Orthopedic Surgeon Advancement Opportunities

Aug 15, 2019

Orthopedic surgeons are highly trained healthcare specialists who treat musculoskeletal issues through medicine, physical therapy, and surgery. An orthopedic surgeon who desires advancement has several options, including the three high-level healthcare careers examined here.

Orthopedic Surgeon Career Advancement

An orthopedic surgeon specializes in the treatment of the musculoskeletal system. Common issues addressed by orthopedic surgeons include spinal disorders, fractures, tendon and ligament damage, and arthritis. They work with patients to determine the best treatment plan for each musculoskeletal issue. The education and experience required to become an orthopedic surgeon is extensive, including four years of medical school, five years in residency, and, if desired, one year of specialist training. An experienced orthopedic surgeon looking for a career change does have options. Three of these, examined in this article, include chief of surgery, chief medical officer, and neurosurgeon.

Job Title Average Annual Salary (2019) Job Growth (2016-26)* Qualifications
Chief of Surgery $454,302*** 14% (surgeons) Abundant clinical and management experience
Chief Medical Officer $293,120** -4% (chief executives) Active medical license; management experience
Neurosurgeon $599,283*** 14% (surgeons) 5+ years of neurosurgery residency

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), **, ***

Career Information

Chief of Surgery

An experienced orthopedic surgeon could advance into the role as chief of surgery. This position leads a medical center's surgical department, coordinating staff and working with other directors and surgeons. The chief of surgery's main goal is to make sure the surgical department provides a consistently high level of service. The chief of surgery reports directly to upper management and is often involved in company objectives and policy decisions. Requirements may include a minimum of about 15 years of experience in a clinical setting and around eight or more years of management experience.

Chief Medical Officer

Managerial experience and extensive clinical experience may drive an orthopedic surgeon toward the role of chief medical officer (CMO). The CMO provides executive-level leadership for hospitals or medical centers and largely focuses on accreditation compliance and overall clinical performance. They analyze the care provided throughout the facility and recommend improvements in policies and procedures. Strong interpersonal and communication skills are vital, as they work with directors, physicians, and other staff, providing guidance and vision on patient care throughout all departments. A CMO must have a medical degree and an active medical license. Eight or more years of management experience is also a common requirement. Because growth for chief executives is expected to decline from 2016 to 2026, according to the BLS, CMOs may deal with significant competition for positions. Applicants with the highest degree of management experience may be the most successful in the job hunt.


An orthopedic surgeon with a focus on spinal traumas and disorders may choose to tackle the additional education and training required to become a neurosurgeon, expanding their surgical scope to encompass the entire nervous system. Neurosurgeons specialize in the surgical treatment of the spine, spinal cord, nerves, and brain. Beyond medical school, neurosurgeons complete a general surgery internship plus five or more years in a neurosurgery residency. Even then, education doesn't end in this rapidly changing field; neurosurgeons are typically expected to participate regularly in research, conferences, and other continuing education opportunities. However, this experience and knowledge is usually well rewarded, with the average yearly neurosurgeon salary falling around $600,000 according to in 2019.

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