An aspiring orthopedic surgeon should start preparing in high school with AP and international baccalaureate courses in science and math, plus related extracurricular activities such as volunteering at a medical center or blood drive. After high school, be ready for eight years of rigorous course work while competing with the best and brightest students from all over the world.
To enter medical school, you will need at least a year of classes in chemistry, organic chemistry, physics, biology, English and math to successfully apply to most medical schools. Some schools have more demanding requirements, so you should check the specific requirements of a school if you're aiming for studying at a particular program. The simplest way to finish these requirements is by getting a Bachelor's degree in a hard science like biology, physics or chemistry. Some schools also offer a Bachelor's in pre-medicine, which specifically prepares students for medical school.
Your first two years of medical school will be classroom study of courses including gross anatomy, human cellular biology, biochemistry, pathology and specific common medical conditions, like heart attacks or diabetes. Starting in the third year, you will participate in clinical rotations as a junior member of a medical team. In the fourth year, your rotation will be specialized. Throughout this course work, especially during the fourth year rotation, you will take elective classes focusing on both surgery and orthopedics.
After completing medical school course work, any doctor must complete a residency program where they work as a doctor in a specific field, under the guidance of more experienced practitioners. To qualify as an orthopedic surgeon, you will need to complete a surgical residency in an orthopedics facility. During this five-year residency, you will participate in hundreds of arthroscopies, hand surgeries, foot surgeries, traumatic, pediatric and spinal surgeries, and log each to demonstrate your qualifications.
The American Osteopathic Association, which regulates orthopedic surgery, requires surgeons to take regular tests to maintain their license. It's possible to prepare for these tests simply by working in your field, and the AOA provides self-testing resources to help working surgeons do that. However, it's easier to be prepared by taking regular classes. As an example, the American Academy of Orthopedic surgeons offers continuing education classes in specific injuries like meniscal root tears, basic science, pain management, sports medicine, small business and ethics.
- American Osteopathic Association: Basic Standards for Residency Training in Orthopedic Surgery
- National Association of Orthopaedic Technologists: Certification
- StartMedicine.com: Required Pre-Med Courses and Degree
- Student Doctor Network: Medical School 101 -- What Medical School is Really Like
- American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons: Continuing Medical Education