How Much Do Surgeons Make? (With Duties and Requirements)

Updated January 3, 2023

A surgeon is a health care specialist who completes several years of education to perform helpful surgeries on patients, which can improve their quality of life. If this sounds interesting to you, consider pursuing a career in this medical specialty. Understanding the job duties and the average salary for this position may help you determine how to achieve your career goals.

In this article, we discuss what a surgeon is, what their educational requirements are, how much surgeons make, what the highest-paying states for surgeons are and what types of skills to develop for this role.

What is a surgeon?

A surgeon is a medical expert who performs advanced procedures on patients. These operations can serve several purposes, such as repairing injuries, preventing diseases or improving quality of life. Surgeons complete years of education and on-the-job training to operate on patients. On a typical day, surgeons split their time between office hours and medical facilities where they perform the operations. During office hours, the surgeon meets with patients, researches the treatment options, discusses surgical procedures, and communicates with other staff members to schedule surgery dates.

During their surgery hours, surgeons perform surgical tasks based on their specialty. The surgeon leads a team of other medical specialists, such as surgical interns and nurses, ensuring everyone is performing their duties correctly. Some other job responsibilities may include:

  • Keeping sterile and clean equipment and hands

  • Updating patient records using the medical facility's applications

  • Diagnosing patients

  • Learning how to use various surgical tools

  • Keeping up-to-date on the latest medical journals

  • Publishing research papers

  • Communicating with other medical professionals

Surgeons can work in various fields and often focus on one specialty. Some specialty areas include:

  • Pediatrics: The pediatrics specialty is a medical treatment involving children.

  • Neurological: Neurological surgery involves the human brain.

  • Oral: Oral surgery involves the mouth.

  • Reconstructive: Reconstructive surgery involves repairing body parts.

  • Cardiothoracic: Cardiothoracic surgery involves the heart, lungs, esophagus and chest.

  • Urology: Urology surgery involving the kidneys, bladder and urinary tract.

Read More: Learn About Being a Surgeon

How much do surgeons make?

Several factors may affect your salary, such as your place of employment, educational credentials and experiences. Your specialty area can also create a variation from the average in your salary. The national average salary for a surgeon is $195,163 per year. To increase your earnings, consider gaining more experience in the field or publishing your work in medical journals. More experience and public work may make you a more marketable professional to hospitals and other medical facilities.

For the most up-to-date salary information from Indeed, click on the link provided.

Related: How Much Do Surgical Residents Make?

Top surgeon salaries by state

Below are the top 15 states in terms of average annual salary for surgeons. For the most up-to-date salary information from Indeed, visit

  1. Georgia: $192,014 per year

  2. Delaware: $192,871 per year

  3. Rhode Island: $194,778 per year

  4. Texas: $195,459 per year

  5. Arizona: $195,718 per year

  6. Oregon: $197,795 per year

  7. Illinois: $200,018 per year

  8. Virginia: $201,062 per year

  9. Colorado: $203,309 per year

  10. Maryland: $203,884 per year

  11. New Jersey: $204,514 per year

  12. Washington State: $207,516 per year

  13. New York State: $209,257 per year

  14. California: $211,807 per year

  15. District of Columbia: $226,040 per year

Related: 15 Types of Surgical Specialty Jobs (With Salaries)

What are the educational requirements for a surgeon?

To become a surgeon, an individual completes several years of medical education. First, obtain a bachelor's degree, typically in a field like pre-medicine or biology. After that, apply to gain acceptance into medical school, which lasts for another four years. Upon graduating from medical school, surgeons receive their Doctor of Medicine degree.

Then, they complete another three years of medical residency. During this time, a surgeon gains hands-on training, learns from established experts and selects their specialty area. Additionally, surgeons apply for their state license to practice medicine. They can also choose to obtain other option certifications, such as board certification, to showcase their professionalism and medical knowledge. This means it may take about 11 years to become a surgeon.

Related: FAQ: What Degree Does a Surgeon Need? (Plus Other Requirements)

What are the skills of a surgeon?

Here are some skills you may find helpful to develop as a surgeon:

Attention to detail

Surgery is a detailed practice, making strong attention to detail abilities vital. This skill is important during surgeries, patient evaluations and record-keeping. Additionally, this ability allows you to pay attention to the various steps in surgery and minimizes the chance of forgetting to complete a task.

Related: Attention to Detail: Definition and Examples


As a surgeon, you work in consultation with other physicians to help diagnose and treat patients. You also work alongside a team of other medical specialists within the operating room. Working in places like hospitals and treating patients is a team effort.

Related: 6 Top Tips for Better Teamwork


Communication is essential when working within a team and communicating well with patients. A good surgeon can explain complicated surgical operations simply. It's also crucial to empathize with the patients and treat them kindly.

Related: Top 10 Communication Skills for Career Success

Time management

Surgeons lead busy schedules and may work at night, for extended shifts or on the weekends. Depending on your specialty, urgent surgical procedures can interrupt your off hours. Surgeons also balance their time between surgery and office hours. A good surgeon can manage their time effectively to perform a surgical operation well.

Related: Time Management Skills: Examples and How To Improve Them


Typically, surgeons work on several cases at a time, such as evaluating several patients in a day, performing surgery on another and performing post-operation analysis on other patients. With so many patients, it's necessary for surgeons to have strong organizational skills. These organizational skills may also help manage the office, as surgeons are often responsible for ensuring that their offices and operating rooms have everything to treat patients.

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