Transplant Surgeon: Education and Career Information

Transplant surgeons require a significant amount of formal education. Learn about the education, job duties and licensure requirements to see if this is the right career for you.

Transplant surgeons must obtain a doctor of medicine degree, complete a residency program, complete a 2-year clinical transplant fellowship, and obtain licensing. There are many opportunities for transplant surgeons, including positions in private hospitals, university hospitals, and research laboratories.

Essential Information

Transplant surgeons train by completing a general surgery residency following medical school, as well as a fellowship program to specialize in transplants of specific organs from a donor to a recipient. Once surgeons become licensed, they may find careers in clinical or university hospitals.

Required Education Doctor of Medicine degree, residency program and a 2-year clinical transplant fellowship
Other Requirements Medical license; Board certification is optional but may be preferred
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)* 14% for all physicians and surgeons
Mean Salary (2015)* $247,520 for all surgeons

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Transplant Surgeon Education

Transplant surgeons generally specialize in particular organs of the body. These include kidney, heart and lung, liver and pancreas. Following a bachelor's degree, 11-14 years of higher education are required to become a transplant surgeon. All transplant surgeons must be licensed to practice medicine by the state where practice is intended. In addition, most surgeons are certified for quality of care by the American Board of Surgery.

Education of a transplant surgeon begins with an undergraduate pre-med program that includes biology, organic chemistry and advanced math courses, though the bachelor's degree itself may be in any field. The completion of a 4-year medical school program is the next step.

After obtaining a Doctor of Medicine (M.D.) degree through a med school program, future transplant surgeons must complete a 5-8 year general surgery residency program at an accredited hospital program and become eligible for certification by the American Board of Surgery.

Specialization in transplant surgery comes through a 2-year clinical transplant fellowship offered by an accredited program. Many larger medical school hospitals offer such a program. The first six months usually concentrate on donor health, operation and after operation care. The remainder of the program is devoted to pre, during and post operation care of the recipient.

Career Information for Transplant Surgeons

Many career paths are open to a transplant surgeon. However, each is noted for its long hours, and many surgeons work an irregular schedule. Transplant operations can be scheduled 24 hours a day, as donor organs become available.

Many transplant surgeons are employed by private hospitals that have a staff transplant team. Surgeons employed by hospitals generally make a salary on the higher end of the range. University hospitals are usually privy to the latest research and offer opportunities for professional growth. However, they tend to pay below the non-teaching hospitals.

There are also many opportunities for clinical and laboratory research in transplantation at schools and centers throughout the country. The scheduled hours are less, but so is the financial remuneration. Research positions provide the added benefit of being on the cutting edge of this highly skilled profession.

The employment outlook for transplant surgeons is good; the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projected that employment opportunities for physicians and surgeons overall will grow by 14% from 2014-2024. The BLS noted in 2015 that surgeons earned, on average, $247,520 annually.

Transplant surgeons work long hours and perform complex surgeries that are often life preserving. They must possess a doctor of medicine degree and a medical license, the earn certification as a general surgeon, followed by a fellowship in transplant surgery. Surgeons earned an average annual salary of $247,520 in 2015.

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