Though it takes advanced degrees to become a surgeon, it is worth the effort.
Though it takes advanced degrees to become a surgeon, it is worth the effort.

General surgeons are some of the most highly educated professionals in the world. College, medical school and residency can take a minimum of 13 years to complete. While this may seem like a great deal of time, CNN Money notes that this profession is second among the top 20 highest-paying jobs in the country. And general surgeons deserve such high pay, because not only do they perform surgery, but they must manage post-operative care as well.

High School Diploma

Overall, the high school years create the foundation for the 13 or more years of study needed to become a general surgeon. The 13 years of medical study typically includes four years of undergraduate studies, four years of doctoral degree studies and five years of residency. A doctor who wants to specialize in a particular subject needs to add a couple of more years to complete the educational process to be a general surgeon.

Bachelor's Degree

Completing a bachelor's degree is mandatory, as it is the basic requirement for admission to medical school. The degree should be from an accredited university or college. During the college years, some choose to major in biology or chemistry. Some schools offer a pre-med tract, and this is a popular choice for those who intend to pursue the medical profession. During the last two years, the Medical College Admission Test should be prepared for, as a high score is vital for acceptance into medical school.

Doctoral Degree

This degree takes four years to earn at a medical school and is required for acceptance into a residency program. The four years of medical study includes both classroom study and laboratory experience. In general, the curriculum also includes the legal and ethical aspects of medicine. The last two years of the degree course provides students with firsthand experience on all the important branches of medicine, thereby aiding students' decision-making process when selecting a specialty.

Surgical Residency

Residency can take anywhere from three to eight years. Although it does not confer a degree, it is mandatory. It is only at the end of residency that doctors are certified and given the freedom to practice as medical professionals. Residency is vital for enhancing skills and learning to be more independent, responsible and understanding. On successful completion, the American Board of Surgery's two-part exam must be passed to be certified as a general surgeon.

2016 Salary Information for Physicians and Surgeons

Physicians and surgeons earned a median annual salary of $204,950 in 2016, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. On the low end, physicians and surgeons earned a 25th percentile salary of $131,980, meaning 75 percent earned more than this amount. The 75th percentile salary is $261,170, meaning 25 percent earn more. In 2016, 713,800 people were employed in the U.S. as physicians and surgeons.