What is a Trauma Surgeon

Trauma surgeons are medical professionals who specialize in the quick diagnosis and surgical treatment of patients with life-threatening conditions. Often, this will mean an injury, though some illnesses may also be included in their work. Usually their work involves the treatment of multiple injuries during the same surgery; a patient in a severe car accident, for example, may require neurosurgery, limb re-attachments, and repair of internal organs. For more on job duties, please visit our trauma surgeon job description page.

Work Environment

The work environment for a trauma surgeon is dependent, in part, on the chances of the day. Some days will be more relaxed, while others can be exceptionally hectic. In general, though, trauma surgeons have stressful schedules, with a high demand on their mental ability and skills. They must be able to think and act quickly, retaining a vast store of information on the various parts of the body in order to treat a critically injured patient.

Work Schedule

Generally, a trauma surgeon will work far beyond a standard forty-hour work week. They may have a starting and finishing time scheduled, however these are highly mutable, especially the finish time. A trauma surgeon in surgery must continue until the patient is stabilized, which can mean surgeries lasting many hours. Few trauma surgeons will work less than fifty hours per week, and most work much more. Furthermore, there will be many cases of being on call, and needing to work nights, weekends, or holidays. 

Trauma Surgeon Job Outlook and Prospects

The job outlook for trauma surgeons is promising, with an expected 18 percent job growth between 2012 and 2022. This is due in part to an aging population, as well as to an expected higher retirement rate of current trauma surgeons. With a higher-than-normal difficulty of entrance to the career, the need for skilled trauma surgeons will be high, especially with the coming increased portion of the population with medical insurance.

What Affects Trauma Surgeon Salary

Trauma surgeons make exceptionally good salaries, with a range between $100,000 on the lowest end of the scale (bottom 10%),$200,000 to $400,000 for the middle 50%, to $500,000 on the upper end (highest 5%). The overall mean, however, is approximately $240,000 annually. This large variance is mainly due to experience, as well as the geographic location worked. Position and industry play strong roles as well, especially for those trauma surgeons who divide their time between industries.

Education and Specialization 

Trauma surgeons must complete a bachelor’s degree, followed by a medical degree. They will then require a three- to five-year residency; a longer residency can bring higher salaries at the start of one’s career, though this difference can be made up for later on through experience. The need for trauma surgeons is such that, so long as they are skilled, they will be well paid, regardless of their education.

Specialization is something of a curiosity for trauma surgeons; their field of surgery is itself something of a specialty, in that it requires a broad range of knowledge, with no particular specialization. They must be able to treat any and all injuries brought to them quickly; something outside of their skill set will require calling in a surgeon specializing in that field (such as a neurosurgeon).

Experience and Position 

Experience is the primary means of improving trauma surgeon salary. Those who are just starting in the field (following a residency) will receive the lower end of the pay scale, between $150,000 and $200,000. Those who have worked for five to ten years will earn closer to the average, and those with many years’ experience will continue to see wage gains.

Position is a further point for trauma surgeon salary; while trauma surgeons will be well-paid in their working position, if they head a department of general or trauma surgery, and/or teach their skills in a University, they will receive higher wages.


The vast majority of trauma surgeons work in a hospital, often a general hospital, or specialty hospital. These positions will pay around $360,000. Working for a state government will bring the second highest wages, at $350,000.


Many states offer salaries close to the average for trauma surgeons, however those with a greater demand and lesser supply offer higher salaries. As such, Wyoming and West Virginia offer some of the highest salaries, followed very closely by Georgia at $250,990. Texas, meanwhile, is one of the lowest-paying states, at $192,090.