What is a General Surgeon

Despite the name, general surgery is in fact a specialty, with a broad range of skill involved. General surgeons operate primarily on the abdomen, focusing on the esophagus, stomach, bowel, liver, gallbladder, colon, pancreas, and bile ducts. They occasionally operate on the thyroid gland as well, though this is dependent on the availability of other specialists. While general surgery is a specialty, it involves a broad-ranging specialization, in the ability to treat diseases of the abdomen in a manner that considers how such invasive treatments affect other parts of the body. The inter-connected nature of the organs involved make this a challenging career. For information on how to become a general surgeon, please visit our general surgeon job description page.

Work Environment

General surgeons will primarily work in hospitals and private clinics, with some operating in a private practice. Their environments will be clean and well-lit. They must spend a great deal of time on their feet during surgery; they will not be able to sit and rest while a patient is being treated.

Work Schedule

General surgeons typically work more than forty hours per week, and how much more depends on their subspecialty, and the overall needs of the day. A vascular surgeon, for example, will typically have a well-organized schedule, with somewhat predictable start and end times (in so far as any surgery can have a predictable end time). Trauma surgeons, however, may become involved in an extensive surgery late in their shift, requiring many hours of overtime. Almost all general surgeons require some on-call time, and may need to work evenings or weekends.

Mean Annual General Surgeon Salary

The average annual general surgeon salary is $230,540. The mean salary is calculated by adding all the wages within the occupation and divid that value by the total number of employees. Lowest 10% of this occupation makes less than $122,910 and the top 10% makes well over $400,000.

General Surgeon Salary: Quick Summary

2012 Mean Salary$230,540 per year
$110.84 per hour
Top 10% Salary$400,000 per year
$192.31 per hour
Bottom 10% Salary$122,910 per year
$59.09 per hour
Number of Jobs, 201242,410

General Surgeon Job Outlook and Prospects

The job outlook for general surgeons is quite promising, with an expected 18 percent job growth between 2012 and 2022. This is due in part to a growing population, leading to a great need for health care overall; to an aging population, with the added demand on healthcare services that age brings; and to the increased availability of health insurance, leading to an expected rise in the use of healthcare services.

What Affects General Surgeon Salary

General surgeon salary is affected by numerous factors, including the specialty they pursue, the geographic area in which they work, and the experience the surgeon has. The industry in which they work, and in some cases the group within that industry with which they are involved, can also bring changes in general surgeon salary.

The mean annual wage for general surgeons in the US is $230,540. This encompasses a range of $122,910 for the lowest 10 percent, to nearly $400,000 among the highest 10 percent.

Education and Specialization 

Education for a general surgeon, like most doctors, requires a bachelors and medical degree, followed by a residency period. Residency for general surgeons, however, can be a five- to seven-year affair, requiring a larger knowledge base than most.

Specialization is a particular area for consideration among general surgeons. With numerous sub-specialties, such as laparoscopic or colorectal surgery, endocrine surgery, transplant surgery, and cardiothoracic surgery, there are many potential areas for general surgeons to focus. Depending on the geographic location and population, however, trauma surgery can be among the most lucrative.

Experience and Position 

Experience among general surgeons can be a great boon to income, with a potential salary difference of nearly $100,000. A starting surgeon, for example, will be on the lower end of the spectrum, earning between $120,000 and $150,000. General surgeon salary for those with ten or more years’ experience, however, will jump up to the $200,000+ range.

Position is another area that can bring wage increases. Heading a team, or working as the sole general surgeon in a small practice with several other physicians, can all see improvements.


The industry worked is a comparatively minor consideration for general surgeon salary. As mentioned in position, working in a small group practice with other physicians or surgeons can bring higher wages, with an overall average (including among solo offices) of $237,770. Specialty hospitals offer slightly more than physicians’ offices, at $238,120.


The location worked will have a profound affect on general surgeon salary, offering salaries between $145,000 and $250,000. Georgia has the highest mean surgeon salary, at $250,990, followed by Idaho at $250,910. Wisconsin takes the third position at $250,810.

Generally speaking, urban areas will have a higher demand for general surgeon services, and such, tend to pay somewhat higher salaries and do suburban or rural areas.

general surgeon salary state by state