the USA are virtually unavailable.
      My advice is – study medicine in the country of your birth – and make a difference there – or pursue emigration to the USA after qualifying as a doctor in your home country – the following websites my help:

      Trust it helps!

  29. Jabulani Nkosi says

    I am a medical officer in Orthopaedics department,with an intention to specialize.

    My question is,what is a proper way of being taught how to operate by your consultant?

    • says

      The question is somewhat beyond the scope of this website – but in short: Various consultants have various ways and methods – the “rules” have not been casted in stone I am afraid. It is basic mentoring – an art rather than a science. All within the limits of mutual respect.

    • says

      Anatomy is such a great foundation to surgery! The specifics of your future studies and possibly some acknowledgement for previous studies will depend on the specifics of your anatomy degree. Are you residing in the USA?

  30. Kiara says

    Hi Doc I’m a 13 yr old and I am interested in heading down the road of surgery what can I do now to help me fast track and focus on getting there? thanks :)

  31. Vaan Huynh says

    Hello Dr. Scheepers,

    I am from Vietnam and had just graduated from a US college last year with a Liberal Arts Degree in Communications. Because of the major, I only had 1 semester of general science (chemistry, biology, physics, and a few calculus classes). But when I went back to Vietnam and taught ESL at a small town, I saw the urge for good medical practices as well as medical helps to not only the local, but nation wide. I’m especially interested in general surgeon field. So, I desire to pursue medicine knowledge back in the States to help people back home. However, throughout my undergrad, I never plan on going for med school. This concerns me about whether I am a good fit for the program, especially since I have no work/volunteer background or science knowledge/experience to support my med school application. I guess I’m mentally not prepared and scared. Plus, tuition is also another big concern.
    Do you know any contacts, hospitals, or organizations I should reach out to for career advices as well as finances?

    Thank you so much.

    P.S Thank you for taking time to answer every questions on here. You’re cool.

  32. Yarabi Campos says

    i want to know what classes must i take in high school to be a surgeon, specifically an “open surgeon”. I’d like to know so i can get used to the organs, meeting new people, and critical thinking.

  33. Jasmin Jimenez says

    I need to inquire about how I could become an orthopedic surgeon. Furthermore I wanted to know what schools I must attend and what degrees I must acquire. lastly, i must personally receive my doctorate from Cambridge University.

    • says

      Not so sure about the UK system – but shortly -firstly become a doctor – if you aim at Cambridge – then of course apply to their medical degree program (keep in mind that you will be up against enormous competition). After completing your medical degree you should apply for a registrar post in the orthopaedic department.

  34. says

    Hello doctor, I have wanted to become a cardiothorasic surgeon for a while now and was wondering if grades in my gcses have a big affect on getting into medical school; or is it just your A levels. For gcses you take an exam and they put you in groups which can assist of double science or triple science depending on your results. Could not being able to do triple science (physics, biology, economics) affect getting into medical school or is it just your A levels which are important? I do not know whether I can do triple science or not however, I am always worrying about it which. Thank you.

    • says

      Hi Sibel. My comment is given under correction – as I am not fully acquainted with the UK requirement. But in short both are important – and if the med school selection committee has 2 applicants – one with double and one with triple science – I think they will gravitate to the triple science candidate in the majority of cases.

  35. Johnny says

    Hi I’m 10 and I have bought the suturing kit and whenever I get a cut I practice but when I was practicing some of the sutures got stuck when I cut it. How do I get it out?

    • says

      I trust that you are following our guidelines of adult supervision for your age as per our instructions and warnings. Do I understand you correctly – did you use the sutures on yourself or on the fake skin? Did you use the Chromic or the Nylon sutures?
      Dr Anton

  36. Bryan Michua says

    I am a senior at Bonita and I am really interested in the medicine field and I was interested in becoming a surgeon. I hope to get more information about volunteer because I actually want to have experience with the hospitals and get used to the atmosphere before heading into my path of career.

  37. raphael says

    Hello doc, am Raphael a pre-clinical finale student writing my first mb now, please if i may ask : what are the criteria for becoming a cardio-thoracic surgeon. Really want to do that. Thanks

  38. katherine says

    Hello, first i like all this great details of what being a surgeon takes it was very helpful for me since i am doing some research on this career that i want to pursue. so i have a question, what should be my major when trying to graduate from college? i was doing surgical technology but i am not sure if that is the most convenient because i reed that either pre med or biology could be one of the option. Thank you

    • says

      There is unfortunately no exact answer. The specific major is not that important – with the understanding that the Premed requisites are in place for the MCAT. Having said that I would suggest Biology/Biomedical Sciences, Biochemistry – something in the Life Sciences field.

  39. Michael M says

    Hi Dr. Scheepers! I have a few questions regarding becoming a surgeon. Right now I’m serving my second enlistment in the Navy and will be getting out early 2017. By this time, I will have just turned 27 years old. Is this too old to begin the process of becoming a surgeon? I should be nearing my bachelor’s degree but most of the classes have been for a meteorology degree. Which is my specialty in the Navy. Would a degree in meteorology even help with me getting into medical school? What degree do you recommend? As soon as I am discharged, I’m planning on going to University of Washington, in Washington state. I’m willing to do whatever it takes, but have no idea what my routes are. I would appreciate the info. Have a great day!


    • says

      It all depends on your level of commitment – but the short answer is that it is not too old – keep in mind that one gets paid during your residency years. The major of your bachelors is not important – as long as you are able to add the medical school prerequisite classes – to prepare you for the MCAT. In ideal circumstances one would do a bachelors with biology/biochemistry or genetics as a major… but it is not critical. Are there any chances applying to study medicine through the Navy? If you need a great premed coach to guide you through the details with advice and assisting with the finer decisions you are welcome to contact a friend of mine who is a premed coach – Don Osborne dono[at]
      Best wishes for success!

  40. Lawrence Holt says

    Hello Dr. Scheepers. I have a couple of questions regarding the field of medicine. Would you recommend the careers: Cardiovascular surgeon, Cardiothoracic surgeon, Orthopedic Surgeon, and Oral & Maxillofacial surgeon? I have heard rumors that the medical field is declining because of new technology (I agree that technology is definitely improving but in my opinion, the thought of the medical field not flourishing seems like hogwash). Furthermore, is it true that once one becomes an established O&M surgeon, one could enjoy up to 3 days off a week? In addition to my previous question, if this is possible for an O&M surgeon, is it possible for other surgical specialties as well? I do not wish to seem lazy, I was just curious if it was possible to sustain a decent home-life while thriving at the hospital. I’ve heard that if I want a home-life choose a different career; I can’t the calling to be a surgeon is too strong. It is all I can think about. I do understand (obviously not fully because I am just a high school senior) the sacrifices required for the path. I am willing to work my butt off to achieve my dreams. I have deviated from the topic (sorry). I apologize for the extended post but I have one more question: does the location of your undergrad matter to top-tier medical schools? I am currently planning to attend Hendrix university ( a small liberal-arts college with a 94% medical school acceptance rate).

    Thank you for your time doctor, I know you don’t have a lot of it 😉

    Lawrence Holt

    • says

      Hi Lawrence
      Surgical disciplines thriving on trauma and emergencies – like trauma-, general-, cardiothoracic- and orthopedic surgeons – forces these surgeons to be on duty 24/7.
      As an Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeon I started of my career working very hard – but now I work (in my practice) 3 1/2 days a week and still do financially very well. Ophthalmic surgeons can do the same as well as e.g. plastic surgeons.
      I believe the location of your undergrad does matter – but for an expert opinion you can ask my friend Don Osborne who is a premed coach: dono{at} – Feel free to contact him for his opinion.
      Trust it helps
      Dr Anton

  41. katelyn clark says

    hi. i am 13 and ever since i was little i have wanted to become a surgeon. i was wondering what the best college for me to go to would be. i also wanted to know what a good teaching hospital would be. i know its silly im only 13 but i am ready to start figuring out what my steps to becoming a great surgeon are . i want to save lifes and help people.

  42. Peter says

    Hi, I’m a 17 year old and I’m a 12th grader and I want to become a surgeon since then and currently I’m taking a health career class that would allow me to work at the hospital and I was wondering what type of class would I need to take in college. Oh and by then way what is the best way to remember 350 medical terminology and 140 medical abbreviations because I need to remember them so I could pass the test so I could go to the hospital.

  43. LouR says

    My name’s Lour and I’m a senior in high school. This is my last year before heading out to college. I’ve always wanted to be a doctor. Though lately it seems that almost anyone can work hard enough and become a local doctor after 7 years or so, I didn’t want that, not that their jobs aren’t appreciated or required but I’ve always wanted to do more than clicking screens and deciding what medicin a patient should buy. I’m one to like preforming operations and actually having a productive part in the patient’s healing. so I’ve decided, that a surgeon is exactly what I’ve wanted to be. It was never about the salary or having a good name. It was about witnessing those touching joyful moments when someone finds out that the person they care about the most, will be ok. To me, receiving those grateful smiles from patients or their worried relatives/friends would be what makes my job worth it. But my knowledge about the requirements of being a Surgeon was limited till lately. I never knew that it might take me 11-19 years of studying and learning. The thought of that honestly scares me, I am a dedicated person when it comes to perusing my dreams but I’m one who tends to like having fun too, and I’m one who’s looking for a long term marriage and relationship. I’m not sure studying that long and hard would help my case in those categories and honestly, I’m terrified of the thought of dedicating my whole life to perusing that one dream and tossing aside all the others like having a family and such. So in the end, I have one question for you, which I apologize for the long introduction before it but I had to state my concerns so you’d see how important this question is to me; Is there ANY way possible to reduce the years required to become a surgeon?
    If not, what can you advise me? Or is there any other career that resembles that of a surgeon with less required years yet something that’d be just as worth it?

    Thank you.

    • says

      Becoming a doctor is still very very challenging – becoming a surgeon – even more so.
      Some of the answer depends on your age.
      When you become a medical professional – studying is art of life – the rest of your professional life.
      You mention the smiles – but keep in mind you will also see expressions of desperation, disappointment and pain.

      During residency you will get a reasonable remuneration – so you will work and study concurrently.
      There is nothing like being a surgeon – so don’t water down your dreams.
      Very challenging and very rewarding!
      As a plan B have you considered PA – Physician’s Assistant (Surgery)

  44. says

    Very interesting, there are a lot of young people interested in becoming surgeons. I wounder if they will persue becoming surgeons after they find out how much time it takes and how much education costs. I actually never imagined looking into this before. I am a 27 year old single mother. I am currently enrolled and have just begun a Dental Lab Technician Program in a local college in my area. I live in Canada. I was doing a little research on-line regarding what areas I can specialize in. There is Prosthodontic, Conservation, Orthodontic and the one that really caught my attention, Maxillofacial technician. Now the information came from a UK web site. In Canada I would not be permitted in surgery room as a Tech. And so I am here reading on the steps to becoming a specialist. I have a background in Esthetics, and I live next door to a main Hospital and an Outpatient center where the procedures would take place. I am very interested in getting into this, just demoralized when it comes to finances and time. I think I will remain a general dental lab technician and work close to home allowing me to be with my daughter, and also allowing me to save some money to go back to school when she is older so that I can get into University. My time is not now, but I can plan well ahead!

    • says

      Hi Daniela – you are so right – the road is long and difficult and many obstacles to overcome. Utter dedication and little time for yourself and your family. I would say to want-to-be-surgeons: start early – and build a respectable resume and be tenacious – and work very-very hard!
      Doing maxillo-facial prosthetic may fulfill that surgical void on your inside. Best wishes with your future…

  45. Carolyn says

    Hi, I’m Carolyn. I’m 13, and have wanted to become a sergeon for as long as I can remember. My family thinks it is a good occupation, and I do too. I know I want to start college the autumn after I graduate 12th grade. I think I would like general sergery. I do well under pressure, and I’m not grossed out easily. I am always taking interactive surgeryy games on the computer, and trying to learn more. The thing is, I don’t know where to start. How do I become a sergeon? What is the highest level of sergeon? How many years of college do I need to take to become the highest level? How much money does the average sergeon make? Will I have time for my freinds and family? It’s okay if you can’t answer ALL of my questions. (I know I asked a lot.) Thanks a lot! :)

    • says

      Hi Carolyn

      The way to do it is to start early. Do your best academically and you can already start building a resume towards getting accepted at a credible university and medical school. Look out for opportunities to do volunteer and charity work. Although slightly advanced for your age – you may work through the Apprentice Doctor Course and Kit – see:
      Although – in the mind of many people neouro-surgery tops the list of advanced surgery – there a so many challenging areas of surgery. For instance -Maxillofacial and Cranio-facial surgery is very advanced and often requires teams of surgeons to reconstruct victims of serious accidents, birth abnormalities and syndromes.
      Surgery will require 4 years of premed, 4 years of med school and 5-9 years of residency – a lot of years if you add up. Surgeons earn well and income per year may vary from $220 000 to $750 000 a year. On the down side if you give your career the time and energy required to succeed – you will have to be very disciplined to schedule enough time for family and friend, recreation etc. In reality the career of a surgeon often takes it toll on a marriage with a fairly high divorce rate associated with the profession.

  46. Hannah says

    I’m 14 now and I’ve wanted to become a surgeon ever since I can remember and I was wondering what other types of surgeon there are other than cardiac, thoracic, and neuro surgeons ect. I heard that there was type of surgeon that combined cardiac and thoracic surgery that i was interested in. Is that true? Please help. Thanks a bunch!

  47. says

    Hi I’m Bella and I’m in high school abd I want to know how old could you be to become a surgeon? And how long would I have to study? When should I start? Thank you so much.

      • says

        Hi good afternoon. I was wondering if I become a surgeon at 31 years old that’s ok? Because I want to become a surgeon at a young age and my father says that in your 20s that’s to young to be a surgeon. is it? Thank you. Oh and one more thing I really don’t know what kind of surgeon I wnt to be but I alleays wanted to be a surgeon. Any advice? And thank so much have a good night DR.

        • says

          If you do the maths (4y premed +4y med +5y res) – you will note that most people only qualify as a surgeon at the age of 30 and up. You choose your specialty and super specialty only at that time – so don’t worry about the finer details now.

        • bella says

          Hi how r u? So my mom wants me to ask you a question
          It’s about me. My left ear is, I don’t know how to explain this
          Um my left side of my ear is like it’s clogged like I can’t hear with my left ear I mean I can hear but really low and we tried to unclog it but we don’t know what else we can do it’s been this way for a long time and when I say a long time it’s been a year abd now my aunts ear is the same way. And she dosnt know what to do either. So I hope you can help me out and thank you very much mom and I thanks you so I hope you have a good afternoon.

          • says

            Hi Bella – this is not a medical advice site – but I will make an exception once…
            This is just an educated guess – it may be congenital aural atresia (CAA) – and it is correctable with surgery – so an otolaryngologist is the person to consult.

  48. Ila Rakhi says

    I just recently bought your suturing kit, because I want to get the practice in early. I’ve always wanted to become a doctor but instead ended up wasting two years studying business at university, then one year in art school. I wouldn’t say it was a waste because now I know what I definately want to do. I moved two months ago from Canda to the U.S. I’m currently attending college to get my AA, then next year in December I will transfer to an university to complete my degree. And after that, I will apply to medical school, and I hope I will get in.

    Unfortunately in my previous years I wasted time and didn’t study because I wasn’t interested in the subject, so now I’m having to pull my GPA up. But one thing I can guarantee is that I’m tenacious when I have a goal. Since starting college two months ago I’ve been doing good in my studies, I’ve joined several clubs, and even become the president of environmental club. However now I’m also looking into volunteer opportunities at a hospital, and also hoping to shadow a doctor.

    If I got the opportunity to shadow a doctor, how many times would it be and should I ask for a recmmendation letter or something afterwards? I’m not really sure about what I should do with any of the experiences I might get from various opportunities. Should I compile letters then give in med school application when the time comes? I would be very thankful if you could give me some tips on how to get an edge in and how I should keep track of my experiences so that I can show it when the time is appropriate.

    I am also very excited about getting the suturing set. Do you think it’s a good idea if I practice so early? I am determined to become a surgeon, and I’m willing to work hard to get that edge.

    • says

      Don’t worry about the past – focus on the future!
      Keep good records and documentation – like testimonials – you need a good resume and supporting documentation to accompany your application to medical school.
      It is not most definitely not too early to start learning/acquiring medical skills – trust you will enjoy learning how to suture wounds! One of these days you will be able to order our Venipuncture Course and Kit! We have a special on our For Future Doctors Course and Kit for October 2013 – and you can get $20 discount by applying the coupon “FUTUREDOC” on checking out. See
      Best wishes for a great future!

  49. says

    hi, i am an anatomy student and am aiming to be a neurosurgeon.please sir,what are the steps to take after having a degree in anatomy.Also,the years of course of neurosurgeon at US and do i need to do MCAT atfer having degree in anatomy.thank you sir

    • says

      Did you do the med MCAT prerequisites during your anatomy degree?
      Yes indeed you need a good MCAT score for the absolute majority of med schools for entrance – or rather a chance to enter.

  50. says

    i hope that i will be a good surgeon one day ,,,, i am in med school now in the last year ,,,, i will be Gp in GS dep to get more experience than i will be in my Favorite dep Neurosurgery dep ,,, i am from Libya but i am coming america i hope to live in Canada or USA …

  51. Jordan Nez says

    Hello. My name is Jordan. I didn’t know that I wanted to be a surgeon until I saw how many people died each day that had a chance to be saved. I want to be a surgeon to help people. I barely graduated high school by a hair. I was 4 credits down and my friends told me that I am smart enough to graduate on time. I went to the counselor and she said that I could test out of a few online classes. And I did. She was very surprised and told me that I have the smarts to become something great. I might not be the most disciplined but there is nothing else I want to do for the rest of my life. But funding is the problem. I don’t come from a family that is well off. And the education is not very good, I think. I grew up on the Navajo Reservation and I have lived off government assistance almost all my life. Some people tell me not to get loans because of the rule of 72. I just don’t know where to go from here. But I am in a community college now and i think that is a good step to take. If anyone has any advise I would greatly appreciate it.

    • says

      The Apprentice Doctor is primarily an informational organization – but I can send out you information to a couple of my contacts and see how they respond…
      In short keep on pushing – be tenacious – never compromise on your dreams and vision for your life!

  52. fama jallow says

    My name is Fama ,i hav jus started high school and hav taken science as my major n hav jus receive my first term result with straight a in biology chemistry and physic I have always wanted to be a surgeon am right now in Africa and will like to further my studies in the us..please can I know of any place I can attain a scholarship for worthy students like me …thank you

    • says

      Hi Fama the short answer is “no”.
      Even for USA students scholarships are very difficult to attain – and is reserved for the best of the best. The USA government’s first responsibility is towards its own citizens – just like any other country in the world.
      Of course you are free to do your premed degree in the USA and then apply for admission to a medical school after writing your MCAT. If you are academically brilliant you do stand a chance to get some form of scholarship despite your non-USA status.

  53. Frank R says

    Hi there, I am 18, recently graduated high school and will be attending college soon, I just recently decided that I want to become a surgeon. The reason is honestly because I have always loved the environment of hospitals and being around people who are in need of help and being able to help just makes my life that much nicer. Well I do not know what to major in before starting my pre med classes, and I was also wondering what should I do to make myself a great medical school candidate? I do understand community service, and also I will be taking as many scienes as I can but most importantly the ones that are needed to pass the MCAT and get into medical school. If you could help with my post I would really appreciate it. Lastly, how do you ask or shadow a doctor I have not a clue of how to ask. Thanks.

    • says

      Although one may major in literally any subject it is best to keep it to biology, biochemistry or related subjects.
      Increase you chances:
      Assist at charities of your choice
      Hospital volunteering
      Do/attend: Medical, first aid, and related premedical courses/conferences and camps.
      If you can do – or assist a medical professional with research – will count for much.
      Good academic results with your premed degree
      High MCAT score
      Character/leadership/cultural activities/arts and music (they are looking for a balanced individual).
      Shadow – it is best if you know someone – or know somebody that knows a doctor/surgeon. Otherwise go to a doctor’s rooms and give a letter of request with information about you and your dreams – not all – but most doctors will be happy to assist.

  54. Nada A says

    hi, im 14 years old. my dream is to be a surgeon. from today im memorizing important surgeries and important medical names. I would like to know what is expected from an intern at the first year. I am really interested in surgeries so I would love to hear back from you and decide what I want to do with my life at an early age to be sure and ready for up and coming years.

  55. Niki says

    Hi, my name is Niki. I’m 16 years old and I live in Croatia. My biggest dream is to become a surgeon and to live and work in the US. I’m now a third year in a medical and chemistry high school in Šibenik (pharmaceutical technician). I’ve less than 2 years until college so I’d like to know if I’ve any chance to study and live in the States? And what should I do to prepare for it?
    Can you please help me? Thank you.

  56. Jamarr Paskins says

    Sorry if this is a bit long but i have quite a few questions…. thanks in advance should you answer even just one honestly… but hi my name is Jamarr (Jay) And Im 18 recent graduate of las vegas’s Del Sol Dragons high and I’ll be attending community college in a week or two for a year then transferring to UNLV depending on when i can take this arm cast for my hand off… i never fully knew what i wanted to be and do exactly until recent… a surgeon saved my life performing surgery on my hand immediately preventing me from dying of major blood loss and i figured that’s something I’d love to push forward some day, saving lives and helping better the equality of life of and for others, but my family isn’t exactly rich or even wealthy and i hear medical school (assuming i get in) would cost me between 25 to 40 thousand dollars and i don’t know of any way to get that kind of money outside of scholarships not saying that i can’t achieve them but i know relying solely on that is a bit of a long shot. I also wonder if medical schools are accepting of dreads and can surgeons have dreads because i have them and they’re pretty lengthy but always kept neat usually in a pony tail yet there’s still a lot of discrimination i receive because of them always hearing how they aren’t professional but i have them for personal reasons that mean a great deal to me so please tell me if I’d have to choose between my hair and a career… after residency how much debt would i be in and how long would it take to pay it off? Do surgeons get paid monthly? What happens if a patient doesn’t survive or things don’t go well how do you tell that to families? Could i be more than one kind of surgeon? Could i take on another career because Im into art and wanted to become a tattoo artist or a cartoon creator maybe? What are the hours like? I’ve searched the internet and basically what I’ve heard surgeons and doctors live sad lonely lives because they work so much rarely see their family often get divorced because of it and negative things of that nature? And lastly going into college what classes should i be taking as a future surgeon?
    If you answer any sincerely thanks (;

    • says

      Hi Jay

      Anything is possible with the right amount of resolve.
      Medicine – and more so surgery is a way of life – so it has a lot of advantages – but also a lot of disadvantages.
      One has to be very disciplined to avoid letting surgery dominate one’s life to the expense of the other important areas like family, leisure etc.
      Funding is a problem and your estimate is probably way conservative. If you add 4 years of premed and 4 years of med school you will most probably pass $100 000 – depending on the specific university/med school.
      A patient dying – is a crisis for all – and one never (and should never) get used to it. There is no easy way telling the family – apart from anticipation and communicating the possibility in time, in a discreet manner.

      Trust it helps – and best for your future!

      Dr Anton

  57. Karla Urena says

    My name is Karla, I am 18 years old. I’m currently attending a community college but i want to become a surgeon…. always have been. I don’t know where to start or where to go and I have never really paid attention in high school, so I just want to learn and want to become a Surgeon, i just don’t know where to start. Please help, thank you

  58. says

    Hi, I’m currently 15 years old. I’ve always wanted to become a surgeon since I was young, and now, I’m trying to achieve my goal. But, firstly, I don’t really know where to start.
    I don’t really know which courses I should take in my upcoming secondary school(grade 10).
    Also, I’m a little worried about living as an intern after I graduate from a university. Some people say that I won’t have a lot of free time to enjoy my life after I become an intern.
    By the way, how long is internship and residency?

    • says

      Becoming a doctor is really a way of life – with advantages and disadvantages. Time restraint is one of the disadvantages – especially during internship (first year of residency) and the years of residency – minimum of 3 years.

  59. Niambi Cushingberry says

    Hi, my name is Niambi and I am 20 years old. All I’ve ever dreamed about as a child, was becoming a surgeon, a brain or heart surgeon preferably, still not sure as of yet. But I spent a lot of time trying out different things, being afraid of taking that big step and completing soo many years of school. Now, I’m ready to go on and get started. Before today, I was willing to settle as a Surgical Technologist, just to be in the operating room lol. Until, my adviser encouraged me to do what I’ve always wanted. He doesn’t specialize in the area of becoming a surgeon so, he advised me to look into the very beginning courses toward earning the bachelors degree so I can give him the list, and get registered for classes. I’ve would greatly appreciate it if you could inform me of the such courses. I have the idea that I need Biology, Chemistry, Science overall, but are there specific variations or anything for these courses? The last thing I want to happen, is for me to be in too deep into a class I don’t need, that I’m not even suppose to be taking. I want to take a few of the prerequisite classes at this community college then transfer into Wayne State U. Would you be able to help me out with this uncertainty of mine??
    Also, I have a few other questions relating to social aspect of the life of a Surgeon. Will relationships be difficult to tend to and take seriously to progress in? Will there be space or time in my life for those such things, or even children, several children at that? How difficult is the life of that student, as far as trying to keep up with loans, rent, bills, books, food, car notes, insurance, and car maintenance? My idea of a student in college striving to become a Surgeon, would be a very limited, and financially poor nearly, lifestyle. With so much dedication to school is there time for part time jobs, because I have two, keeping an independent roof over head? Because I really need to move out of my folks place but I’m not quite sure what i may be getting myself into to make such a step. Will there be time for side careers or minors, say for instance owning my own salon, because I’m now licensed as a cosmetologist. Additional hobbies, or projects? I’m pretty well versed when it comes to talent and I want to be able to display that and accomplish something just to avoid future regrets from my heart, but all the while, pursuing my long-term career, a Surgeon, something I can retire off of and keep a steady foundation in my life.
    And what about law suits, toward death or improper surgeries?
    Forgive my long message, I have so many questions, I just want to make sure ‘m on the right track and to prepare myself mentally for this choice in life I’m about to begin, tomorrow at that! (Is when I need to have these required classes given to my adviser) Hope to hear back from you really soon! Thank you!

    • says

      Hi Niambi

      I will keep the answer short – I am answering questions simply to help students – but as a practicing surgeon my time is limited so I cannot reply in detail to all your questions.

      The “pre-med” classes required by virtually all schools in the US are as follows:
      “Freshman” chemistry along with the appropriate laboratory courses
      Organic chemistry along with laboratory courses
      Biology along with laboratory courses
      Physics along with laboratory courses
      Calculus including advanced math classes and statistics.
      One can have a life outside of being a surgeon – but it takes a lot of planning and self discipline.
      Studying medicine takes a lot of energy and especially in medical school a part time job will simply be impossible.
      When applying to medical school – you will have to distinguish yourself from other students with a lot of extras e.g.:
      Hospital volunteering
      Extra medical/premedical courses (see: )
      A research project.
      A good MCAT Score.
      As a surgeon you will be able to have a hobby – but a second career will simply be impossible in my opinion.

      For answers on academic and other details etc. I would pose those questions to one of the Student Doctor Network forums .
      Don Osborne form Inquarta is a premedical coach and will also be able to help with some details .

      Hope it helps!

      Dr Anton

  60. lena says

    hello, im a 1st year college student taking up BS Psychology. I want to become a surgeon., what can I do to pursue it after my four years course?

    • says

      In short – complete your B degree – but ensure that you take the premed prerequisite courses.
      Write the MCAT and apply to med school (via AMCAS). In your 4th year you will have to choose a residency – apply for surgery.
      These are the basics – the reality is more complex though.

  61. cassondra says

    I’ve always been interested in the body. I love seeing blood and watching surgeries online. (ones that i can actually find). Because of this, I’ve decided I want to put effort into being a surgeon. I have yet to graduate high school. I’m going into my senior year. I’ve been researching different types and I’ve finally narrowed it down to either a general surgeon or a trauma surgeon. I was wondering if you could tell me the differences in them? I want to be hands on and practice mainly open surgery. Which do you think would be right for me? Also, when i do become a surgeon and am doing my internship, do i get paid during that? I’ve always wondered, but couldn’t really find anything. Thank you so much for your help.

    • says

      General surgeons these days perform a large number of procedures via scope surgery – so if you prefer open surgery you may want to pursue trauma surgeon – if you don’t mind the erratic working hours. Yes – one gets paid during your years as a surgical internship/residency – roughly $48 000 – $60 000 per year plus some other benefits.

  62. Elisabeth Martin says

    Hi there doctor. My name is Elisabeth and I don’t just want to be a surgeon, I am going to be a surgeon. I have known this since I was a young child, and as a highschool sophomore I am preparing to apply to college medical camps over the 2014 summer. Any reccomendations or programs? I am interested in cardio and neuro.

  63. Thor Romero says

    I was a former Combat Medic. I am currently pursuing getting my Bachelors In Nursing. But my dream has always been to be a Surgeon. If by some chance I have some low grades in some science subjects, would re-taking them give me a better chance at being accepted into medical school? Science courses are very easy for me, although the stresses of PTSD have made me lose some focus. But I am on track to obtaining my LVN to BSN (2 year option). Any help would be appreciated.

  64. jack bartner says

    hi my names jack and my question is what are the expenses will finantial aid cover my 4 year college and med school ?

    • says

      Financial aid isn’t so readily available as it might have been a couple of years ago. Scholarships usually kicks in in the 2nd or 3rd year – and are often based on exceptional performance. Aid may vary literally form 100% to a meager contribution of $1-2000 a year.

  65. nyamka says

    HI ,my name is Nyamka from Mongolia ,so if get accepted into medical school do i have to decide my field of study before getting in it . I am interested in internal medicine and surgery , or the students choose the their filed at 2nd or 3rd year ?

  66. Mike says

    Hey there!
    I’m Mike and I’m really interested in medicine.
    At the moment I can’t decide between Neurosurgery and Cardiac Surgery.
    I know they are totally different, but which one can be said is more interesting and intense?

  67. Ricardo says

    Hello I’m very interested in pursuing a career in cardiothoracic surgery but recently I met a doctor who has more than one specialty. my question is, is it possible to specialize in more than one surgical field? Like for example specialize in both cardiothoracic and neurosurgery?

    • says

      Combining two complementing specialties like e.g. internal med & endocrinology is of course possible and not too uncommon. Combining cardiothoracic and neurosurgery will be impossible for two reasons – firstly the many years of resident training will make it impractical and the medical board will simply not allow one registering for both for many valid reasons.

  68. Alexia Smith says

    Hello there!

    I am looking into either becoming a (pediatric) cardiac surgeon or cardiologist. As a college freshman, what should I be doing besides volunteering at the hospital to be getting my feet wet in the field? I would love hands-on experience, but don’t know where to start!

    Thanks for your time and insight.

  69. Ivona says

    I’m 16 y.o student from Ukraine. My dream is to become a surgeon in the future and it takes less time to study here, but the result is also different, so I want to continue my studies somewhere in Europe or Australia. I have currently graduated from high-school and took a year off to travel and study chemistry, anathomy and physics as I’ve been studying at a linguistic school and wasn’t given enough information and skills in required subjects. Anyway, here in Ukraine we have a pretty good course of virology. When I finish this course will I still be able to go to a medical school abroad, or it is necessary for my bachelors degree to be gained at a european university?
    Thank you in advance,

    • says

      Ivona, I am simply unsure regarding the European medical school’s rules and admission regulation. My gut-feel would say that you stand the best chance after doing your bachelors degree. Anybody else that can offer some advice?

  70. Chichie says

    Hey, I was just wondereing, is surgery a competitive field to enter? Will there be competition to get a spot as a surgeon? And if it is, what happens if you don’t get a place? Could you just fall back onto your doctors career or keep trying? Also, roughly how many years all together does it take to finally become a surgeon? Furthermore, I would like to know what happens immediately after you’ve completed your studies, like how do you apply for a job, and stuff like that. And finally, is it an emotional field to enter? And is it true that you can only be a surgeon if you have steady hands? Cause I doubt I have steady hands…

    • says

      I will answer the question from a USA perspective.
      Yes it is competitive!
      If you don’t get a place as a surgical resident – you may apply for another discipline – like family physician or pediatrics.
      Time: Four years premed, four years med and five years surgery… plus more for other surgical disciplines like neurosurgery.
      One applies for a job by applying for available posts at that point in time – or looking at opportunities in private practice.
      Hands can be trained to be steady but one actually needs at least ‘fairly steady hands’ – 10 thumbs on each hand – don’t do surgery!
      Yes – one has to be emotionally strong to live with success as well as disappointments – like death and servery complications!

  71. Hemal says

    Hi doctor ,
    I am from India and i want to become a Neurosurgeon . I am planning to give my SAT soon and i will also be giving the SAT Subject test for Biology . I wanted to know what all does it take to becoming a doctor in the USA , the majors in the universities and related stuffs . How long do you think will it take to become a neurosurgeon ? But the thing is that i will only be able to attend a university in the US if i get a scholarship . Are there enough scholarships for international students pursuing undergraduate studies ?

    • says

      The USA medical schools select candidates based on the premedical degree results and on the MCAT test results. There ore virtually NO scholarships available to international students – and studying in the USA is usually a lot more expensive to international students compared to USA citizens.

  72. ruqayya says

    hi… since a young age I was interested in medicine. unfortunately during my A level year I had a lot of personal problems that kept me away from my studies. I wrote the exams but didnt get satisfactory results. I refuse to give up. I need some advice on how to proceed. should I repeat my A levels or continue to college?

  73. Bryan Robertson says

    Dear Dr.

    I am currently finishing high school with high grades in all the top sciences in order to pursue a double major in Biology (ecology), and in astrophysics. I understand what it takes and what I need to do to become a surgeon. My question relates more to the psyche of the particular lifestyle; how do you cope with what you’ve seen; with the pressure you have to deal with daily? You’ve seen a side of life that is a dream for some, but a nightmare to most. What am I getting myself into pertaining to the mental tribulations that only a doctor (specifically a surgeon) faces.

    Thanks for your time.

    • says

      One grows into the psychological maturity to deal with the pressures and specifics of being a surgeon. During the years of internship one gets mentored – and that includes the psychological components of being a surgeon. Two very challenging areas for surgeons are – dealing with surgical compilations and dealing with death.
      This is a very short answer on a subject that can easily take a book to cover in detail.

  74. Nadia Criss says

    Hi, I just read what you posted and my dream is to become a pediatric surgeon. I have always wanted to help people to make their life better especially children. I’m 17 years old and I’m currently learning the basic of biology, chemistry and physics in high school. My grade is roughly around B+ to an A. I was wondering how long exactly does it take to learn everything to become a surgeon? And what qualification do I need to do that? Does it cost a lot to pursue my study? If it does can I get a scholarship from the government or the university? Is it true that I have to give up my social life to become a surgeon? Thanks :)

    • says

      I was wondering how long exactly does it take to learn everything to become a surgeon?
      Four years premed, four years med and five years surgery… plus more for other surgical disciplines like neurosurgery.
      And what qualification do I need to do that? Does it cost a lot to pursue my study?
      One needs a basic medical degree and a five year residency in surgery – and yes – it is costly!
      If it does can I get a scholarship from the government or the university?
      Yes – usually based on academic excellence – scholarships are very competitive to get.
      Is it true that I have to give up my social life to become a surgeon?
      In theory “no” but in practice surgeons do spend long hours operating, consulting and attending to more and more admin that goes with the job – leaving preciously little time for socializing.

  75. louis hayes-herbert says

    hello, I am currently studying a BSc (HONS) in psychology, and as I very interested in the mind and how it works I have previously studied anatomy, and find that I have more of a keen interested in it. would it be possible after completing my degree to go to medical school which I would then like to become a surgeon?

  76. Marie says

    I really want to become a surgeon, I would love to save people’s lives and after watching Grey’s Anatomy, I was even more convinced that surgery is for me…
    But, my I’m not strong in biology and chemistry,, Im currently writing my IGCSEs and those are my weak subjects…I really want to be a surgeon, but since my grades aren’t good do you think that shows I may not be up for it, or do you think I should still look into it?
    And, I wouldn’t mind giving up my social life for surgery, I don’t have one anyway,but would I have time for my hobbies like music or art or even time to just relax and watch a movie, if I were a surgeon?
    Finally, as a surgeon, do you think it’s worth it? What do you love most about being a surgeon and do u still find time for relationships, a family?
    I’m 17 and have no idea what job I want to do, I’m drawn to surgery but unfortunately I might not be good enough…it seems I’m never good enough for anything
    Sorry,…I would be very very grateful to hear from you…bye and thanks so much!….Marie

    • says

      Life is all about balancing all the things that are important to you. Of course this in itself is very challenging! Surgery is great as it offers one the opportunity to work at a high level with both your brain and your hands. Solving diagnostic challenges is very satisfying – and seeing patients getting better after a surgical procedure is great! One also works with other highly qualified medical professionals – all adds up to a fulfilling career. But the sacrifices are often substantial – you will have to up your academic excellence in Biology and Chemistry!

      • P Kun says

        In addition to what Dr Schepeers has advised, I would strongly recommend that you take a look at University requirements for the medical school entrance as the majority of universities hold thresholds at even GCSE level.
        As entertaining as it is, Greys Anatomy does not entirely represent the real life as a surgeon. If you are really keen on surgery, shadowing a surgeon at your local hospital might be a good first step. Obviously, medical school will also offer many opportunities to gain experience in surgery.
        Good luck :)

  77. Bonquisha says

    Hi, my name is Bonquisha, and I was wondering why does it require so much schooling to become a doctor?

    • says

      Hi Bonquisha,

      There is an enormous amount of information you have to learn, and if you’re going to be responsible for other people’s lives you have to know what you’re doing.


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