What is a Surgeon?

A surgeon is a medical doctor who specializes in performing surgical procedures to diagnose, treat, and manage various medical conditions. Surgeons use their extensive medical knowledge, expertise, and surgical skills to perform operations that can be life-saving or improve a patient's quality of life. They operate on various parts of the body, ranging from internal organs to bones and tissues, to address conditions such as cancer, trauma, congenital anomalies, and chronic diseases.

Surgeons undergo rigorous and specialized training, which typically includes completing a medical degree, followed by several years of residency in surgical specialties. During their training, they gain hands-on experience, learn advanced surgical techniques, and develop the ability to make critical decisions in the operating room. Surgeons work in hospitals, clinics, and surgical centers, collaborating with other healthcare professionals to provide comprehensive patient care. Their dedication to precision, patient safety, and innovative medical advancements has made surgery an indispensable component of modern medicine.

What does a Surgeon do?

A surgeon in the operating room.

Duties and Responsibilities
Surgeons have a wide range of duties and responsibilities related to performing surgical interventions on patients. Some of their primary responsibilities include:

  • Conducting Pre-Operative Assessments: Before performing any surgery, a surgeon must evaluate the patient's medical history and current condition. They may order diagnostic tests and consult with other healthcare professionals to determine the best course of treatment.
  • Planning and Performing Surgeries: Surgeons must use their knowledge of anatomy, physiology, and medical techniques to perform surgical procedures. They may work alone or with a team of other medical professionals, including anesthesiologists, nurses, and surgical technicians.
  • Post-Operative Care: After surgery, the surgeon is responsible for monitoring the patient's recovery and ensuring that they are receiving appropriate care. They may order follow-up tests or treatments and adjust the patient's medications as needed.
  • Communicating with Patients and Families: Surgeons must be able to communicate effectively with patients and their families before, during, and after surgery. They must be able to explain the risks and benefits of the procedure, answer questions, and provide emotional support.
  • Continuing Education: As medical science and surgical techniques evolve, surgeons must stay up-to-date with the latest developments in their field. They may attend conferences, participate in research, or pursue additional training to enhance their skills.

Types of Surgeons
There are many types of surgeons who specialize in different areas of medicine. Here are some of the most common types of surgeons:

  • General Surgeon: General surgeons perform a wide range of surgical procedures on various parts of the body. They are often involved in emergency surgeries and may perform procedures related to the gastrointestinal system, abdomen, skin, and soft tissues.
  • Cardiothoracic Surgeon: Cardiothoracic surgeons focus on surgical procedures involving the heart, lungs, and chest cavity. They perform surgeries such as coronary artery bypass grafting, heart valve repair and/or replacement, and lung surgeries.
  • Orthopedic Surgeon: Orthopedic surgeons specialize in the musculoskeletal system, treating conditions related to bones, joints, ligaments, tendons, and muscles. They perform surgeries such as joint replacements, fracture repairs, and corrective procedures for deformities.
  • Neurosurgeon: Neurosurgeons specialize in surgeries of the nervous system, including the brain, spinal cord, and peripheral nerves. They treat conditions like brain tumors, spinal disorders, and head trauma.
  • Vascular Surgeon: Vascular surgeons deal with diseases of the blood vessels and circulatory system. They perform procedures like angioplasty, stent placement, and vascular bypass surgeries.
  • Plastic Surgeon: Plastic surgeons focus on reconstructive and cosmetic surgeries to enhance appearance or restore function after trauma or surgery. Procedures include breast reconstruction, rhinoplasty, and facelifts.
  • Colorectal Surgeon: Colorectal surgeons focus on surgical procedures involving the colon, rectum, and anus. They treat conditions such as colorectal cancer, inflammatory bowel disease, and hemorrhoids.
  • ENT (Ear, Nose, and Throat) Surgeon: ENT surgeons, also known as otolaryngologists, specialize in surgical procedures related to the ears, nose, throat, and head and neck regions. They treat conditions like sinusitis, tonsillitis, hearing loss, and head and neck tumors.
  • Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeon: Oral and maxillofacial surgeons specialize in surgeries related to the mouth, jaw, and face.
  • Gynecological Surgeon: Gynecological surgeons specialize in surgical procedures related to the female reproductive system. They may perform surgeries such as hysterectomy, ovarian cyst removal, and pelvic floor repairs.
  • Urological Surgeon: Urological surgeons focus on surgical conditions related to the urinary system and male reproductive organs. They perform procedures like kidney stone removal, prostate surgery, and bladder surgery.
  • Pediatric Surgeon: Pediatric surgeons specialize in performing surgeries on infants, children, and adolescents. They address congenital anomalies, childhood cancers, and other surgical conditions specific to pediatric patients.
  • Ophthalmic Surgeon (Ophthalmologist): Ophthalmic surgeons are ophthalmologists who specialize in performing surgical procedures on the eyes. They perform surgeries such as cataract removal, glaucoma surgery, and refractive surgeries.
  • Bariatric Surgeon: Bariatric surgeons focus on surgical weight loss procedures, such as gastric bypass or gastric sleeve surgery, to treat severe obesity and related health conditions.
  • Transplant Surgeon: Transplant surgeons perform organ transplantation surgeries, such as kidney, liver, heart, lung, and pancreas transplants, to treat end-stage organ failure.
  • Hand Surgeon: Hand surgeons specialize in surgeries of the hand and upper extremities. They treat conditions such as carpal tunnel syndrome, hand fractures, and tendon injuries.
  • Trauma Surgeon: Trauma surgeons provide immediate surgical care to patients with severe injuries resulting from accidents or emergencies. They work in trauma centers and handle critical life-saving surgeries.
  • Endocrine Surgeon: Endocrine surgeons specialize in surgeries related to the endocrine glands, such as the thyroid, parathyroid, and adrenal glands. They treat conditions like thyroid nodules, hyperparathyroidism, and adrenal tumors.
  • Hepatobiliary Surgeon: Hepatobiliary surgeons focus on surgical procedures involving the liver, gallbladder, and bile ducts. They treat conditions like gallstones, liver tumors, and bile duct strictures.

Are you suited to be a surgeon?

Surgeons have distinct personalities. They tend to be investigative individuals, which means they’re intellectual, introspective, and inquisitive. They are curious, methodical, rational, analytical, and logical. Some of them are also realistic, meaning they’re independent, stable, persistent, genuine, practical, and thrifty.

Does this sound like you? Take our free career test to find out if surgeon is one of your top career matches.

Take the free test now Learn more about the career test

What is the workplace of a Surgeon like?

Surgeons work in a variety of settings, including hospitals, clinics, and private practices. Their workplace is typically a sterile and controlled environment to prevent infections and other complications during surgical procedures. The operating room is the most common workspace for surgeons, and it is equipped with specialized surgical instruments, monitoring equipment, and anesthesia machines.

Hospitals are the primary workplace for most surgeons, where they may work as part of a surgical team that includes anesthesiologists, surgical nurses, and other medical professionals. Many hospitals have specialized surgical units where surgeons can perform surgeries that require advanced technology and specialized equipment. Surgeons who work in hospitals may also be responsible for managing the care of patients before and after their surgeries, including prescribing medications and monitoring their recovery.

Some surgeons work in outpatient surgery centers or private practices, where they typically perform less complex surgeries that do not require an overnight hospital stay. In these settings, surgeons may have more flexibility in their schedules and may be able to see a higher volume of patients. However, they may also be responsible for managing the administrative tasks of their practice, such as scheduling appointments, managing staff, and handling billing and insurance issues.

Regardless of their work setting, surgeons must be able to handle high-pressure situations and make quick decisions during surgeries. They may work long hours and be on call for emergencies outside of regular working hours. They must also be able to communicate effectively with patients, their families, and other medical professionals to ensure the best possible outcomes for their patients.

Frequently Asked Questions

Doctor Specializations and Degrees

The following is a comprehensive list of the various specializations that a doctor can pursue and a brief summary of each specialization:

  • Allergist: An allergist specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of allergies, asthma, and related conditions. Allergists have specialized training in the recognition and management of allergic reactions.
  • Anesthesiologist: An anesthesiologist keeps a patient comfortable, safe and pain-free during surgery by administering local or general anesthetic.
  • Cardiologist: A cardiologist specializes in finding, treating, and preventing diseases that affect the heart, the arteries, and the veins.
  • Cardiothoracic Surgeon: A cardiothoracic surgeon specializes in surgical procedures inside the thorax (the chest), which may involve the heart, lungs, esophagus, and other organs in the chest. As well as performing surgery, they also diagnose and treat diseases of these organs.
  • Chiropractic Neurologist: A chiropractic neurologist is a specialized type of chiropractor who has undergone additional training in the field of neurology. They diagnose and treat conditions that affect the brain, spinal cord, and other parts of the nervous system.
  • Chiropractor: A chiropractor, or doctor of chiropractic medicine, specializes in diagnosing and treating disorders of the musculoskeletal and nervous system, especially in the spine. Treatment is usually physical manipulation of the joints and the spine to bring them back into alignment. A chiropractor does not perform surgery or prescribe medication.
  • Colorectal Surgeon: A colorectal surgeon specializes in diseases of the colon, rectum, and anus, as well as the entire gastric tract. These surgeons work closely with urologists, who handle the urogenital tract in males and the urinary tract of women, gynecologists, who deal with specific female issues, and gastroenterologists, who deal with diseases of the gut.
  • Doctor: An general overview of what a doctor does and how to become one.
  • Dentist: Dentists identify potential oral health issues such as gum disease, as well as examine patients, order medical tests and determine the correct diagnosis and treatment. They also perform oral surgery and remove teeth or address other dental health problems.
  • Dermatologist: A dermatologist specializes in the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of conditions affecting skin, hair, sweat and oil glands, nails, and mucus membranes (inside the mouth, nose, and eyelids) which can include cancer.
  • Emergency Medicine Physician: An emergency medicine physician works in emergency departments, hospitals, and urgent care clinics, and is often the first medical professional that patients see when they are in need of urgent medical care.
  • Endocrinologist: An endocrinologist specializes in diagnosing conditions and diseases related to the glands and hormones. While primary care doctors know a lot about the human body, for conditions and diseases directly related to glands and hormones they will typically send a patient to an endocrinologist.
  • Family Practitioner: A family practitioner specializes in caring for the entire family. Patients can be children, adults, and the elderly, and are treated for a wide array of medical issues.
  • Forensic Pathologist: A forensic pathologist investigates the cause of sudden and unexpected deaths, and is able to determine how a person died by performing an autopsy and studying tissue and laboratory results. These doctors are often called upon to provide evidence in court regarding the cause and time of such deaths.
  • Gastroenterologist: A gastroenterologist has specific training in diagnosing and treating conditions and diseases of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract. This may include diseases and disorders that affect the the biliary system (liver, pancreas, gallbladder, and bile ducts), as well as the esophagus, stomach, small intestine, and large intestine (colon).
  • Geriatrician: A geriatrician specializes in the care of elderly patients, and often works with patients who have multiple chronic conditions, such as hypertension, diabetes, and heart disease, as well as age-related cognitive and functional impairments.
  • Gynecologist: A gynecologist specializes in women's reproductive systems. Gynecologists are also sometimes certified as obstetricians, and will monitor the health of the mother and the fetus during a pregnancy.
  • Hematologist: A doctor who specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of blood disorders, such as anemia and leukemia.
  • Hospitalist: A hospitalist is a physician whose focus is the general medical care of hospitalized patients. Their duties include patient care, teaching, research, and leadership related to hospital medicine.
  • Immunologist: An immunologist specializes in managing problems related to the immune system, such as allergies and autoimmune diseases. A smaller number of immunologists are strictly researchers seeking to better understand how the immune system works and to help develop better ways of diagnosing and providing treatment for many immunological conditions.
  • Infectious Disease Specialist: A doctor who specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of infectious diseases, such as HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, and hepatitis.
  • Internist: An internist is a 'doctor of internal medicine' who can diagnose, treat, and practice compassionate care for adults across the spectrum, from health to complex illness. They are not to be mistaken with "interns," who are doctors in their first year of residency training.
  • Medical Examiner: Medical examiners are responsible for performing autopsies and collecting evidence related to the circumstances of a death, including medical history, physical examination findings, and toxicology tests.
  • Naturopathic Physician: A naturopathic physician blends modern scientific medical practice and knowledge with natural and traditional forms of medical treatment. The goal is to treat the underlying causes of disease while stimulating the body's own healing abilities.
  • Nephrologist: A doctor who specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of kidney diseases. They treat conditions such as chronic kidney disease, acute kidney injury, kidney stones, hypertension, and electrolyte imbalances.
  • Neurologist: A neurologist specializes in treating diseases that affect the human nervous system. It is a very prestigious and difficult medical specialty due to the complexity of the nervous system, which consists of the brain, the spinal cord and the peripheral nerves.
  • Neurosurgeon: A neurosurgeon specializes in the diagnosis and surgical treatment of disorders of the central and peripheral nervous system. This includes congenital anomalies, trauma, tumours, vascular disorders, infections of the brain or spine, stroke, or degenerative diseases of the spine.
  • Obstetrician: An obstetrician is a medical doctor who specializes in caring for women during pregnancy, childbirth, and the postpartum period.
  • Occupational Physician: Occupational medicine is focused on keeping individuals well at work, both mentally and physically. As workplaces become more complex, occupational physicians play an important role in advising people on how their work can affect their health.
  • Oncologist: An oncologist specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of cancer. The three primary types of oncologists are: medical oncologists that specialize in the administration of drugs to kill cancer cells; surgical oncologists that perform surgical procedures to identify and remove cancerous tumors; and radiation oncologists that treat cancer with radiation therapy.
  • Ophthalmologist: An ophthalmologist is a specialist that deals specifically with the structure, function, diseases, and treatment of the eye. Due to the complexities and the importance of the eye as a special sense that provides vision, the discipline of ophthalmology is dedicated solely to this organ.
  • Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeon: An oral and maxillofacial surgeon treats dental and medical problems involving the oral cavity and the maxillofacial area. The maxillofacial area includes the bones of the forehead, face, cheekbones and the soft tissues. Treatment often involves performing surgery and related procedures to treat diseases, defects, or injuries, and to improve function or appearance.
  • Orthodontist: An orthodontist specializes in how the jaws and teeth are aligned. They help people whose teeth are misaligned or require some kind of correction – those with an improper bite, or malocclusion.
  • Orthopedic Surgeon / Orthopedist: An orthopaedic surgeon (or orthopedist) examines, diagnoses, and treats diseases and injuries of the musculoskeletal system. This system includes the bones, joints, ligaments, muscles, tendons, and nerves.
  • Osteopath: Osteopaths have attended and graduated from an osteopathic medical school and practise the system of healthcare known as osteopathy. They consider all aspects of the patient, not just the symptoms they exhibit. They see the integrated nature of the body’s organ systems and its capacity for self-regulation and self-healing.
  • Otolaryngologist: Otolaryngologists (or ENT physicians) are specialists trained in the diagnosis and treatment of patients with diseases and disorders of the ear, nose, throat (ENT), and related structures of the head and neck. These specialists are trained in both medicine and surgery.
  • Pathologist: A pathologist studies the causes, nature, and effects of disease. The field of pathology is broad with concentrations on changes in cells, tissues, and organs that are the result of a disease.
  • Pediatrician: A pediatrician specializes in providing medical care to infants, children and teenagers by administering treatments, therapies, medications and vaccinations to treat illness, disorders or injuries.
  • Periodontist: A periodontist is a dentist who specializes in oral inflammation, and who knows how to prevent, diagnose, and treat periodontal disease.
  • Plastic Surgeon: A plastic surgeon specializes in reshaping healthy body parts for aesthetic reasons, and also in repairing or replacing body parts damaged by accidents, illness or malformation.
  • Podiatrist: A podiatrist practices podiatric medicine, which is a branch of science devoted to the diagnosis, treatment and study of medical disorders of the foot, ankle, lower leg and lower back. In the U.S. and Canada, podiatry is practiced as a specialty.
  • Prosthodontist: A prosthodontist specializes in restoring the look, function, comfort, and health of a patient's oral cavity with artificial materials. These artificial materials are made up of a wide variety of restorations that include fillings, dentures, veneers, crowns, bridges and oral implants.
  • Psychiatrist: Psychiatrists are physicians who evaluate, diagnose and treat patients who are affected by a temporary or chronic mental health problem.
  • Pulmonologist: A pulmonologist specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of pulmonary (lung) conditions and diseases of the chest, particularly pneumonia, asthma, tuberculosis, emphysema, and complicated chest infections.
  • Radiologist: A radiologist is a specialist in interpreting medical images that may be obtained with x-rays, (CT scans or radiographs), nuclear medicine (involving radioactive substances, magnetism (MRI), or ultrasound.
  • Rheumatologist: A doctor who specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of rheumatic diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis and lupus.
  • Sports Medicine Physician: A sports medicine physician specializes in taking care of people who have sports injuries that may be acquired from playing sports, exercising, or from otherwise being physically active.
  • Surgeon: A surgeon performs surgery for the purpose of removing diseased tissue or organs, to repair body systems, or to replace diseased organs with transplants.
  • Telemedicine Physician: A telemedicine physician provides remote healthcare services to patients using telecommunications technology, facilitating virtual consultations, diagnoses, and treatment recommendations.
  • Urologist: A urologist specializes in the treatment of the male and female urinary tract and the male reproductive organs. Urologists can treat the kidneys, urinary bladder, urethra, uterus, and male reproductive organs. There are also specific specialty areas that urologists may choose to focus on, such as pediatric urology, male infertility, and urologic oncology.
  • Vascular Medicine Specialist - A vascular medicine specialist specializes in the diagnosis and nonsurgical treatment of conditions affecting the blood vessels. They may work with patients who have conditions such as deep vein thrombosis, peripheral artery disease, or pulmonary embolism.
  • Vascular Surgeon - A vascular surgeon specializes in the diagnosis and surgical treatment of conditions affecting the blood vessels, including aneurysms, peripheral artery disease, and varicose veins.
  • Veterinary Dentist - A veterinary dentist is a specialized veterinarian who focuses on the diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of dental diseases and conditions in animals. They perform dental procedures such as cleanings, extractions, and oral surgeries to improve the oral health and well-being of pets and other animals.


Continue reading

See Also
Doctor Allergist Anesthesiologist Cardiologist Cardiothoracic Surgeon Chiropractor Colorectal Surgeon Dentist Dermatologist Emergency Medicine Physician Endocrinologist Family Practitioner Forensic Pathologist Gastroenterologist Geriatrician Gynecologist Hematologist Hospitalist Immunologist Infectious Disease Specialist Internist Medical Examiner Naturopathic Physician Nephrologist Neurologist Neurosurgeon Obstetrician Occupational Physician Oncologist Ophthalmologist Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeon Orthopedic Surgeon Orthopedist Orthodontist Osteopath Otolaryngologist Pathologist Pediatrician Periodontist Plastic Surgeon Podiatrist Prosthodontist Psychiatrist Pulmonologist Radiologist Rheumatologist Sports Medicine Physician Urologist Vascular Medicine Specialist Vascular Surgeon Chiropractic Neurologist Veterinary Dentist Telemedicine Physician

Pros and cons of being a Surgeon

Becoming a surgeon can be a highly rewarding and fulfilling career, but it also comes with its own set of challenges and drawbacks. Here are some of the pros and cons of being a surgeon:


  • High Salary: Surgeons are among the highest-paid medical professionals, with median annual earnings in the six-figure range.
  • Job Security: Surgeons are in high demand, and job opportunities are expected to grow as the population ages and requires more medical care.
  • Prestige: Surgeons are highly respected members of the medical community and are often seen as leaders and experts in their field.
  • Personal Satisfaction: Surgeons can experience great personal satisfaction from being able to improve the health and well-being of their patients.
  • Variety: Surgeons have the opportunity to specialize in different areas of medicine, allowing them to focus on areas that interest them the most.


  • High Stress: Surgeons work in a fast-paced, high-pressure environment that can be stressful and demanding.
  • Long Hours: Surgeons often work long hours, including weekends and holidays, and may be on call for emergencies.
  • Risk of Injury or Illness: Surgeons are exposed to potential injury and illness from working with sharp surgical instruments and being in close proximity to patients with infectious diseases.
  • High Responsibility: Surgeons are responsible for the health and safety of their patients during and after surgery, and any mistakes or complications can have serious consequences.
  • Extensive Education and Training: Becoming a surgeon requires many years of education and training, including medical school, residency, and sometimes additional fellowship training.

In summary, while being a surgeon can be a highly rewarding and well-compensated career, it also requires a significant commitment of time, education, and responsibility. Prospective surgeons should carefully consider the challenges and benefits of the profession before making a decision to pursue this career path.

Surgeons are also known as:
General Surgeon Surgery Specialist