What is an Orthopedist? Discover the Facts about this Fascinating Job in Medicine

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Orthopedist or Orthopaedist?

What is an orthopedist? An orthopedist is more commonly referred to as an orthopedic surgeon. Though the name may imply ‘feet’, it actually has Greek roots and means to ‘straighten a child’, or, in other words, to straighten or correct bones.

This confusion stems from the spelling ‘orthopedics’, which incorrectly implies feet, rather than ‘orthopaedics’, which refers more specifically to the Greek root example. Both terms can be found in searches through the internet, phone books, etc. Though either can be used, ‘orthopaedics’ is correct. The association for orthopedists in the United States is named “American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgery.”

Education and Licensing Requirements

While many entering the medical profession as doctors and surgeons are required to complete eight years of school (four in college, four in medical school), as well as an internship and residency of three to eight years, it should be noted that acceptance into medical school is highly competitive.

The Occupational Outlook Handbook states “A physician’s training is costly. According to the Association of American Medical Colleges, in 2007 85 percent of public medical school graduates and 86 percent of private medical school graduates were in debt for educational expenses.”

Job Duties

Orthopedists can treat injury, deformities and diseases that affect the bones. They can surgically treat and repair damage. They can run and request diagnostic tests, refer patients to other specialists (such as physical therapists) and counsel patients in regards to prevention and maintenance.

The work hours can be long and irregular for orthopedists and orthopedic surgeons.

Places of Employment

Orthopedists are most commonly found working in private practice, hospitals and surgical outpatient centers. They work in examination rooms, operating rooms and recovery rooms. They examine patients, review x-rays and other test results and perform surgery.

At the time of the publication of the 2010 – 2011 Occupational Outlook Handbook, the forecast for job opportunities was good, especially in areas that are rural or low-income.

It further stated that “Physicians and surgeons held about 661,400 jobs in 2008; approximately 12 percent were self-employed. About 53 percent of wage–and-salary physicians and surgeons worked in offices of physicians, and 19 percent were employed by hospitals. Others practiced in Federal, State, and local governments, educational services, and outpatient care centers.”

Salary for Orthopedists

A search of Payscale.com was not as helpful as usual, due to certain salary results being ‘hidden to protect privacy’. The results were for orthopedists by years of experience and by industry.

One salary chart was located that did identify the median salary (by industry) for orthopedic surgeons. The salary shown was 274, 826; coming in much higher than those shown for physician assistants, office managers, physical therapists, registered nurses and athletic trainers.


What is an orthopedist? An orthopedist may be known by other names and spellings, but he or she is the medical professional who specializes in bones/the skeleton.


Definition of Orthopedist. WebMD/MedicineNet.com. Reviewed March 26, 1998. https://www.medterms.com/script/main/art.asp?articlekey=4669

Salary Chart (Orthopedic Surgeon displayed). Payscale.com https://www.payscale.com/research/US/Industry=Orthopedic_Surgery/Salary

Physicians and Surgeons. Occupational Outlook Handbook (2010 – 2011 Edition). Bureau of Labor Statistics. https://www.bls.gov/oco/ocos074.htm