Career Advising

Specialty Choice: Orthopaedic Surgery

Orthopaedic Surgery

An orthopaedic surgeon is a physician devoted to the diagnosis, treatment, prevention and rehabilitation of injuries, disorders and diseases of the body’s musculoskeletal system. This system includes bones, joints, ligaments, muscles, nerves and tendons. (Source: American Academy of Orthopaedic 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?

Grades, involvement in the American Orthopaedic Association and research are especially important.

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?

Yes. 32.2 percent of U.S. matched applicants are members of 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 this in order to write you a strong letter.

Q: How many LORs do you need?

Three or four

Q: Is a letter from a chair required?


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

At least two should be.

Q: Do any letters need to be written by external institutions:

Most likely yes, since the LOR is given more weight if the residency program knows the letter writer.

Q: Does your Step 2 CK score matter?

Yes, heavy emphasis is placed on scores.

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

Front loading your schedule with orthopaedic away rotations is essential. Do your homework on residency programs when selecting aways, since the greatest probability of matching will be with locations you have rotated through. Orthogate has some good info on residency programs. Additional rotations should include surgical bootcamps.

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


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

Two, both of which should be done before interviews.

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

First two weeks of December and first two weeks of January.

Similar Specialties to Consider

Residency Programs

Available Fellowships

  • Adult Reconstruction
  • Arthroscopy
  • Foot And Ankle
  • Hand And Upper Extremity
  • Musculoskeletal Oncology
  • Pediatric Orthopedics
  • Spine Surgery
  • Sports Medicine
  • Trauma

Looking into the Future/Changes in Health Care

Orthopaedic surgeons are delving into the world of: robotic surgery; computer-assisted surgery; gene manipulation and medical therapeutics.

Additional Information

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


Last edited on 11/17/2016.