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Oral Surgeon: Career Information & Requirements

Experience as a dental hygienist or as a health care worker will help prepare you for a career in oral surgery. Keep reading to learn more about the required training and skills, in addition to finding out the salary expectation and employment outlook, to see if you want to pursue this profession.

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Career Definition

Maxillofacial surgeons, better known as oral surgeons, are specialists within the broader field of dentistry. Oral surgeons operate on the mouth and jaws of their patients and often work in conjunction with other dentists, surgeons and orthodontists. Typical duties of an oral surgeon include consulting with patients, discussing treatment options, treating patients, overseeing aftercare, coordinating with other dentists and physicians, overseeing office administration and recording patient care.

How to Become an Oral Surgeon

Education Requirements

While you don't have to complete a 4-year, bachelor's degree prior to applying to a dental school, most applicants have such a degree. Typical college coursework for people looking to become dentists or oral surgeons includes chemistry, physics, biology, health and mathematics. Dental schooling to become an oral surgeon will take an additional four years, during which time dental students complete coursework and treat patients in a supervised setting; to become licensed as an oral surgeon, most states require passing a written and practical examination.

Skills Required

Oral surgeons should have good supervisory and administrative skills; many oral surgeons own their own practice and oversee technicians, assistants and clerks. Being physically dexterous, able to multitask and patient will also help you to be a successful oral surgeon.

Employment and Economic Outlook

The employment outlook for dentistry, a wider field that includes oral surgeons, was good; the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projected that employment in this field would grow 16% from 2012-2022. BLS data showed a 2012 mean salary of $216,440 per year for oral and maxillofacial surgeons.

Alternate Career Options

Physician and Surgeon

Often taking at least 11 years to complete training, physicians and surgeons must have a professional or doctoral degree to examine, diagnose and treat patients; surgeons also treat injuries or conditions through operations. During the 2012-2022 decade, faster than average employment growth of 18% was projected by the BLS for this field in general.

Annual median salaries vary widely, depending on the type of practice and area of specialty. For example, family practice physicians without obstetrics earned a median annual wage of $207,117 in 2012, according to the BLS, while anesthesiologists earned $431,977.


Optometrists who treat visual problems, injuries and diseases must have a Doctor of Optometry degree to gain state licensing to practice. Their training often spans approximately 8 years. According to the BLS, these professionals earned an annual median salary of $97,820 in 2012 and could expect much faster than average job growth of 24% from 2012-2022.

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Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics