A surgical career path can certainly be rewarding and lucrative, but it is not without its sacrifices along the way, which is why it is helpful for you as a patient to have an understanding about the road they've traveled to enter the operating room.
As is the case with most career paths, the journey to becoming a surgeon often begins long before college. While there are plenty of bright young men and women who find their way in undergrad and decide to pursue a career in medicine, many begin to shape their studies toward a medicine as best they can in high school.
Taking AP-level science coursework as an upperclassman in high school can offer a student a strong foundation to build from before going to college and looks good on college applications, assuming, of course, that the student does well in school.
Additionally, having many extra-curriculars on the resume that demonstrate an interest in medicine - such as volunteering at an area hospital, nursing home, or hospice center can set the student apart from fellow candidates when applying to colleges.
Ultimately, the four-year college that the student selects doesn't matter as much as the reputation of the institution, the coursework offered, and the extent to which a student excels while enrolled. There are many different majors that a student may select in preparation for medical school, but more often than not an emphasis on biological sciences is preferred. Here, the onus is once again on the student to take aggressive and relevant coursework to demonstrate an aptitude for science and a potential for success in the rigors of medical school. Classes, such as organic chemistry, are often known as "weed out" classes because they require a tremendous amount of work to master. These classes, however, are extremely important and should not be avoided but rather prioritized.
Upon finishing undergrad, the next step along the way for a student is medical school. Applying to med schools is a lot like applying to undergrad in that a candidate must illustrate his or her academic aptitude, extracurricular experience, and ability to excel on a standardized test. Once admitted, a student typically completes med school in four years, with time spent both in the classroom and also in clinical study in a hospital or other treatment facility. This clinical study is usually conducted on a rotating basis, giving a student the opportunity to be exposed to a variety of different fields of medicine, including emergent care, family practice, psychiatry, and more.
Finally, after finishing medical school, an individual interested in being a surgeon must apply to a residency program that offers the specialty that they are interested in most. Once again, this is an extremely competitive process and requires several more years of commitment from a young doctor.