Advantages and Disadvantages of Being a Surgeon

Surgeon in rubber gloves reaching for surgical scissors on tray in operating room
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Becoming a surgeon can take over a decade of schooling to get full certification and potentially even longer to begin your true medical practice. Investing in medical school is not only a matter of time, though; the cost is also a factor you should consider before choosing to pursue your doctorate in medicine. Life as a surgeon also comes with some special stresses.

Benefits

Doing good. Surgeons, as are all doctors, are required to take the Hippocratic oath to ensure that they provide the best medical care, to the fullest extent of their abilities, to all those in need. If you're the type of person who thoroughly enjoys helping others, this career path is chock full of the opportunity to provide service and support to others as well as saving lives. 

Regular career development. For those who value constant mental stimulation, few careers have practical skills that are applied as regularly as that of the medical field. Surgeons continuously learn on the job as medicine and technology constantly update and evolve. Their minds are constantly on the move, learning and applying new medical science almost every day. 

Various career paths. Aspiring surgeons can choose from more than a dozen areas, ranging from general surgery to more specialized fields like orthopedic surgery and plastic surgery.

Helping others. Not only do surgeons help their patients, they also help other aspiring clinicians. Many medical experts get the benefit of teaching students and patients about medicine and can help advance the field of medicine through research and collaboration with other medical experts.

Respected career. Many consider the medical field to be among the most revered occupations, and it carries with it a higher social status than most. Many surgeons make upward of $300,000 a year, with many orthopedic surgeons exceeding $500,000.

Drawbacks

Expensive schooling. Although the salary for being a surgeon starts out pretty high and just keeps climbing throughout the rest of one's career, most medical students typically graduate with a large financial debt. It may take years to pay off the debt and begin to see a profitable life as a surgeon. Still, long hours aren't behind you just because you've graduated from medical school and completed your internship and residency. It's an arduous process of acquiring a medical license, and once you're on the staff at a hospital you'll pull many overnight and emergency shifts. 

High stress. A medical career can be highly emotional and draining. While some incredible highs comes with saving lives, once you begin practicing, it can take a toll on your emotional well-being when you encounter patients whom you can't save. That—paired with the long hours, difficult procedures, stressful work environment, and overwhelming responsibility—often lead to depression or at the very least anxiety problems.

Time-consuming. Not only do surgeons undergo up to 15 years (or more) of schooling and training, they often must work long hours, too. This can interfere with one's personal life, limiting the amount of time the surgeon has to spend with family and friends.

Lawsuits. An unfortunate side of being a surgeon is a high potential to encounter medical malpractice suits. Mistakes happen in all careers, but for medical professionals, the repercussions of mistakes can be physically damaging and even deadly. According to the Risk Authority, $381 billion was awarded in medical malpractice cases in 2017.

Choosing a Career as a Surgeon

Surgeons are highly respected and fulfilling, but the career is not for everyone. The long hours, huge student debt, stressful work, and years of educational preparation can deter those not dedicated to the field. However, being a surgeon comes with its fair share of advantages like a high salary, rewarding life work, and actually getting to make a difference in the world. 

Really, it comes down to whether or not you have the dedication and passion for sticking with the medical field for over eight years just to get your career started. If you're ready to take the Hippocratic oath and swear to help the sick and damaged to the fullest of your ability, go ahead and apply to medical school and get started on your path to success.