General Surgery Career Guide: Qualifications, Job Outlook & Salaries

November 11, 2013

Article by Global Pre-Meds
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A general surgeon is skilled in a wide range of surgical techniques that are used to treat several different injuries or critical ailments. These could include disorders of the blood vessels, breast, digestive tract, urinary tract or the endocrine system. General surgeons are versatile and are also skilled in performing procedures on cancer patients as well as paediatric patients.

As a general surgeon, some of the surgeries you would commonly perform include hernias, appendicitis, colon polyps, breast tumours, pancreatitis and bowel obstructions. Today, minimally invasive laparoscopic procedures are becoming increasingly more common and if you choose this career path, you would need to undergo specialist training in this surgical technique.

General surgeons used to work mostly in hospitals. Today however, there are plenty of opportunities in surgery centres and private practices as well as various government agencies. On average, most general surgeons spend 2 to 3 days a week performing surgeries and 2 to 3 days a week doing consultations and follow up appointments with their patients. The nature of this specialisation is such that you will be on call at all times as your skills could be needed at a moment’s notice in an accident or any other emergency.

Students observing surgery at Iringa Regional in Tanzania Qualifications

To be fully qualified to practice as a general surgeon you will need to first complete your 4 year medical school program, after which you will need to complete a general surgery residency program. The residency program for general surgery is one of the longest residency programs in the medical field. This intense, 5 year program is essential because of the wide range of procedures that you are required to be skilled in.

After your 5 year general residency program, you can choose to specialise in one particular area such as paediatric surgery, vascular surgery, orthopaedic surgery, palliative and hospice medicine or surgical critical care, which includes performing surgeries to treat multiple organ dysfunction or trauma victims. You can also choose to specialise as a neurosurgeon, cardiothoracic surgeon or plastic and reconstructive surgeon.  If you wish to obtain training in any of these specialties, you will need to do another 2 years of training in that subspecialty.

General Surgeon Salary

The average annual salary of a general surgeon in Australia is about AUD 207,000 with AUD 120,000 at the lower end and AUD 400,000 at the higher end. How much you make depends on your area of specialisation as well as your geographical location and the kind of establishment you work for.

Job Outlook Over The Next Few Years                               

Career prospects for general surgeons are expected to be very good over the next few years with a projected 24% increase in job growth. The best prospects are in rural areas.