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What classes do I need to take to become an orthopedic surgeon?

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Updated May 02, 2011

Question: What classes do I need to take to become an orthopedic surgeon?
I am often asked by students in high school, college, or even medical school what classes are necessary to become an orthopedic surgeon.
Answer: I think it's a good idea to become familiar with orthopedics before committing to a career in this specialty. However, there are no required classes in high school or college to develop a career in orthopedics.

In fact, most medical schools and orthopedic residency programs are more interested in students who have a well-rounded background with diverse interests, rather than a student who only knows one field. By having a broad background, admission committees often believe that applicants have a better understanding of "what's out there" and better knowledge of what they want to do in life. There's plenty of time in orthopedic residency to get specific training--high school and college are your opportunities to explore other fields.

Orthopedic residency programs do want to see talented individuals who have accomplished the following types of activities:

  • Academic Scores
    What classes you choose to take matters very little. How well you do matters a lot. Medical schools would much rather see a straight-A applicant who studied French and History, then a B-minus Biology student.

  • Volunteer
    Volunteer at a local hospital or clinic. Not only does this demonstrate that you are a good person, but it also shows you enjoy being active in health care.

  • Extra-curricular Activities
    Again, it doesn't matter what you do, but just that you do something other than watch TV and play video games. Join a sports team, an acting club, a singing group, whatever you enjoy. Dedicate yourself to these activities, and become a leader within the group.

  • Get Creative
    Have a unique talent or interest? Find a way to show it to the world. Having been on admissions committees for applicants, there is nothing better than someone who has done something different.
Bottom line, try not to follow the crowd. Don't worry about specific classes or activities--applicants who follow the same path as every other applicant look boring on paper. Set yourself apart!

There are very few requirements for medical school, and every medical school will get you ready for residency programs. For information on the requirements for medical school:

Other than that, be yourself. Do interesting things, and your talents will show through!

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