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Studies & Degrees in Orthopaedics

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Orthopaedics Study Programs

Are you seeking a career in the exciting and highly-technical field of orthopedics?  Are you aware of the various academic and practical requirements you’ll need to satisfy to land a career position in this demanding field?  Orthopedists are specialized physicians who undergo years of training learning to diagnose and treat injuries and conditions of the musculoskeletal system, a system which includes joints, bones, ligaments and tendons.  This education and training ultimately leads to licensing and certification, qualifying these professionals to work with patients who have either acute conditions, caused by some sort of trauma, or chronic additions, such as arthritis and other joint disorders.  Below we will briefly describe the various phases of education you will need to pass through in order to pursue a career in Orthopedics, both at the undergraduate and post-graduate levels.

Degrees Leading to Careers in the Orthopedic Field

Orthopedists are medical doctors who are qualified to diagnose and treat patients with any number of musculoskeletal issues.  These treatments may include non-invasive approaches, such as medication, ice and heat, or invasive procedures, such as hip and knee replacement surgeries.  This is a highly specialized and difficult field, and because it is, prospective candidates must be carefully and methodically trained. 

The education and training in the orthopedic field begins with an undergraduate or Bachelor degree.  This “pre-medical” degree is typically pursued and completed from a four-year program at an accredited college or university, and is open to all students who possess a high school diploma or its equivalent and have a strong background in mathematics and science, generally earning A-level grades in these subjects at the high school or secondary-school level. There are many different science-intensive subjects that can be studied at the undergraduate level that will lead to admission into medical school, however for those planning to enter orthopedics, the most appropriate scientific degree is one that includes labs and lectures that relate to chemistry, biology and/or physiology.

Following the successful completion of the four-year undergraduate degree, the next step for those pursuing orthopedist studies is an advanced degree from an accredited medical school.  A medical school degree typically spans four to five years, during which students can pursue one of two options: a Doctor of Medicine (M.D.) degree or Doctor of Osteopathy (D.O.) degree. A Doctor of Medicine or M.D. is trained to diagnose and treat medical problems and conditions, while a Doctor of Osteopathy or D.O. is trained much like an M.D., but also receives training in musculoskeletal manipulation.  This degree, which focuses on the muscles and bones as well as holistic and natural healing, is typically the preferred degree for those planning to become orthopedic surgeons.

Once medical school is completed, qualified graduates will typically need to spend four to five years in a residency program to become an orthopedist, the first year of which is referred to as an internship.  These residency programs can be performed at hospitals and medical centers throughout the country, during which participants receive supervision and feedback from senior physicians on the hospital staff, making rounds and gaining experience while administering and observing one-on-one patient care.

The final step in becoming a licensed orthopedist is a fellowship program, one that offers specialized training in the field of orthopedics.  During this time, students will gain experience treating a wide range of patient issues, including those needing surgical intervention.  After completing the fellowship, graduates are permitted to apply for licensing from the American Board of Orthopedic Surgery—a certification indicating that the orthopedist has fulfilled all of the requirements necessary and is competent to practice orthopedic medicine.