5 Things To Know About Becoming an Orthopedist

5 Things I Wish I Knew Before I Became an Orthopedist

Editor’s Note: I’m grateful to the docs at Texas Orthopedics for contributing this guest post to The Specialist Series.  Becoming an orthopedist isn’t easy. It’s incredibly competitive and difficult to break into.  But, there are some amazing opportunities!  Read the article to find some of them!

An orthopedist (or orthopedic surgeon) is medical practitioner who deals with the musculoskeletal system. The musculoskeletal system is comprised of bones, ligaments, joints, muscles, tendons, and connective tissue.

Listen to The Scope of Practice Podcast for more great content on growing your business and mastering your personal finances.

According to a study conducted by Medscape, orthopedists continue to be among the top-earning physicians in the medical field. There is an increased demand for orthopedists, especially with the rise in musculoskeletal problems. Opportunities abound for anyone interested in becoming an orthopedist.

In Dr. Benjamin Carson’s words, “A good surgeon doesn’t just concentrate on technical ability but also on the appropriateness of what they are doing.” Continue reading to get an in-depth understanding of how to become an orthopedic surgeon.

1. What is the Education Requirement for an Orthopedist?

Earn a bachelor’s degree in any medical field from an accredited university or college. The course undertaken should provide you with a wide range of scientific knowledge. Consider taking part in many internships while undertaking this course because it will lessen the hassle of getting into medical school.

Taking your Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT) comes after completing your bachelor’s degree. The Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) administers this test to gauge your knowledge and skills. Passing this test guarantees you passage to a medical school, but an opportunity to retake the exam is offered to students when they fail.  Orthopedics is incredibly competitive, so admissions committees will look more favorably on high MCAT scores.

Medical school takes another four years to learn sciences such as genetics, anatomy, physiology, biochemistry, and the different areas of orthopedics. You will also have to take national licensing exams that will play a part in earning you a residency spot. Keep in mind that it is essential to select a medical school with a proven record of placing its students in orthopedic residencies.

Click to download for free!

2. What Does an Orthopedics Residency Entail?

Residencies within orthopedics run for a period of typically four to five years. They are available to students with a training certificate that signifies that they can legally work under supervision. A resident does clinical rotations by working in different orthopedics departments such foot and ankle, research, trauma, hand, spine, and oncology.

The first two years of residency deal with patient care, clinical judgment, and comprehension of the disease process. The third and fourth years deal with attaining clinical and surgical skills, whereas the final year provides the resident a chance to be in a managerial position. By the fourth and fifth year, a resident should demonstrate advanced knowledge, competency, and professionalism in how they conduct their duties.

A wise man once stated that, “You do not study to pass the test. You study to prepare for the day when you are the only thing between a patient and the grave.” Performing well in your residency draws the line between you being a student and you becoming a professional.

3. How Do I Become a Licensed and Certified Orthopedist?

Licensing and certification requirements vary depending on the state where one is intending to carry out their practice. One is only officially recognized as a certified physician if they hold the right medical licensure.

To pass licensing exams is one of the requirements of becoming a licensed orthopedist doctor. These exams can either be the Comprehensive Osteopathic Medical Licensing Examination (COMLEX) or more commonly the United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE). It would be best to attain specific scores at different levels of the tests, or else you will have to do retakes.

The mandatory licensing process is different from the board certification. Board certification is voluntary, requires that you have a medical license, proof of completed residency from an accredited institution and that you perform per the required board examination scores. Being both a licensed and certified orthopedist has its advantages, but skills and proficiency are even more important, irrespective of certification.

4. How Much Money Does an Orthopedist Make?orthopedist

The average annual salary for licensed orthopedists was $482,000 in 2019, whereas a resident orthopedist was making $60,100 in 2018. Orthopedists work for long hours compared to many other physicians. The money they earn can be quite motivating.  However, picking your specialty based solely on income potential is extremely hazardous.

You will most probably be engaged in this practice for many years. Cultivating a unique sense of drive fueled by passion will make it easy for you to carry out work even on days when you are less motivated.

Jonathan Swift said that, “A wise person should have money in their head, but not in their heart.”  You stand a risk of choosing the wrong career path if you let money be your most significant source of motivation. Therefore, focus on finding a balance between your motive to become an orthopedist and the excitement for the money you will make.

5. Where Do I Go to Look for an Orthopedist Job?

The events of 2020 markedly raised the unemployment rates. This has left many people worried about acquiring employment and ensuring that their jobs are secure.

Credible websites in the medical field can be your go-to place. These can range from job websites to web pages on well-known sites like the American Academy of Orthopedics Surgeons careers page. Signing up for newsletters and job notifications will also keep you in the loop of job opportunities.

Properly utilizing your residency can work in favor of earning you a job. Showcasing diligence and prowess will improve your chances of getting retained once you have completed your residency. Also, make time to attend events within the medical industry and network with different professionals.

orthopedistThriving in Your Career

Just like any other doctor, being an orthopedist is all about being caring and kind to your patients, being honest about their medical situation and being a good listener. While you may know way more than your patient, it’s only the patient that knows how they feel.

Therefore, by being a good listener, you’ll be able to correctly diagnose their ailments. Be empathetic and friendly to every patient that visits you. Be willing to learn each day and grow as a person and as a medical practitioner. That’s how you’ll thrive in your career.

Further Reading


Meet the docs from Texas Orthopedics


Texas Orthopedics, Sports & Rehabilitation Associates is the largest provider of comprehensive musculoskeletal services.  We have eight locations in the Austin, Texas metro area. Our orthopedic specialists are trained in every subspecialty of orthopedics, including spine, shoulder, elbow, hand and wrist, hip, knee, foot and ankle, and sports medicine. We also have physiatrists who specialize in non-surgical spine and neck treatment and electrodiagnostic medicine, as well as rheumatologists to treat arthritis and certain autoimmune diseases.

At Texas Orthopedics, our doctors, physician assistants, nurse practitioners, and professional staff are here to care for your entire family’s musculoskeletal needs, from head to toe. Our physicians work together to seamlessly manage their patients’ care and to maintain the highest standards in patient satisfaction and customer service.


Please leave a comment below!  What’s something you want to know about being an orthopedist?

Full Disclosure: Some of the links to the resources listed above may be affiliate links, which means that I will receive a small commission if you click through and make a purchase. But it doesn’t cost you anything extra—it’s just a way to show you appreciate what we do here. Thanks for this.


Click here to return to Orthopedics

Click here to return to The Specialist Series

Please leave a comment below.  What questions do you have for Dr. Dhir?  If you’re a urologist, what’s something you wish you knew before starting your career?

career, orthopedics, practice management, specialist series, surgeon

Comments (2)

  • Hey, I’ve been looking for this information all over the internet. Thank you for providing this in a quality manner on herniated disc surgery. My friend got a herniated disc surgery in the neck there and he has recovered wonderfully, while my brother got a spinal disc replacement, which was pretty successful to.

  • This post made an excellent point that when looking to have an orthopedist hired, it is best that we consider their qualifications. It makes sense as in doing so, we will be certain that they are knowledgeable and skilled. Assuming that I need an orthopedist, I will definitely look at their qualifications.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Copyright © 2022 The Scope of Practice. All Rights Reserved.

Social Share Buttons and Icons powered by Ultimatelysocial