Transplant Surgeon: Education and Career Information

Sep 02, 2019

Transplant surgeons require a significant amount of formal education. Find out how to become a transplant surgeon and learn about transplant surgeon 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 and a 2-year clinical transplant fellowship, and obtain licensing. There are many career 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 (2016-2026)* 14% (for all surgeons)
Mean Salary (2018)* $255,110 (for all surgeons)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Transplant Surgeon Education

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 an accredited medical school, prospective transplant surgeons must complete a 5-8 year general surgery residency program in 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. 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.

Transplant Surgeon Job Description and Career Information

Transplant surgeons generally specialize in a particular organ or system of related organs. These include kidney, heart and lung, liver and pancreas.

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, because often these operations are time-sensitive and must occur as soon as donor organs become available.

Many transplant surgeons are employed by private hospitals that have a staff transplant team. Transplant surgeon salaries for those employed by hospitals generally fall at 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 less than 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) projects that employment opportunities for surgeons overall will grow by 14% from 2016-2026. The BLS noted in 2018 that surgeons earned, on average, $255,110 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, then earn certification as a general surgeon, followed by a fellowship in transplant surgery.

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