The surgeon is a doctor who specializes in performing surgery to prevent the spread of disease, to correct deformities, to repair injuries and to improve body functions. Patients are referred to a surgeon by general practitioners (medical doctors) and specialists.

Surgeons diagnose bodily disorders and orthopaedic conditions and provide treatments, such as medicines and surgeries, in clinics, hospital wards and operating rooms.  They operate on patients to correct deformities, repair injuries, prevent and treat diseases or improve or restore patients' functions. 

The surgeon examines each patient thoroughly to obtain information on their medical condition and the surgical risk, reviews the medical history, medication allergies, physical condition and examination results to verify the operation's necessity and to determine the best procedure. They usually consult with other doctors to be certain that an operation is necessary. The procedure is explained to the patient and/or the family.  They prescribe preoperative and postoperative treatments and procedures, such as sedatives, diets, antibiotics and preparation and treatment of the patient's operative area.  They direct and coordinate the activities of nurses, assistants, specialists, residents and other medical staff.

Before surgery, the surgeon checks the equipment, instruments and surgical setup to be sure everything needed is present and sterile. After surgery the patient’s condition is monitored until they have completely recovered from the operation.  They prepare case histories and keep records of all patients.

Surgeons provide consultation and surgical assistance to other physicians and surgeons, and refer the patient to other medical specialists or practitioners when necessary.  They need to manage surgery services, including planning, scheduling and coordination, determination of procedures, and procurement of supplies and equipment.

Surgeons also conduct research to develop and test surgical techniques that can improve operating procedures and outcomes.

Surgeons work indoors in consulting rooms, in hospitals and in operating rooms that must be sterile and temperature-controlled.  At times they may visit patients in their wards or in recovery rooms.  In addition, some surgeons may lecture at universities.

Personal Requirements

A surgeon should:

  • have above average intelligence and an aptitude for science
  • have physical stamina to work long and irregular hours
  • be able to work accurately
  • be responsible
  • make weighty decisions, often concerning matters of life and death, quickly and confidently
  • be willing to study to keep up with medical advances
  • have good eye-hand coordination
  • have manual dexterity and a very steady hand
  • have good vision

How to Enter

Schooling & School Subjects

Compulsory Subjects: Mathematics, Physical Science
Recommended subjects: Life Sciences

  • Pass matric with a Bachelor's pass
  • Meet the admission requirements (APS) set by the university
  • All applications for admission to MBChB and Medical degrees are subject to selection.
  • Due to the limited number of spaces available, only a small percentage of applicants are admitted.

What to Study

MBChB degree

  • Theoretical training: 6 years.
  • Student internship: 1 year.
  • Practical work at a hospital: 1 year (also known as the house doctor year).
Post-graduate study for specialisation as a surgeon:
MMed or FCP(SA): 4 years

Additional Requirements: before commencing post-graduate study for specialisation as a surgeon the candidate must:
  • be in possession of a MBChB degree for 2 years;
  • be registered as a medical doctor with the Interim Medical and Dental Council (IMDC) of South Africa for 1 year.
Registration: On successful completion of the examination to qualify as a specialist, the candidate must register with the IMDC as a surgeon


  • private practice
  • hospitals and other health care facilities
  • medical schools
  • government departments
  • the Defence Force

Further Information

Association of Surgeons of South Africa ASSA
Room 9S07A, Level 9
Wits Medical School, York Road
Parktown, 2193 
Tel: (011) 482-2034

Health Professions Council of South Africa (HPCSA) 
(553) of Hamilton and
Madiba Streets,
Arcadia, Pretoria
Tel: (012) 338-9300

Getting Started

  • do voluntary work for a health care facility
  • try to obtain part-time or voluntary work at a general hospital or other health care facility
  • do first aid courses with such organisations as St John’s Ambulance
  • make an appointment to speak to a medical doctor and a surgeon about this type of career

Programmes by Study Institutions

Related Occupations

A PACE Career Centre Product. © All rights reserved | Developed by Netgen (Pty) Ltd. Disclaimer: Please see disclaimer