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Which major should I choose for undergrad if I want to become a surgeon?

Should I go for pre-med or just biology/chemistry degrees? What are the steps it takes to become a surgeon? Is it the same as being a regular physician?

Furthermore, are there things I'm supposed to be doing in undergrad if I want to become a surgeon?

Thank you for answering my questions!

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Paul’s Answer

Many medical schools do not emphasize a particular major, for example I had a personal physician who majored in history.

The most important element is to meet the requirements for medical school, including GPA, class requirements for entry, and to take the medical school entry examination.

With this being said, you are thinking in the correct way. Taking a major in pre-med or one of the biological sciences will give you more exposure to what you will need in order to become a surgeon.

It is said that "Generalists" rule the world, and Pre-Med is a generalist major, that will provide exposure to many of the subjects you will need.

I would look at Pre-Med and see what it offers.
Thank you comment icon Okay, thank you so much for the advice! Andrea
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Jacob’s Answer

Becoming a surgeon is a rigorous and rewarding journey. To set yourself on the path to becoming a surgeon, here's a comprehensive guide to help you make informed decisions during your undergraduate years:

**1. Choose the Right Major:**
- While there's no strict requirement, many pre-medical students major in biology, chemistry, or a related field. These majors provide a solid foundation in science, which is essential for medical school and the surgical field.

**2. Pre-Med vs. Biology/Chemistry Degrees:**
- Pre-med is not a specific major but rather a track that includes prerequisite courses for medical school. You can major in biology or chemistry while completing pre-med requirements simultaneously. It's important to check with your college or university to ensure you're fulfilling the necessary prerequisites.

**3. Steps to Become a Surgeon:**
- Complete a Bachelor's Degree: This typically takes four years. Focus on maintaining a strong GPA and fulfilling pre-med requirements.
- Take the MCAT (Medical College Admission Test): This exam assesses your knowledge and skills in science and critical thinking. Your MCAT score is a crucial component of your medical school application.
- Attend Medical School: Medical school typically lasts four years and includes both classroom coursework and clinical rotations.
- Complete Residency: After medical school, aspiring surgeons enter a surgical residency program, which can last from 5 to 7 years.
- Fellowship (optional): Some surgeons choose to pursue additional fellowship training in a specific surgical subspecialty, such as cardiothoracic or pediatric surgery.

**4. Things to Do in Undergrad:**
- Maintain a High GPA: Medical schools are competitive, so strive for a strong academic record.
- Gain Clinical Experience: Volunteer or work in healthcare settings to gain exposure to patient care. This will also help you confirm your interest in surgery.
- Research Opportunities: Participate in research projects, especially in fields related to surgery or healthcare.
- Extracurricular Activities: Join pre-med clubs, student organizations, or leadership roles to demonstrate your commitment and teamwork skills.
- Letters of Recommendation: Build strong relationships with professors and mentors who can write compelling letters of recommendation for your medical school applications.

**5. Stay Informed:**
- Keep up-to-date with healthcare trends, surgical advances, and medical news. Being well-informed will help you make informed decisions throughout your journey.

**6. Seek Mentorship:**
- Connect with surgeons and medical professionals who can provide guidance and insights into the surgical field. Mentorship can be invaluable in your path to becoming a surgeon.

Remember, becoming a surgeon requires dedication, hard work, and resilience. It's a long and challenging journey, but the impact you can have on patients' lives makes it incredibly rewarding. Continuously assess your goals and stay committed to your education and clinical experiences as you work towards your dream of becoming a surgeon. Good luck!
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Scott’s Answer

As an internist (a general medical doctor who is like a pediatrician but for adults) I am very familiar with the process. There are several specific courses required for acceptance to medical school but there is no specific required major course of study required. You do not have to major in a science. If you choose to major in philosophy, that is fine but be sure to take those required classes. The college advisor should be able to help you select the correct classes. Though the road to becoming a doctor is long, it is a wonderful and impactful career so good luck in your journey!
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Waseem’s Answer

Hi
First you have to get admission to a medical school followed by the residency program in surgery. For entry to the medical school you have to study physics, chemistry and biology.
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Katherine’s Answer

During your undergrad, please reach out and connect with your school’s Pre-Health/Health Professions advising office! The advisors usually offer great personalized help and there will be events and activities/info sessions/shadowing opportunities that will contribute to your career aspirations.
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Thomas’s Answer

I started out as a Social Studies major looking to teach high school history! Late change to pre-med. So I had much less science courses than my med school classmates. I think that left me behind in the basic sciences in med school and I always thought my classmates had it “easier” than me. But I had a clinical background that put me ahead of many once we got to actually seeing patients.
A good background in sciences will help in med school, but everybody applying to med sch has those. What makes you unique? Have you shadowed a surgeon to see what they really do day-to-day? Do you have anything that makes you stand out? Can any doctor write a letter of reference with real info on your abilities (not just as a family friend).
And not to discourage you but what is your backup plan? More applicants than openings to med sch. A Masters in a science field could really help especially if Masters is from a university with a med sch.
Meanwhile, find activities to set you apart. Volunteer, work at a local doctors office, work as a nurses aide (I did a year as an orderly).
Major in a science but minor in an unrelated field you really enjoy!
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Michael’s Answer

Hi Andrea:

Physicians and Surgeons are similar in their responsibilities and duties in taking care of patients and in dealing with hospital staff and medical personnel. The main difference between the two professionals is that Surgeons operate on patients whereas Physicians do not. Physicians diagnose patients and treat their medical conditions. Operations performed by Surgeons can be treating injuries like broken bones, removal of diseases like tumors and cancers, deformities, etc.

While in high school, one will need to focus on science and math classes to prepare to be a Surgeon. Chemistry and biology will be the core science courses. For math, algebra, calculus and statistics will be needed. Both concentrations will enable you to focus and refine your analytical skills for research; complex problem solving; investigative and innovative critical thinking; attention to detail; etc.

Other skills that will need to be built upon center around team building, team work and communication. In any work culture, collaboration among team members, staff and partner departments occur on a daily basis. As a Surgeon, communication is essential and critical when dealing with hospital staff and patients. A college course in Public Speaking, Communication and English will help with one's communication and writing skills.

To become a Surgeon, a Bachelor Degree in Biology, pre-med or another science related field has to be earned at a college or university. Afterwards, a doctorate degree from an accredited medical school has to be obtained. The next phase will be training through a medical residency as well as medical certification and licensing.

For education and training, it will take up to 14 years to become a Surgeon. The Bachelor Degree will be between 4-5 years. Medical school will be another 4-5 years. Medical residency, medical certification and licensing can take up to 3-4 years.

Being a Surgeon can be a demanding and rewarding profession, especially depending if there is a specialized field or concentration. Remember, as a Surgeon, you are the professional who saves lives. Your patients are impacted by you.

While in college, here are some undergraduate degrees to major in order to become a Surgeon:

- Organic Chemistry
- Biochemistry
- Biology
- Chemistry

It will be best to seek advice from your high school guidance counselor as well as teachers to help you focus your interests for a specific major in college.

According to U.S. News & World Report, here is an overview of pursuing medical school:

https://www.usnews.com/best-graduate-schools/top-medical-schools

According to U.S. News & World Report, here are the top colleges and universities to consider for Medical School:

- Harvard University
- John Hopkins University
- University of Pennsylvania (Perelman)
- Columbia University
- Duke University
- Stanford University
- University of California (San Francisco)
- Vanderbilt University
- Washington University (St. Louis)
- Cornell University (Weill)
- New York University (Grossman)
- Yale University

https://www.usnews.com/best-graduate-schools/top-medical-schools/research-rankings

When reviewing colleges and universities, it is best to check the following:

- In-State vs Out of State Tuition
- Internships
- Scholarships
- Career Placement upon graduation
- Course work and offered classes
- Post-Graduate Degrees - Master and Doctoral

There are scholarships based on need, academic performance, school activities, sports involvement and community service. So, it will be to your advantage to seek out these types of scholarships. All of the academic staff at your high school that you interact with can write letters of recommendations for you based on what was just stated above. These recommendations can greatly help when filling out college and scholarship applications.

Scholarship applications can start to be submitted during your Junior year and will continue throughout your Senior year in high school. It is best to ask your Academic Advisor/School Counselor on the timeline process as well. Scholarship applications will have specific deadlines and requirements to meet in order to be submitted for review and consideration.

You may want to start to compile your resume/portfolio since a majority of scholarship applications will require academic grade point average (GPA), academic accomplishments, school activities (clubs, sports, etc.), community involvement (volunteer, church, etc.), academic and personal recommendations, etc. There may be essay requirements on why you are a qualified candidate to receive the scholarship, what your future goals are academically and professionally and other questions centering around who you are, your beliefs, etc.

Here are a couple of links for College Scholarships:

https://www.mometrix.com/blog/scholarships-for-college/

https://www.nchchonors.org/students/awards-scholarships/national-scholarships

Also, it will be best to check with the colleges and universities that you will be applying to. You can check with the School/Department of your desired major, the Campus Career Center and the Register's Office for additional information for college scholarships and grants and specific requirements for qualifications.

Best wishes for your education and career path as a Surgeon!
Thank you comment icon Thank you so so much for taking your time to write out all of this wonderful information! :)) Andrea
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Madison’s Answer

You can choose ANY major to be a doctor! Pick something that is interesting to you! If you chose a science major things like anatomy or exercise physiology are more human science based rather than biology or chemistry and can be more related to medicine/surgery, but none are wrong to choose. You can join pre-med societies, surgical societies, attend meetings, shadow local surgeons, do research with surgeons
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