How to become a Surgeon

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How to become a Surgeon

What do they do?

Surgeons perform surgery to correct deformities, repair injuries, prevent and treat diseases, and improve human functioning and appearance.

If you have a steady hand, an inquiring mind, and work well under intense pressure then surgeon might be the career for you.



  • examine patients to determine medical state, necessity of surgery, and surgical risk
  • analyse patient medical history, allergies and examination results to decide best courses of action
  • consulting with Anaesthetists regarding the correct anaesthesia for patients
  • selecting the best operational procedures and performing operations
  • prescribe pre-operative and post-operative treatments to patients including sedatives and antibiotics
  • refer patients to other medical specialists and exchange relevant medical details
  • explaining risks to patients
  • examining instruments, equipment, and surgical set-up to ensure that antiseptic and aseptic methods have been followed
  • instructing other medical, nursing and associated staff regarding the preparation of patients and instrument and equipment requirements
  • prescribing post-operative care, and observing and investigating patients’ progress
  • maintaining records of operations performed
  • may specialise in particular types of operations


Skills required:

  • good communication skills
  • high ethical standards
  • compassionate towards others
  • high level of motivation and self-discipline
  • excellent hand-eye coordination, excellent vision and visuospatial awareness
  • above average dexterity
  • good organisational ability and decision-making skills
  • emotional resilience, a calm temperament and the ability to work well under pressure
  • physical stamina to cope with the demands of surgery
  • the ability to lead and manage a team effectively



Surgery is a challenging and rewarding career, requiring commitment, discipline and compassion. Surgical training usually takes five to six years following completion of a medical degree.

The steps are:

  • Complete a medical degree & internship, obtain medical license
  • Work and train in a clinical setting as a resident – usually a hospital – for two to three years.
  • Apply to the Royal Australian College of Surgeons (RACS) Surgical Education and Training (SET) program (or other accredited course) during your third ‘postgraduate’ year (PGY3) after university.
  • If your application to enter SET is successful, you will choose to train in one of the nine surgical specialties including (5+ years full-time):
  • Cardiothoracic Surgery – surgery inside the chest including heart and lungs
  • General Surgery – abdominal contents including oesophagus, stomach, small bowel, colon, liver, pancreas, gallbladder, appendix and bile ducts, and often the thyroid gland
  • Neurosurgery – nervous system including the brain, spinal cord, peripheral nerves, and extra-cranial cerebrovascular system.
  • Orthopaedic Surgery – muscles and bones
  • Otolaryngology – head and neck surgery
  • Paediatric Surgery – surgeries on babies, children and adolescents
  • Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery
  • Urology – kidneys, ureters, bladder, prostate, urethra, testes
  • Vascular Surgery – arteries and veins
  • Receive fellowship
  • This training occurs primarily in public hospitals and usually takes at least five or six years. Following successful completion of SET you will become a Fellow and be accredited to practise independently as a surgeon.


Average salary:

Varies depending on speciality, institution, location, overtime and bonuses.

General Surgeon $154,027 (Source: payscale.com)

Neurosurgeon: $242,200 (range $60,402 to $502,004) (Source: MEDIQ Financial Services)

Surgeons $398,866 (Source: advancedmed.com.au)


Future growth: stable (source: Joboutlook.gov.au)





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