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Orthopedic Surgery Residency: Why you Should Choose this Specialty

Orthopedic surgery residency is one of the most competitive residencies to which medical students apply. Some residency programs receive several hundred applications annually, due to a large number of applications submitted by each applicant. 

Why there is so much interest in orthopedic surgery residency?

“Orthopedics is such a rewarding specialty because you’re working with patients who have a significant problem, and oftentimes you’re correcting it. You see your patients’ functionality and quality of life dramatically improve.” says Wade Faerber, DO, program director of the orthopedic surgery residency at Riverside University Health System in Moreno Valley, California.

This seems to be consensual among orthopedics residency program directors:

“There is instant gratification that comes from repairing someone rather than taking care of someone with a chronic condition like high blood pressure,” refers Joel L. Rush, DO, who directs the orthopedics residency at Broward Health Medical Center in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

In addition to personal fulfillment, there is another important point that helps medical students choosing orthopedics as their specialty: the salary.

How much does an orthopedic surgery resident earn?

For the ones that want to choose an orthopedics residency because of the salary, there is great news! In the US, the average salary for an orthopedic surgery resident is $60,100 annually, according to the 2018 report from Medscape.

Residency salary

source: www.medscape.com

We can see that the salary on orthopedics is higher than the average of other residency specialties, 59.300$ annually.

Average orthopedic surgery resident salary

source: www.medscape.com


There is a lot of specialty options you can choose in orthopedics: Sports, Joint replacements, Shoulder, hand, knee, and so on. The salary you earn may depend on the specialty you choose.

Orthopedic surgery Residency salary by year

source: www.medscape.com

This graphic shows the evolution of the salary by residency year. The values are based on the average of every medical residency specialty. You can see that there is a difference between the first salary and the last salary as a medical resident. And when you finish the residency program, the salary increases more.

orthopedics salary

source: www.medscape.com

Orthopedic surgeons ranked no.1 in base salary and total compensation compared to other medical specialties. That’s why the salary you earn on residency, and after that, is one of the main reasons for so much interest in this specialty. 

At the beginning of this article, you saw that the gratification of helping people with serious physical problems is the other main reason to choose this residency specialty. It can be done with a surgery or with non-surgical procedures.

How often an orthopedic surgeon performs a surgery?

If you think that you will always be in the operating room after the residency program, sorry for disappointing you. That is not true! 

Normally, non-surgical maintenance of injuries or diseases is responsible for 50% of the time an orthopedic surgeon is working. 

So you should be prepared to spend half of your time in the doctor’s office. Orthopedic surgeons that work in a Hospital don’t select their cases and patients according to their agenda.

Can an orthopedic surgeon manage their time?

Currently, only about eight percent of orthopedic surgeons are employed solely by hospitals, although that number is predicted to increase over the next few years. Hospital employment is good for surgeons who want predictable hours and freedom from the stress of managing their own practices.

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However, working for a hospital means your schedule and activities are dictated. You can get some freedom to manage your time if you work at a clinic. Then yes, you can manage your time and lifestyle.

Being an orthopedic surgeon takes a lot of hard work, but it also gives a whole new level of self-realization to you, the one who embrace this work. If you are looking to apply for orthopedic surgery residency, we wish you good luck.

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