Pay & Salary

How Much Do Surgeons Make?

February 22, 2021

Becoming a surgeon is a common career choice for many people looking to earn a good salary while helping people. However, how much you make as a surgeon can depend on your specialty and where you live. If you're interested in becoming a surgeon, you may want to know how much they make and which states typically pay the best.

In this article, we will discuss what a surgeon does, how much you can expect you earn and the highest paying states for surgeons.

What is a surgeon?

A surgeon is a medical professional who performs advanced procedures on patients. These operations can serve several purposes, such as repairing an injury, preventing a disease or improving quality of life. Surgeons must go through years of education and on-the-job training to start operating on patients on their own.

On a typical day, surgeons will split their time between office hours and medical facilities where they perform the operations. During office hours, the surgeon will meet with patients, research the best treatment options, discuss surgical procedures, and communicate with other staff members to schedule surgery dates. These office hours consist mainly of sitting behind a desk and working on a computer.

During their surgery hours, surgeons will perform surgical tasks based on their specialty. This often requires standing for long hours and working extended shifts. The surgeon will lead a team of other medical professionals, such as surgical interns and nurses, ensuring that everyone is performing their duties correctly as the surgery goes along. It's essential that surgeries move along at a quick and efficient pace, and it's the surgeon's job to make sure this happens.

Other job responsibilities include:

  • Keeping equipment sterilized and hands clean
  • Updating patient records on a computer
  • Diagnosing patients
  • Learning how to best use various surgical tools
  • Keeping up to date on the latest medical journals
  • Publishing research papers
  • Communicating with other medical professionals

Surgeons are found in a variety of fields and often focus on one specialty. Some common specialty areas include:

  • Pediatrics: Medical treatment involving children
  • Neurological: Surgery involving the brain
  • Oral: Surgery involving the mouth
  • Reconstructive: Surgery that involves repairing broken parts of the body
  • Cardiothoracic: Surgery involving the heart, lungs, esophagus and chest
  • Urology: Surgery involving the kidneys, bladder and urinary tract

To become a surgeon, one must go through several years of medical education. You will first need to obtain a bachelor's degree, typically in a field like pre-medicine or biology. After that, you will need to get accepted into medical school, which lasts for another four years. Upon graduating from medical school, surgeons receive their Doctor of Medicine degree.

They must then complete another three years of a medical internship and residency. It is during this time that the surgeon will begin to get hands-on training and learn from established professionals. It is also during the internship when a surgeon selects their specialty.

Surgeons are also required to get licensed from the state in which they wish to practice medicine. They can also choose to obtain other option certifications, such as board certification, which demonstrates their professionalism and medical knowledge. Taken altogether, it takes about 11 years after starting your bachelor's degree program to fully become a surgeon.

Read More: Learn About Being a Surgeon

What skills does a surgeon need?

To get a job as a surgeon and develop a successful career, one must have the following skills:

  • Attention to detail
  • Teamwork
  • Communication
  • Time management
  • Organization

Attention to detail

Surgery is a very detailed practice. Even a tiny mistake could be the difference between life and death. Therefore, all surgeons must have strong attention to detail. This is important not only during the surgeries themselves but during patient evaluations and record keeping.


As a surgeon, you will never be working alone. You will work in consultation with other physicians to help diagnose and treat your patients. You will also work alongside a team of other medical professionals within the operating room. Working in places like hospitals and treating patients is always a team effort and surgeons are no exception.

Read More: 6 Tips for Effective Teamwork


Communication is an essential skill when it comes to working within a team, but you also need to be able to communicate well with your patients. Patients typically have little medical knowledge themselves and they will need their surgeon to discuss with them in plain terms what is going on. A good surgeon will be able to explain complicated surgical operations in a simple way. It's also important that they can empathize with the patients and treat them kindly.

Read More: Communication Skills: Definitions and Examples

Time management

Surgeons lead very busy work lives. They may find themselves working at night, for extended shifts and on the weekends. Depending on your specialty, you may find your off-hours getting interrupted with urgent surgical procedures. Surgeons must also balance their time between surgery and office hours. A good surgeon will be able to manage their time effectively so that they are always at their best when it comes time to perform a surgical operation.


Surgeons will typically be working on more than one case at a time. They may evaluate several patients in a day, perform surgery on another, and then perform post-operation analysis on other patients. With so many patients to deal with at once, it's important that surgeons have strong organizational skills. These organizational skills will also help in managing an office, as surgeons are often responsible for ensuring that their offices and operating rooms have everything they need to treat patients.

Related: How to Balance a Fast-Paced Workplace

Average salary for a surgeon

The amount that a surgeon makes depends a great deal on their specialty and where they live. However, the average salary for a surgeon in the United States is $217,019 per year.

Top surgeon salaries by state

Below are the top 15 states in terms of average annual salary for surgeons:

  1. New Hampshire: $279,887
  2. Arizona: $269,648
  3. New Jersey: $261,658
  4. Indiana: $250,861
  5. New York State: $248,555
  6. Pennsylvania: $248,106
  7. Wisconsin: $247,520
  8. Washington State: $241,574
  9. West Virginia: $241,574
  10. Iowa: $239,697
  11. New Mexico: $238,461
  12. Alabama: $237,911
  13. Colorado: $237,342
  14. Ohio: $234,276
  15. Maine: $231,870


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