A general surgeon has expertise in the diagnosis and care of patients with diseases and disorders affecting the abdomen, digestive tract, endocrine system, breast, skin, and blood vessels. A general surgeon is also trained in the care of pediatric and cancer patients and in the treatment of patients who are injured or critically ill. Common problems treated by general surgeons include hernias, breast tumors, gallstones, appendicitis, pancreatitis, bowel obstructions, colon inflammation, and colon cancer. General surgeons increasingly provide care through the use of minimally invasive and endoscopic techniques.1

Surgeons can receive training in the following subspecialties: 

  • Hand Surgery - expertise in the investigation, preservation, and restoration by medical, surgical and rehabilitative means, of all structures of the hand and wrist.
  • Hospice and Palliative Medicine - prevent and relieve the suffering experienced by patients with life-limiting illnesses.
  • Pediatric Surgery - expertise in surgical conditions in premature and newborn infant, children and adolescents.
  • Surgical Critical Care - expertise in the critically ill and postoperative patient, particularly the trauma victim and those with multiple organ dysfunction.
  • Vascular Surgery - expertise in surgical disorders of the blood vessels, excluding the intercranial vessels or the heart.

Training/residency information

The residency for general surgery is five years. Up to 2 years of additional training is required to practice in one of the subspecialty areas.

Salary information

The annual salary for general surgeons ranges from $271,000 to $356,938.2

For more information

1 The American Board of Medical Specialties. Guide to Physician Specialties. Evanston, IL: American Board of Medical Specialties; February 2008.
2 2008 Physician Compensation Survey [special feature]. Modern Healthcare. July 14, 2008: 28-32.

For more information about this specialty, including the nature of the work, personal characteristics, residency requirements, match data, workforce statistics, compensation, and relevant links and readings, please see the AAMC page on this specialty (requires login to AAMC site. See "Specialty Pages" tab).

Department of Surgery Residency Program

Residency Director: Mark Koruda

Career Goal Advisors

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Cim Choices Newsletter

August 2010 - Volume 3, Issue 1 (PDF)

In this issue:

Spotlight on Specialties: General Surgery
Match Corner: Tips for Communication with Residency Programs
Ask the Advisor: The importance of board scores and switching specialties during residency
CiM Toolbox: PVIPS update