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The Secret to Landing Dream Orthopedic Surgeon Jobs in 2024

a man and woman in scrubs leaned over a patient performing surgery

Introduction to Orthopedic Surgeon Jobs

Orthopedic surgery is a specialized field of medicine focused on diagnosing and treating disorders of the musculoskeletal system. This includes bones, joints, ligaments, tendons, muscles and nerves. Orthopedic surgeons, also known as orthopedists, use both surgical and non-surgical means to treat a wide range of conditions affecting the extremities, spine, and associated structures.

Some of the most common procedures performed by orthopedic surgeons include:

  • Joint replacement surgery - knee, hip, shoulder, elbow, etc.

  • Arthroscopic surgery - repairing ligaments, cartilage, tendons

  • Spine surgery - discectomy, laminectomy, spinal fusion

  • Fracture treatment - internal and external fixation of broken bones 

  • Soft tissue repair - rotator cuff, ACL reconstruction

  • Pediatric orthopedic surgery - scoliosis, clubfoot, etc.

The job outlook for orthopedic surgeons is excellent due to our aging population. The demand for orthopedic services is projected to increase in the coming years. Many orthopedic surgeons subspecialize in a particular area of orthopedic jobs like sports medicine, hand surgery, pediatrics or joint reconstruction. Overall, orthopedic surgery is a rewarding career path that allows you to make a significant difference in improving patients' quality of life.

Orthopedic Surgeon Education

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To become an orthopedic surgeon, you first need a strong educational foundation. This starts with achieving excellent grades in your undergraduate education, particularly in the sciences like biology, chemistry, physics, and mathematics. You will need to take the MCAT exam for admission into medical school.

Medical school takes 4 years to complete and will provide training in areas like anatomy, pathology, pharmacology, and medical ethics. During your 3rd and 4th years, you will get hands-on clinical experience and complete rotations in various specialties including orthopedic surgery. It is important to excel during your surgery rotations to strengthen your residency application. 

After graduating medical school, you must complete an orthopedic surgery residency which takes 5 years. Here you will train under experienced orthopedic surgeons, learning surgical techniques and treating a high volume of patients. The first year is a general surgery internship before moving into orthopedic-specific training. Residency involves long hours spent in the operating room, emergency department, and clinic. You will learn how to diagnose and treat the full scope of musculoskeletal conditions.

The orthopedic surgery residency match is highly competitive, with applicants needing excellent test scores, grades, research experience, and strong letters of recommendation. About 6-8% of U.S. medical school seniors match into the full time orthopedic surgeon residency spots each year. Once matched,residency will fully prepare you for a career as an orthopedic surgeon. Some pursue subspecialty fellowships after residency for 1-2 additional years of focused training in areas like sports medicine or spine surgery.

Orthopedic Surgery Subspecialties

Orthopedic surgeons can choose to sub specialize in a particular area of orthopedics and musculoskeletal care. Some common sub-specialties include:

3 people running in the predawn dark as the sun is about to rise

Sports Medicine

Sports medicine orthopedic surgeons treat injuries related to athletic activity and exercise. They perform surgeries like arthroscopy for torn ligaments and cartilage and help athletes recover and return to play. Sports medicine doctors may work with professional, college, or recreational athletes.

Pediatric Orthopedics 

Pediatric orthopedic surgeons treat musculoskeletal conditions in infants, children, and adolescents. They correct issues like scoliosis, clubfoot, hip dysplasia, and broken bones from injury.

Orthopedic Trauma 

Trauma orthopedic surgeons treat severe fractures, dislocations, and other injuries from accidents and trauma. They work in emergency rooms and trauma centers to stabilize and repair damaged bone and soft tissue structures.

Arthroplasty and Joint Replacement

Joint and total joint replacement orthopedic surgeons perform procedures like total knee and hip replacements to relieve arthritis pain and restore joint function. They specialize in surgery of the hip, knee, shoulder, and other joints.

Spine Surgery

Spine orthopedic surgeons treat back and neck conditions like disc herniations, spinal stenosis, and scoliosis. They perform spinal fusion, laminectomy, and other surgeries needed to address pain and neurologic issues arising from the cervical, thoracic, and lumbar spine.

Musculoskeletal Oncology

a skeleton with its hand on its chin

Orthopedic oncologists diagnose and treat bone and soft tissue tumors like osteosarcoma and Ewing's sarcoma. They often collaborate with medical oncologists and radiation oncologists to provide a multidisciplinary team approach.

Choosing a subspecialty allows orthopedic surgeons to focus their skills and provide advanced care in a particular area of orthopedics. Subspecialty training generally requires 1-2 years of additional fellowship after completing residency.

Orthopedic Surgeon Salary and Compensation

Orthopedic surgeons are among the highest paid medical specialists due to the long training requirements and complex, physically demanding nature of their work. According to data from recruiting firm Merritt Hawkins, the average starting salary offered to orthopedic surgeons was $560,000 in 2022. However, orthopedic surgeons can make significantly more based on their experience, reputation, location, and subspecialty.

Highest Paying States and Regions

The top paying states for orthopedic surgeons are typically states with large populations and higher costs of living. For example, California, New York, Florida, and Texas tend to offer some of the highest orthopedic surgeon salaries. Rural and smaller metro areas tend to pay less. The northeast and west coast are the highest paying regions.

Salary by Subspecialty 

Within orthopedics, some subspecialties are more lucrative than others. For example, orthopedic spine surgeons often earn more than general orthopedists, with average salaries over $750,000. Sports medicine and joint replacement surgeons also tend to be on the higher end. Hand surgery and pediatrics are among the lower paying orthopedic subspecialties.

Potential Earnings

a zoomed in roll of money

While average salaries for orthopedic surgeons start around $500,000, there is significant potential to earn much more. Experienced orthopedic surgeons at top hospitals and private practices can make over $1 million annually. Bonuses, profit sharing, and incentives can also enhance total compensation. Overall, orthopedic surgery remains one of the most lucrative fields in medicine.

Finding Orthopedic Surgeon Jobs

When searching for open orthopedic surgeon positions, there are several resources job seekers can utilize:

Recruiters - Many physician recruiting firms specialize in placing orthopedic surgeons. They maintain databases of open jobs and can match candidates to suitable opportunities. Recruiters handle the job search process for you and present you with appropriate openings. 

Job Boards - Websites like Indeed, PracticeLink, and Health eCareers allow you to search for orthopedic surgeon jobs in your preferred location. You can set up job alerts and apply directly through these sites. 

Professional Associations - Groups like the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine, and state orthopedic societies frequently list job openings on their sites. Some have job boards specifically for orthopedic surgery.

Networking - Connecting with other orthopedic surgeons can lead to job opportunities before they are publicly posted. Attend conferences and tap into your professional network to find out about openings. 

Hospitals and Practices - Search the career sites of hospitals, health systems, and orthopedic groups to find openings. Larger groups tend to have their own physician recruiting teams. 

Academic Institutions - Teaching hospitals and medical schools with orthopedic residency programs often post orthopaedic surgeon job openings on their sites. This site allows you to explore academic medicine opportunities.

Recruiting Events - Attending in-person physician recruiting events like the Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons allows you to connect directly with potential physician employers.

Casting a wide net to search for jobs, and utilizing multiple orthopedic surgeon job search resources will help you find the right opportunity that matches your career goals.

Applying for Orthopedic Surgery Jobs

a man shaking another mans hand after a job interview

Once you've identified open orthopedic surgeon positions you're interested in, the next step is applying and interviewing for the roles. Here are some tips to help you create a strong application and interview successfully:

Tailor Your Cover Letter

Customize your cover letter for each orthopedic surgeon job opening. Highlight your most relevant experiences and qualifications for that specific role and practice. Express your interest in the position and why you're a great fit. 

Polish Your CV

Update your CV to showcase your orthopedic surgery skills, experience and achievements. Emphasize your residency, fellowships, board certifications, surgical volume, presentations, research, and awards. Have other orthopedic surgeons review your CV.

Prepare for Interviews

Research the practice, hospital, and orthopedic group you're interviewing with. Review typical orthopedic surgeon interview questions and prepare clear and concise responses. Be ready to discuss your background, interest in the role, and fit for the position.

Questions to Ask

Come prepared with thoughtful questions for the interviewers about the practice, call schedule, mentorship, professional development opportunities, and more. This shows your interest in the position.

Follow Up

Send thank you notes to all of your interviewers. Consider including a brief remark on something you discussed to make yourself memorable. Reaffirm your interest and qualifications for the orthopedic surgeon job in your follow up.

Preparing a strong application and interviewing successfully takes time and dedication. But it's a key step to landing your ideal orthopedic surgery job and progressing in your career. Use these tips to put your best foot forward.

Orthopedic Surgeon Job Duties and Work Life

the side profile of a surgeons upper torso as he performs surgery

An orthopedic surgeon's daily responsibilities involve examining, diagnosing, and treating disorders and injuries related to the musculoskeletal system. This includes bones, joints, ligaments, tendons, nerves, and muscles.

Common procedures performed by orthopedic surgeons include:

  • Joint replacement surgeries like hip and knee replacements

  • Arthroscopic surgery to repair torn ligaments or meniscus injuries 

  • Treatment of fractures including casting, pinning, plating, and intramedullary rodding

  • Spinal surgery such as spinal fusion, laminectomy, and discectomy

  • Shoulder and hand surgery like rotator cuff and carpal tunnel repairs

Orthopedic surgeons generally work full time, and many work extended hours and irregular schedules. Surgeries are often scheduled early mornings or late afternoons when operating rooms are more readily available. The typical work week for orthopedic surgeons averages around 50-60 hours.

Most orthopedic surgeons take emergency call at hospitals to treat patients admitted for orthopedic trauma or fractures outside of normal work hours. Call frequency varies based on the practice setting and number of orthopedic surgeons sharing call. Private practice surgeons may take call 1-2 nights per week on average.

Achieving work-life balance as an orthopedic surgeon can be challenging due to long, irregular hours. However, the field does offer flexibility in scheduling elective surgeries and procedures. With proper time management, many orthopedic surgeons successfully balance their careers and personal lives. Partners in private practices also have more control over call schedules and time off compared to hospital-employed surgeons.

Pros and Cons of an Orthopedic Surgery Career

Orthopedic surgery can be an incredibly rewarding career, but it does come with tradeoffs that are important to consider. Here are some of the key pros and cons:


  • Rewarding, hands-on work improving patients' quality of life through procedures like joint replacements, fracture repairs, and spinal surgery. Seeing patients regain mobility is extremely gratifying.

  • Orthopedic surgeons are highly compensated physicians, with an average salary over $500,000 annually. This allows for a very comfortable lifestyle. 

  • Prestige and respect as experts in musculoskeletal care. Orthopedic surgeons are viewed as skilled surgical specialists. 

  • Opportunity to help people of all ages, from pediatric to elderly patients, restore function. 

  • Cutting-edge technology like robotics and 3D printing are advancing the field. 

  • Good job prospects and career stability. Orthopedics is a growing field with demand for surgeons.


  • Extensive training required, including 4 years of medical school and 5+ years of residency. Student debt can be substantial. 

  • Intense pressure and long, irregular hours in surgery, on call, and managing patient issues. Work-life balance can be difficult.

  • Performing surgery and delivering bad news to patients can be emotionally draining.

  • Risk of lawsuits and malpractice issues is a concern requiring substantial insurance.

  • Constant need to stay updated on latest techniques, technologies and research.

  • Physically demanding profession, spending hours on your feet in surgery. Risk of occupational injuries.

Overall, orthopedic surgery offers the chance to do highly rewarding work improving patients' lives. However, the training is arduous and hours long. If you have the dedication, it can lead to an excellent career. But be aware of the demands and stresses involved.

Featured Orthopedic Surgeon Job Openings

the lower half of a person walking with a briefcase

These new jobs are just a sample of the many exciting orthopedic surgeon job opportunities available right now across the country as of 2/27/24:

Total Joints Replacement Surgeon - Phoenix, AZ

Seeking a board-certified orthopedic surgeon to perform hip, knee, shoulder and other total joint replacement surgeries. Join an established private practice group based in Phoenix. Competitive salary and benefits. Call schedule 1:4. 

Pediatric Orthopedic Surgeon - Seattle Children's Hospital

Seattle Children's Hospital is searching for a pediatric orthopedic surgeon to treat musculoskeletal conditions in infants, children and adolescents. Ranked as one of the top children's hospitals in the country. Excellent work-life balance and access to cutting-edge research. 

Spine Surgeon - Cleveland Clinic - Cleveland, OH

The Cleveland Clinic is hiring a fellowship-trained orthopedic spine surgeon to join their nationally ranked orthopedics department. Perform complex spine procedures from laminectomies to spinal fusions. Opportunities for teaching and research. 

Shoulder and Elbow Surgeon - Hospital for Special Surgery - New York, NY

Seeking a board-eligible/certified orthopedic surgeon specializing in shoulder and elbow procedures to join the top-ranked orthopedics department at Hospital for Special Surgery in New York City. Cutting edge facilities and chance to work with world-renowned surgeons.

Orthopedic Trauma Surgeon - Gundersen Health System - La Crosse, WI

Gundersen Health System has an opening today for a skilled orthopedic trauma surgeon. Treat bone fractures, dislocations and other traumatic injuries at a Level II trauma center serving patients throughout western Wisconsin, southeast Minnesota and northeast Iowa.

Let me know if you would like to email me to expand on any of these job listings or have additional suggestions!

Get Started in an Orthopedic Surgery Career

So you want to become an orthopedic surgeon? Here are the key steps to launch your career:

Complete Your Undergraduate Education

A woman in a lab coat holding the tip of a stethoscope up

First, earn a bachelor's degree at an accredited university. Maintain excellent grades in biology, chemistry, physics, and math courses to stand out for medical school admission. Major in a science field like biology or biochemistry.

Attend Medical School

After college, attend and graduate from a 4-year MD program at an accredited medical school. Aim for top grades on exams like the USMLE. Complete clinical rotations in orthopedic surgery to gain experience.

Complete a Surgical Residency

After med school, complete a 5-year orthopedic surgery residency program. This intense on-the-job training teaches you specialized surgical skills under experienced attending surgeons. Apply for competitive programs that match your interests.

Obtain Licensure and Certification 

Take licensing exams to obtain your medical license to practice medicine. Get board certified in orthopedic surgery by passing certification exams after residency. Maintain certification through ongoing education and assessments.

Build Your Professional Network

Attending medical conferences, joining physician organizations, and connecting with mentors are key to building relationships with others in your field. These contacts can help you find job opportunities.

Search for Orthopedic Surgeon Jobs

Look for open positions by networking, working with recruiters, browsing job boards, and applying directly to hospitals and practices. Find the right fit based on your subspecialty interests, desired work-life balance, and compensation.

With dedication and persistence, you can achieve your dream of a surgery physician becoming a surgery physician or an orthopedic surgeon. Reach out for guidance and use available university resources to launch a rewarding career improving patients' quality of life.

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