how to become an orthopedic surgeon

How To Become An Orthopedic Surgeon (Ultimate Guide)

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Do you want to know how to become an orthopedic surgeon? Orthopedic surgeons are one of the most competitive and well-paid clinical specializations. It’s no wonder that there sparked an interest in you why you decided to check on this article.

Here, I will be serving you with the necessary information on how to become an orthopedic surgeon. I’ll talk about what they do, how much they make, how much you should spend to become one, and many others that would ignite more the spark that initiated your interest.

Bonus: Want a full library of free medical school eBooks, video courses, and training? Click here to get access to your free med school advice library!

What Do Orthopedic Surgeons Do?

what do orthopedic surgeons do

Any concerns about bones, joints, ligaments, tendons, and muscles, who you’re going to call? No other than the orthopedic surgeon!

Orthopedic surgeons devote themselves to the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of any disorders related to the body structures I mentioned above. They perform surgery usually on the hip and knee, foot and ankle, shoulder and elbow, hand, spin, etc. May the musculoskeletal problems acquired congenitally or due to trauma, the specialist on-call is an orthopedic surgeon. Some orthopedic surgeons concentrate on bone cancer. These are orthopedic oncologists. They specialize in removing tumors and addressing life-threatening situations. These doctors often collaborate with a physical therapist for complementary gross movement support.

How To Become An Orthopedic Surgeon

becoming an orthopedic surgeon


When you enter college, you are free to choose whatever pre-med course to take. May it be in the field of sciences or arts, there are no restrictions on what course you are required to take to enter med school. Everyone is welcomed.

Though of course, if you have already decided that you want to become an orthopedic surgeon someday, you might want to pick a course that’s closely related to boost your interest in the musculoskeletal system. I could suggest biology or human biology as a pre-med course.

You usually spend 4 years of your life here finishing college. Make sure to maintain a good GPA. Medical school applications are competitive and only the most deserving cream of the crop gets in.

And as you approach graduation, this is the time when you have to prepare for the requirements. You should ace the MCAT and your interview. With exemplary performance with these two, plus an impressive GPA, there will be higher chances that you’ll get into your preferred medical school. Check out my article on the 10 best MCAT practice tests to help you ace the MCAT and see for yourself how it is such a big deal for the medical school admission committee.

Medical School

For the next four years, you’ll be spending your days reading medical bibles and passing your exams in medical school. If you feel like becoming an orthopedic surgeon, you could focus more on the anatomy and pathophysiology related to the musculoskeletal system. Learning and memorizing each bone and muscle (with its origin, insertion, nerve, and action) is quite one of the most grueling concepts before during the starting days of medical school. Imagine that there are about 600 muscles to memorize with their respective OINAs?

Any medical school would do since all curriculums are focused on the general medical concepts and foundations across all specialization. You may check the best medical schools based on ranking in this article.

This is also the time when you will be taking the USMLE. Make sure that you get a competitive score so it won’t be difficult to be accepted and matched for Orthopedic surgery residency.


Orthopedic surgeons spend a minimum of five years in residency. By this time, you’re already an MD practicing yet still in training. You will be exposed to and manage real-life musculoskeletal cases.


You may choose to focus on a specific type of orthopedic surgery such as foot and ankle surgery, hip surgery, etc. They take an extra or two years of fellowship.

Bonus: Want a full library of free medical school eBooks, video courses, and training? Click here to get access to your free med school advice library!

Orthopedic Surgeon Salary

orthopedic surgeon salary

Source: SoFi

You can use for the salary estimates and present data in tabular form.

In 2020, according to Medscape’s Physician Compensation Report, Orthopedics—the general specialty in which orthopedic surgery falls under—is the best-paying medical specialty in the U.S.! It revealed that the average annual salary among orthopedic surgeons was $482,000. You can learn more about how much each medical specialty is compensated in our article here.

Whereas according to, as of November 2020, the average orthopedic surgeon in the USA earns $492,910 with a range usually between $387,520 and $637,690. Salary varies depending on several factors such as medical education, certification, years of experience, and additional skills.

Orthopedic Surgeon Residency Salary

According to Medscape’s report in 2020, the average salary of orthopedic residents annually is $64,800 and is one of the high-paying residency specialties in the US. Salary is based on the subspecialty you choose in orthopedic surgery.

If you also wonder how much other resident specialties make, you may check my youtube video below. Leave a like on our video and make sure to subscribe to our main channel as well!

How Competitive Is Orthopedic Surgery?

how competitive is orthopedic surgery

Given the undeniably competitive salary, a lot of medical students are surely thinking about “how to become an orthopedic surgeon?”

Coming from orthopedic surgeons themselves, orthopedic surgery is extremely difficult. The specialty is so competitive that a lot of medical students apply for it in residency but only a few are chosen. Results of the National Resident Matching Program in 2020 showed that out of 1,192 who applied for orthopedic surgery residency, only 844 were matched.

Only students with extraordinary credentials are accepted. Directors choose those with high USMLE scores, impressive medical school GPA, strong recommendation letters, excellent clinical rotations examinations, and research experiences.

Bonus: Want a full library of free medical school eBooks, video courses, and training? Click here to get access to your free med school advice library!

Orthopedic Surgeon Job Market

The Bureau of Labor Statistics agrees that the job market for orthopedic surgery is outstanding! They project that the demand for orthopedic surgeons will increase by 24% between 2010 and 2020. They are confident that it is one of the specialties with high demand.

How Much Does It Cost To Become An Orthopedic Surgeon?how much does it cost to become an orthopedic surgeon

Thinking about how to become an orthopedic surgeon is also thinking about the costs that you need to shoulder. When you enter medical school, there are no special costs to be an orthopedic surgeon. You’ll be shouldering the general expenses to ace medical schools such as the tuition and other miscellaneous fees, cost of living, student loans, and examination and residency matching fees.

Public medical schools offer an average tuition fee of $9,410 per year for students living in the state and $23,890 for students from outside the state. While private schools charge an average of $32,410 per year. From this, we can say the total costs for becoming an orthopedic surgeon vary from around $37,640 to $129,640.

For more information on how much does it cost to become a doctor, you may try to check out my previous article.

Is Becoming An Orthopedic Surgeon Worth It?

Like any other medical specialties, yes, it is. Becoming an orthopedic surgeon is totally worth it. It is a rewarding specialty of treating even the rarest musculoskeletal pathological condition. Functional bones, muscles, etc are all needed to perform your daily life activities. Imagine patients having problems with any of these. They feel powerless, unproductive, unfunctional, and useless since they cannot do what they want or love to do. Their disability stops them from having a better life.

And by being an orthopedic surgeon who specializes in helping people to move and do what they love, you are contributing to providing these patients a more meaningful life.

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Top Orthopedic Surgeons On Instagram

top orthopedic surgeons on instagram

Source: American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons

Here is some Orthopedic surgeons-related account on Instagram who you could follow and be your inspiration:


With a total of 4,045 followers, this account posts the typical mundane of an orthopedic surgeon plus some basic knowledge for orthopedic residents.


More than 12,000 followers are anticipating the posts of the American Association of Orthopedic Surgeons (AAOS). You’ll get recent news updates about orthopedic surgery and get to know the most prominent surgeons in the field.


Dr. Chris Miller is a compassionate orthopedic surgeon for the Dallas Roughnecks. He specializes in sports injury and joint pain. This Northwestern and Harvard graduate surgeon is followed by more than 2,000 netizens online in IG.


Be one of Dr. Jude’s 17,000 followers and check out his personal posts specially made for aspiring and practicing orthopedic surgeons. Aside from being an orthopedic surgeon, he is a speaker, content creator, and entrepreneur on the side.


A double board-certified orthopedic surgeon, Dr. Raj is followed by almost 30,00 followers in IG. Followers anticipate personal posts, real-life ortho cases, and some good-to-know orthopedic surgery information. He is also a TV Media Expert and a Stem Cell Specialist.

Top Books About Orthopedic Surgery

1. Surgical Exposures in Orthopaedics: The Anatomic Approach by Stanley Hoppenfeld, Piet deBoer, and Richard Buckley

Surgical Exposures in Orthopaedics The Anatomic Approach

Now on its 5th edition, this atlas features 775 full-color illustrations of orthopedics anatomy focusing on the surgeon’s viewpoint. Each chapter discusses the techniques and risks of a particular surgical approach. There are clear previews of anatomic landmarks and incisions as a guide for dissection.

Check it out on Amazon here!

2. Hot Lights, Cold Steel: Life, Death and Sleepless Nights in a Surgeon’s First Years by Michael J. Collins

hot lights cold steelI have already talked about this book in my article on the best books about medicine. You can check it out if you want to know more books that are up for grabs! This is a story of Dr. Collins’ four-year surgical residency. He narrated how he decided to become an orthopedic surgeon, the trials he faced, and the victories he had in between the journey. His story is an actual representation of the life of an orthopedic surgeon.

Check it out on Amazon here!

3. Essential Orthopaedics and Trauma [with Student Consult Online Access] by David J. Dandy and Dennis J. Edwards

Essential Orthopaedics and TraumaIf you are a practicing orthopedic surgeon resident, this book is for you. It contains the common conditions encountered by orthopedic surgeons along with the appropriate and up-to-date management approaches. It has additional case studies that students could analyze and learn from. On the newest edition, it includes additional clinical images including new x-rays and MRI scans.

Check it out on Amazon here!

4. Rearticulations of Orthopaedic Surgery: The Process of Specialty Boundary Formation and the Provision of Fracture Care by Kenneth Gundle

Rearticulations of Orthopaedic Surgery The Process of Specialty Boundary Formation and the Provision of Fracture Care by Kenneth GundleIf you are curious about how orthopedic surgery started in the US, this book might interest you. The book focuses on how the specialty was formed. It narrated how it all started from the simplest surgical approaches to how it gradually advanced to surgical procedures that are done today.

Check it out on Amazon here!

5. Healthy Joints for Life: An Orthopedic Surgeon’s Proven Plan to Reduce Pain and Inflammation, Avoid Surgery and Get Moving Again by Richard Diana

Healthy Joints for Life An Orthopedic Surgeon's Proven Plan to Reduce Pain and Inflammation, Avoid Surgery and Get Moving AgainThis book is based on research and focused on the role of the newest discovered molecule known as NFkb. Dr. Richard, an orthopedic surgeon, described how this molecule aids in regulating inflammation and therefore managing musculoskeletal problems, she proved an eight-week program that teaches a patient of reducing inflammation and reducing inflammation, and alleviating pain.

Check it out on Amazon here!

Bonus: Want a full library of free medical school eBooks, video courses, and training? Click here to get access to your free med school advice library!


The journey on how to become an orthopedic surgeon could be a long way. It involves enormous amounts of time, effort, and the right attitude to become one. The process may be extremely difficult, but I could assure you that in the end when you finally become an orthopedic surgeon, all hardships and sacrifices will be worth it!

Aside from being an orthopedic surgeon, if you are also considering some other specialties, you might also want to check my articles about: Being a cardiologist, a pediatrician, a dermatologist, or a psychiatrist.

Whenever you’re ready, there are 4 ways I can help you:

1. The Med School Handbook:  Join thousands of other students who have taken advantage of the hundreds of FREE tips & strategies I wish I were given on the first day of medical school to crush it with less stress. 

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3. Med Ignite Study ProgramGet personalized help to create the perfect study system for yourself so you can see better grades ASAP on your medical journey & see results like these. 

4. Learn the one study strategy that saved my grades in medical school here (viewed by more than a million students like you). 

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Until the next time, my friend…

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