Trauma Surgeon Training Programs, Degrees and Education Requirements

Following completion of a general surgery residency program, aspiring trauma surgeons may complete a trauma surgery or surgical critical care program or a combined fellowship program. Read about requirements for these programs as well as continuing education and career info below.

Essential Information

The educational requirements for trauma surgeons to practice in the United States include completion of a bachelor's degree and medical degree (Doctor of Medicine or Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine), as well as hospital- or clinic-based training through a residency and fellowship program. Students select their medical specialty during the third year of medical school and apply to residency programs in their final year. Trauma surgery and surgical care fellowships can be completed in a year, while a combined fellowship will take about two years.

A prospective trauma surgeon can expect school and clinical training to take a minimum of 14 years. Licensing and board certification requirements must also be met before practicing in the field.

Trauma Surgery Fellowship

A fellowship program in trauma surgery equips one with the administrative and clinical skills necessary to manage the most critically injured patients admitted to the emergency department. A key focus is leadership skills, since the trauma surgeon must be prepared to make difficult case management decisions and lead a team of other physicians, nurses and residents.

Surgical Critical Care Fellowship

Training in the field of surgical critical care includes rotations in trauma, organ transplantation, burn care and pediatrics. Patients in both the intensive care unit and surgical wards are included in rotations. Such programs are normally one year in length, but a second year often may be added that focuses upon trauma care.

Employment Outlook and Salary Information

The BLS states that surgeons as of May 2015 made an average yearly wage of $247,520. The job outlook for this career from 2014 to 2024 is expected to grow 14%, which is much faster than the average for all other occupations.

Continuing Education Information

Each state maintains its own licensing requirements, but most require completion of 1-3 years of residency training to meet the eligibility requirements for physician licensure. Additionally, physicians must pass the United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE).

State licensure is separate from board certification processes, which are specialty-specific. Surgical board certification examinations are administered by the American Board of Surgery (ABS), which offers certification options in general surgery and surgical critical care; there is no designated certifying exam for trauma surgery on its own.

All licensed physicians must complete a varying number of continuing medical education (CME) hours in order to maintain board certification. Surgeons must report on educational activities every three years to the ABS, and 50 CME credits are required annually. Other requirements to continue board certification include maintenance of licensure, participation in a quality assurance or outcomes-based assessment and completion of an examination.

Trauma surgeons may apply to professional trauma surgery organizations for membership. In addition to affording admittance to yearly meetings, membership provides access to fellowship and job postings, as well as online resources such as trauma-related library materials. Scholarships for research funding are also available.

Trauma surgery training programs are available to those who have completed a general surgery residency program. These fellowships take 1-2 years to complete. While states have varying licensing requirements, most physicians will need to have completed 1-3 years of residency training to be eligible for a license. Physicians also need to pass the United States Medical Licensing Examination before going into practice.

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