Career Advising

Specialty Choice: Surgery

surgeryGeneral surgery is a discipline of surgery having a central core of knowledge embracing anatomy, physiology, metabolism, immunology, nutrition, pathology, wound healing, shock and resuscitation, intensive care and neoplasia, which are common to all surgical specialties.

A general surgeon has specialized knowledge and experience related to the diagnosis, preoperative, operative and postoperative management, including the management of complications, in nine primary components of surgery, all of which are essential to the education of a broadly based surgeon:

(Source: American College of Surgeons)

Associated Societies

Quick Facts

The following information comes from the National Resident Matching Program's Charting Outcomes in the Match 2014 (PDF)  based on matched applicants in the United States.    

Advice for MS1 and MS2 Students

Q: What particular activities should first and second year students get involved with who are interested in pursuing this specialty?

Get started on research. Join the Surgery Interest Group. High scores in courses and boards are important throughout medical school (especially for the more competitive subspecialties and programs).

Q: Are research experiences important in your specialty?


Q: If so, do these need to be specialty specific research experiences?


Q: Does class rank matter?

Performing well in the first two years of medical school is always looked on favorably during residency interviews and prepares you to do well on your Step 1 exam. 15.3 percent of U.S. matched applicants are AOA.

Advice for MS3 and MS4 Students

Q: When should I ask for letters of recommendation (LORs)?

Ideally you should ask for letters in May, but absolutely no later than July, allowing your letter writers adequate time to upload your letter prior to the ERAS application submission date of Sept. 15. Your personal statement and CV should be ready as well, as many letter writers will request these so they can write you a strong letter.

Q: How many LORs do you need?


Q: Is a letter from a chair required?


Q: Do all letters need to be written by members of this specialty?


Q: Does your Step 2 CK score matter?


Q: What electives would you recommend for someone who is interested in pursuing this specialty?

SICU, Trauma, Internal Medicine, Pulmonary, Cardiology.

Q: Should a student interested in this specialty do away rotations?

This would depends on your goals.

Q: If so, how many “aways” do you recommend and when should they be completed?

The choice of if and when to do an audition rotation should be personalized based on goals.

Q: Which month is recommended to take off to interview?


Similar Specialties to Consider

Residency Programs

Available Fellowships

  • Breast surgery
  • Cardiothoracic surgery
  • Colorectal surgery
  • Endocrine surgery
  • Hand surgery
  • Laparoscopic surgery/minimally invasive surgery
  • Pediatric surgery
  • Surgical oncology
  • Transplant surgery
  • Trauma surgery/critical care medicine
  • Vascular surgery

Looking into the Future/Changes in Health Care

General surgery is on the "cutting edge" as it continues to reinvent itself to the benefit of the surgical patient. Due to today's high-tech instrumentation and advanced technology, procedures such as major abdominal surgery are now replaced with minimally invasive laparoscopic techniques that often reduce pain, accelerate recuperation and reduce cost without sacrificing good outcomes. Surgical research into disease processes such as immunology and genetics have redefined treatment options specific to individual patients, opening doors to better understanding the etiologies of disease and its progression. (Source: American College of Surgeons, 2016)

Additional Information

See the Career Essentials Pilot Page regarding specialty specific advice in General Surgery for more detailed information and resources.


Last edited on 09/20/2016.