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What is surgery like as a career?

Surgery is a challenging, varied and rewarding career. Performing an operation and seeing a patient’s life improved almost immediately is incredibly satisfying and a great privilege for many surgeons. Surgery isn’t confined to the operating theatre though. Surgeons divide their time between several activities such as clinics, research and teaching. They are also joined by a talented team of professionals who make up the surgical care team. This team have a variety of roles inside and outside the operating theatre. 

Whether you are a school student, at university or already on the surgical career path, you may have a number of questions, such as:

  • How do I become a surgeon? 
  • What qualifications do I need to enter surgery?
  • How long does it take to become a surgeon?
The RCS is here to help answer those questions. We provide guidance, tips, bursaries and awards to help you kick-start your surgical career. Become an affiliate member and access thousands of resources, discounts and priority bookings today.

Why choose surgery?

A career in surgery can be incredibly rewarding. It is open to everyone with the determination, enthusiasm and aptitude to succeed, regardless of background, ethnicity or gender. There isn’t one specific kind of person best suited to surgery and the surgeons of tomorrow will probably look very different from the surgeons of today.

Transferable skills: Surgery provides one of the most varied experiences of clinical practice. Exposure to patients of all ages in multiple settings (out-patients, on-calls, elective and emergency procedures and operating) combine to provide a rewarding career that will develop compassion and confidence.

Stimulation: Surgical training is physically and intellectually stimulating and will develop your intellectual curiosity (through research, learning and teaching) and your practical skills such as manual dexterity.

Life-long learning: Surgery is at the forefront of healthcare innovation. Surgical research and the development of new techniques and technologies will inform your surgical practice throughout your career. 

Teamwork: The multi-disciplinary team is key to successful surgical outcomes and a career in surgery will provide daily exposure to a diverse team.

Impact: When asked what motivates them, surgeons often cite the ability to make rapid and life-changing differences to their patients’ lives. From restoring vision or enabling pain-free mobility through joint replacement, to providing curative or palliative care for cancer, the impact of surgical care is clear.

Research: For those with an interest, regional, national and international research collaboratives await. You could be testing 3D printing, designing an augmented reality platform or working with surgical teams in Africa as part of your surgical career.

Anatomy and physiology: Every day a surgeon must apply principles of anatomy and physiology to their work, from planning and performing an operation to caring for the critically ill patient on the ward or on ITU.

Teaching: All surgeons learn from their colleagues and seniors and more surgeons than ever are being trained to provide surgical training that is supported by educational research. As a surgeon you will be taught by motivated clinicians and be expected to train and inspire the next generation.

Variety: All interests can be satisfied with so many surgical subspecialties to choose from. The variety of elective and emergency practice and the ability to care for patients of all ages will reward you every day.

International health: Surgery provides the skills and networks to travel, work and volunteer across the globe; from the cutting-edge practice of the developed world, to the many humanitarian opportunities available in the developing world.

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