What Does an Orthopedic Doctor Diagnose and Treat

Who Would Go to an Orthopedic Doctor

An orthopedic doctor or surgeon treats problems that affect the body’s musculoskeletal system. They can perform several duties, such as diagnosing and treating musculoskeletal disorders. They assist in rehabilitation to regain strength, range of motion, movement, and flexibility after a musculoskeletal surgery or an injury.

Orthopedic doctors can also help prevent injuries and chronic disorders, such as arthritis, from worsening.

So, if you or a loved one suffers a muscle or bone injury, they must go to an orthopedic doctor. The same goes for a broken arm, dislocated kneecap, and sprained ankle.

Orthopedists can perform surgical and non-surgical treatment to repair muscles, bones, ligaments, tendons, and tissue. They often use medications and rehabilitative therapy as part of the treatment plan.

Let’s look better at what goes into becoming an orthopedic doctor in the US.

Why Become an Orthopedic Doctor

What does an Orthopedic Doctor do

Why become an Orthopedic Doctor?

An orthopedic doctor helps patients return to a normal life after a severe injury or surgery. They help improve a patient’s condition, which makes it one of the most satisfying jobs. They use advanced technologies, such as implants and robotics, to ensure the most effective treatment.

You can also choose to specialize in this field. For instance, there is a high demand for certified orthopedic doctors to work in sports medicine and work with professional athletes. Some may choose to specialize in orthopedic oncology and remove tumors that affect the musculoskeletal system.

As a certified and licensed orthopedic doctor, you can work in a variety of professional settings, such as:

  • Solo practice
  • Private group practice
  • Teaching hospitals
  • Academia
  • Government agencies
  • Military services

How to Become an Orthopedic Doctor or Orthopedic Surgeon in the US

The path to becoming an orthopedic surgeon or orthopedist is demanding and requires extensive education and training, which is consistent with the requirements for other medical specialties rather than being compared to ‘other industries.

You will need to spend many years studying and understanding the musculoskeletal system and choose a subspecialty to focus on.

Here are the steps to become an orthopedic doctor in the US:

1 – Earn a bachelor’s degree

After high school, you must earn a bachelor’s degree from an accredited university. During the degree course, make sure to include the following topics in your coursework:

  • Biology
  • General Chemistry
  • Organic chemistry
  • Mathematics
  • Physics
  • English

2 – Pass MCAT

Once you earn your bachelor’s degree, you must pass the Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT). This seven-hour exam tests your eligibility for admission into a medical school or medical college.

MCAT has individually scored sections; you must score between 472 and 528 for admission into a medical institute. If you want to become an orthopedist, you will need to score high on the following sections in the MCAT exam:

  • Critical analysis and reasoning skills
  • Chemical and physical foundations of biological systems
  • Psychology, social and biological foundations of Behavior
  • Biological and biochemical foundations of living systems

3 – Earn a medical degree

After passing the MCAT, you must apply to a medical school offering a medical degree to become an orthopedist. The four-year medical school will teach you common courses, such as:

  • Physiology
  • Anatomy
  • Pathology
  • Pharmacology
  • Biochemistry
  • Genetics

Besides attending lectures on these subjects in the classroom or lab, you will also participate in clinical rotations in common medical specialties, such as medicine, surgery, psychiatry, and neurology.

4 – Complete residency

After completing your medical school and earning your medical degree, you will need to spend around 5 years with on-the-job training during the residency period. The first 2 years usually involve working in general surgery before moving to orthopedics in the remaining 3 years. During the residency, you will work alongside attending doctors and hone your abilities and skills.

5 – Finish a fellowship

Most aspiring orthopedic doctors choose to complete a fellowship after finishing their residency. Fellowship involves an in-depth study of a subspecialty or a specific part of the musculoskeletal system. Fellowship usually takes 1 to 2 years to complete. During this, you will learn everything you need to know about:

  • Pediatric orthopedics
  • Spine, hand, ankle, and foot surgery
  • Reconstructive surgery
  • Orthopedic oncology
  • Surgical sports medicine

6 – Earn a license to practice

After completing your education and training requirements, you must pass the USMLE (United States Medical Licensing Examination) or COMLEX (Comprehensive Osteopathic Medical Licensure Examination).

Passing either one of these is essential to practice as an orthopedic doctor. Check your state’s specific licensing requirements, as these vary from state to state. Enquire if you need to complete any additional licensing requirements to earn a license to practice in your state.

7 – Get board certified

After successfully receiving a license to practice, you can choose to get board certification. Though unnecessary, a board certification shows your dedication to becoming competent and qualified. Board certification involves being reviewed by a jury of your peers from orthopedics.

The board certification exams for orthopedic doctors in the US are conducted by ABOS (American Board of Orthopedic Surgery) or AOBOS (American Osteopathic Board of Orthopedic Surgery). The certification exam usually has 320 computer-based multiple-choice questions.

After the written portion, you must pass an oral question-and-answer round to check your knowledge and expertise in orthopedics.

Even after earning the board certification, you must keep proving your qualification with continuing education and renew the certification every 7 to 10 years. These requirements are essential to ensure that orthopedic doctors and surgeons are up-to-date with the latest developments and innovations in orthopedics.

How Much Does an Orthopedic Doctor Earn in the US

According to surveys, licensed orthopedic doctors in the US can earn as much as USD 185,752 per year. Several factors, such as the employer’s location and experience in the field, can affect the exact salary. Besides a stable salary, you can also expect to earn bonuses and benefits, such as overtime and health insurance. On the other hand, orthopedic surgeons’ salary is relatively higher.


Orthopedic doctors are responsible for diagnosing and treating various injuries or disorders that affect the musculoskeletal system. Not only do orthopedic doctors have one of the highest-paid jobs in the medical industry, but they also have one of the most satisfying jobs, helping patients return to their normal healthy lifestyle following surgery or severe injury.

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