How To Become An Orthopaedic Surgeon (With Skills)

Updated 3 March 2023

Orthopaedic surgery is a medical speciality that focuses on treating conditions involving the musculoskeletal system. It comprises various subdivisions, including fractures, arthritis, soft tissue processes, metabolic conditions and acquired conditions. Knowing the necessary qualifications and fundamental skills the role requires enables you to determine if the career path is a good choice for you. In this article, we explain how to become an orthopaedic surgeon, detail their primary responsibilities and describe the key skills that these surgeons use to perform their role effectively.

Please note that none of the companies, institutions or organisations mentioned in this article are associated with Indeed.

What Is An Orthopaedic Surgeon?

An orthopaedic surgeon is a medical specialist who diagnoses, treats and prevents conditions that affect the bones, and muscles of the human body. They use their vast knowledge of the musculoskeletal system to operate on patients with various injuries and conditions, which could involve joints, nerves, tendons, ligaments or tumours. They are highly capable doctors who treat congenital and acquired conditions, degenerative diseases, systemic skeletal disorders and spinal deformities. These doctors possess a sound knowledge of anatomy, physiology and pathology of orthopaedic structures. Their primary responsibility is to improve a patient's life through treatments and therapies.

Their role involves determining the root cause of pain and what is affecting a patient's mobility. Based on these findings, they develop a treatment schedule. These specialists fix deformities in bones through surgeries, medicines and other non-surgical procedures, such as physical therapies. The musculoskeletal system is a complex system of bones and muscles, and they use their expertise in the mechanics of orthopaedic surgery to detect and solve problems affecting it.

Related: What Is An MBBS Doctor? (With Skills And Career Scope)

How To Become An Orthopaedic Surgeon?

The following is a list of steps that explain how to become an orthopaedic surgeon:

1. Graduate from high school

The first step in the process is completing your higher secondary school education in the science stream with biology as a subject. To help you understand the relevant principles, you might also choose to study chemistry, physics and mathematics. After graduating from school, appearing for entrance examinations to gain admission to an undergraduate medical course is necessary, so consider preparing for the tests while you are pursuing your higher secondary education. Focussing on achieving good grades in biology is also a good way to prepare for the entrance tests.

2. Appear for the entrance examination

The National Eligibility cum Entrance Test (Undergraduate) or NEET (UG) is a national pre-medical entrance test that is necessary to complete if you wish to pursue an undergraduate medical course at a government or private educational institution. Your admission to the Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery (MBBS) programme depends on the score you secure in the NEET examination. Candidates who are 17 years of age at the time of admission are eligible to appear in the NEET examination. Preparing well for the 200-question test is imperative.

The exam consists of 50 questions in physics, chemistry, botany and zoology, respectively. The requirement is to achieve 100%, or 720 marks, which involves answering 180 of the 200 questions correctly. NEET divides the question paper into two sections; the A section has 35 questions, and the B section comprises 15. It is compulsory for candidates to answer 10 of these 15 questions. Some educational institutions also conduct independent entrance examinations.

Related: Competitive Entrance Exams After 12th Across Streams

3. Pursue an MBBS

After you receive your NEET examination score, you can apply to a National Medical Commission-approved MBBS programme. Your entrance examination performance determines your admission, and completing the MBBS post-graduate degree typically takes five and a half years. This programme qualifies you to become a physician. Anatomy, physiology, microbiology, pathology, orthopaedics, paediatrics, surgery and psychiatry are some subjects that students learn during the MBBS programme. They also complete a 12-month internship that focuses on practical learning.

4. Enrol in a residency programme

Once you complete the MBBS programme and become a physician, you can take the necessary steps to qualify as an orthopaedic surgeon. Start by enrolling in an orthopaedic residency programme. These programmes typically take five to six years to complete, and the complexity increases each year. These programmes are similar to internships and provide you with the opportunity to develop practical expertise. They also help aspiring orthopaedic surgeons gain experience in counselling patients, interpreting reports and performing procedures.

Related: What Is A Resident Doctor? (With Skills And Career Path)

5. Complete a post-graduation course

After pursuing your MBBS degree and completing the residency programme, you may enrol in a post-graduate course in orthopaedics. Such a course provides the opportunity to specialise and develop in-depth knowledge of this branch of medical practice. A master's degree in orthopaedics includes robust coursework that explores the nuances of surgery and therapy. Completing this course also teaches you more about general standards of surgery and traumatology.

6. Practice as an orthopaedic surgeon

To become a registered medical practitioner and begin practising as an orthopaedic surgeon, it is necessary to register with the Indian Medical Register. Some doctors choose to work after completing their MBBS programme, while others pursue further education, such as a doctorate. Orthopaedic surgeons work in healthcare facilities, including multi-speciality hospitals, or practise independently in a clinic.

Related: Average Doctor Salaries: A Complete Guide By Specialty

Key Responsibilities Of An Orthopaedic Surgeon

The following is a list of primary responsibilities that an orthopaedic surgeon performs:

  • Interviewing patients to diagnose injuries and disorders

  • Conducting examinations to identify osteopathic issues

  • Interpreting diagnostic reports, such as X-rays and magnetic resonance images

  • Performing surgeries, including bone grafts and internal fixations

  • Conducting follow-up examinations on post-surgery patients

  • Prescribing non-surgical treatments and therapies

  • Helping patients understand and manage their conditions

  • Prescribing medication or post-surgery rehabilitation to patients

  • Recognising genetic conditions and treating bacterial or viral infections

  • Preparing patient charts and maintaining their health, and treatment records

  • Responding to emergencies, such as accidents, injuries and traumas

  • Collaborating with other healthcare staff to facilitate multidisciplinary medical team functions

Related: What Does A Doctor Do? (Average Salary And Qualification)

Orthopaedic Surgeon Skills

Fundamental skills for an orthopaedic surgeon include:


These are the skills orthopaedic surgeons develop during their internship, apprenticeship and residency. Possessing these skills means having a sound knowledge of surgical procedures. This includes examining and performing procedures, and using medical tools adeptly.

Critical thinking

Critical-thinking skills enable surgeons to determine problems and find creative solutions after assessing the causes. With these skills, orthopaedic surgeons can also interact with patients efficiently. They listen to patients, recognise symptoms quickly and develop effective management plans.


An orthopaedic surgeon employs analytical skills to collect data and assess, and interpret it accurately. Their analytical ability enables them to examine and process information to derive logical conclusions. They might also use these skills to conduct research and publish it to improve public health.

Related: Analytical Skills: Definition, Tips And Examples


With dexterity, surgeons can perform complex and delicate medical procedures proficiently. Manual dexterity is an essential skill for surgeons when working with microscopic samples. It also enables them to extract samples without harming the surrounding tissue.

Attention to detail

An orthopaedic surgeon's attention to detail enables them to focus on the critical details when performing their duties. These professionals are responsible for recording patients' information and documenting their procedures. They work with precision to share accurate findings with their patients and other surgeons.

Ability to remain calm

The role of an orthopaedic surgeon can get stressful. They could have multiple emergency cases daily that require their immediate intervention. In such situations, remaining calm enables them to recognise problems accurately and perform procedures confidently.

Related: Self-Regulation Skills: Examples And How To Improve


A key aspect of an orthopaedic surgeon's role is actively listening to their patient's concerns and answering their queries promptly. They use verbal communication skills to express their opinions and ask questions to gain insights into the perspectives of other surgeons. They also apply these skills when explaining procedures or therapies to their patients.


An orthopaedic surgeon may lead operations in a medical facility. By applying their leadership skills, they can delegate tasks to medical personnel effectively and provide instructions to other surgeons that assist them when performing procedures. These skills also demonstrate an orthopaedic surgeon's dependability and commitment towards their patients' wellbeing.

Related: How To Demonstrate Leadership Skills At Work: A Guide


Orthopaedic surgeons typically perform procedures with other surgeons and nurses. Effective teamwork and coordination help a team achieve optimal outcomes. As a member of a multidisciplinary team, surgeons can use their teamwork skills to reduce workplace stress and achieve shared goals.

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