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Surgeon: College and School Program Options

Aspiring surgeons gain their training through medical school, residencies and fellowships. These programs vary, and the choices a student makes about which programs to attend will affect his or her future career path.

Students wanting to become surgeons will need to earn a Doctor of Medicine (M.D.). Upon completion of medical school, students enter into a residency program that trains them in their surgical specialty.

Top 10 Medical Schools for Research

College/University Location Institution Type Tuition (2015-2016)*
Harvard University Boston, Massachusetts 4-year, Private $55,850
Stanford University Stanford, California 4-year, Private $52,491
Johns Hopkins University Baltimore, Maryland 4-year, Private $48,750
University of California - San Francisco San Francisco, California 4-year, Public $32,751 In-state
$44,996 Out-of-state
University of Pennsylvania (Perelman) Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 4-year, Private $52,210
Washington University St. Louis, Missouri 4-year, Private $58,460
Columbia University New York, New York 4-year, Private $55,418
Duke University Durham, North Carolina 4-year, Private $53,575
University of Washington Seattle, Washington 4-year, Public $33,519 In-state
$63,954 Out-of-state
Yale University New Haven, Connecticut 4-year, Private $55,680

Source: *US News and World Report

College Selection Criteria

Applicants to a medical school program should have a solid background of various science classes. Surgery residencies and fellowships are offered at some universities and teaching hospitals and offer students a chance to focus on a speciality or subspeciality of their choosing.

Students may want to keep the following considerations in mind when choosing a medical school:

  • Students should look for medical schools accredited by the Liaison Committee on Medical Education (LCME).
  • Individual programs integrate course material differently, and time allotted for students to study individual subjects of interest can vary.
  • Students interested in research may want to look for opportunities to complete a dual M.D./Ph.D., which will prepare them for roles in academia and teaching hospitals.
  • Residency programs affiliated with universities typically require more research than those housed in freestanding medical centers, which focus more heavily on clinical practice; students may want to pick a program that matches their career goals.
  • Most residents work 80-hour workweeks, so students may want to look for programs that work with residents to create a better work-life balance.

Medical School

To gain entry into medical school, students must first complete coursework in general and organic chemistry, biology, physics, biochemistry and English composition and submit scores from the Medical College Admission Test. In addition to coursework, students complete clerkships that train them to apply their knowledge in healthcare settings. Clerkships include rotations in general medicine, surgery, pediatrics and emergency medicine, among other areas. In most schools, students spend the final two years engaging in research or participating in independent study and completing clinical elective courses.

Residency in Surgery

Surgery residencies vary in length depending on the specialty, but most last about five years. Students learn in classroom settings and through clinical experience. Students receive their licenses to practice medicine and prepare to become board certified during the residency.

Fellowship in Surgery

Some doctors go on to complete fellowships in order to deepen their expertise in a subspecialty, such as pediatric surgery or adult reconstructive surgery. Students can also complete fellowships that allow them the time and resources to conduct research. Fellowships usually last 2-3 years.

Medical schools nationwide offer aspiring surgeons classroom training and hands-on experience through clerkships and research options. Residency programs can be found at universities and medical centers or hospitals. Residencies and fellowships allow students to focus on surgical training and prepare for board certification.

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