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 Consider a Career in Hand Surgery

Hand surgery is the field of medicine that deals with problems of the hand, wrist and forearm. Hand surgeons care for these problems without surgery, and they are specially trained to operate when necessary.

ASSH has programs and information for all stages of becoming a hand surgeon.  Everyone from established member hand surgeons to those early in their careers have a role to play in learning and the mentoring relationship.

      1. Map of Hand Surgery
      2. Training Requirements

Concise Map of Hand Surgery
Educational components of training for hand surgery have been compiled in this map of hand surgery.  The map was developed by the ASSH Hand Surgery Map Task Force and copyrighted by the ASSH in 2001. View the map of hand surgery.

Training Requirements
A career in hand surgery begins with a high school diploma, a four year college degree, and completion of medical school.

After medical school, you must attend a residency program, where you will receive clinical training in a specialized area. Training in hand surgery begins with one of the following ACGME accredited residencies:

Orthopaedic Surgery (5 years)
Plastic Surgery (5-7 years)
General Surgery (5 years)
After a residency is successfully completed, hand surgeons complete a one year ACGME accredited fellowship in hand surgery.

Hand surgery fellowship programs cover:

Trauma surgery of the hand and wrist, including replantation of severed body parts
Congenital differences
Microvascular surgery
Arthritis surgery (both rheumatoid and osteoarthritis)
Reconstructive wrist surgery
Peripheral nerve surgery

Certification in the Subspecialty of Surgery of the Hand (formerly CAQ Hand)

Certification in the Subspecialty of Surgery of the Hand (formerly CAQ Hand) is equivalent to board certification in hand surgery.

Surgeons must receive board certification in their primary board -- generally based on the type of program in which they did their residency training.

They must complete a one year fellowship in hand surgery.
They must submit one year's case list with cases in six of nine core hand-related areas.
They must pass the exam with a satisfactory score.

Maintenance of Certification (MOC®)

Job Market for Hand Surgeons
The job market for hand surgery has been stable for many years. There are always more job openings per year than the number of hand surgery fellows who are completing their training. The American Society for Surgery of the Hand website offers a space for job seekers to post resumes, and hand surgeon employers to post positions. To get an idea of what is currently available, visit the Jobs section.

For more information on mentoring, visit the Lending a Hand Program. Questions regarding Lending A Hand? Email

More Information

Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME)

National Residency Matching Program (NRMP)