Advantages & 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. Consider all the advantages and disadvantages to determine if the pursuit is right for you. 


Doing Good - As most know, doctors are required to take a sacred oath — 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, there are few careers whose practical skills are applied to regularly as that of the medical field. Doctors continuously learn on the job as medicine and technology constantly update and evolve. Doctors' 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 doctors 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 carries with it a higher social status than most. The salary is also nothing to scoff at as many doctors make upwards of $250,000 a year.


Expensive Schooling - Although the salary for being a doctor starts out pretty high and just keeps climbing throughout the rest of your career, most medical students graduate with a large sum of financial debt. It may take years to pay off the debt and begin to see a profitable life as a doctor. 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 become a doctor 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 there are some incredible highs from saving lives, once you begin practicing, it can take a toll on your emotional well-being when you encounter patients that you can't save. That, paired with the long hours, difficult procedures, stressful work environment, and overwhelming responsibility often lead doctors to depression or at the very least anxiety problems. No matter way you look at it, being a doctor is not easy and it's certainly not for everyone. 

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 the 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. While not every case is found in favor of the patient, it's still a high-stress situation for surgeons to be in.

Should I Become a Surgeon?

The medical field is full of some of the most respected scientists in the world with doctors being chief among them. 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 doctor 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.