Background The majority of general surgery residents pursue fellowships. However, the relative demand for general surgical skills vs more specialization is not understood. Our objective was to describe the current job market for general surgeons and compare the skills required by the market with those of graduating trainees. Study Design Positions for board eligible/certified general surgeons in Oregon and Wisconsin from 2011 to 2012 were identified by review of job postings and telephone calls to hospitals, private practice groups, and physician recruiters. Data were gathered on each job to determine if fellowship training or specialized skills were required, preferred, or not requested. Information on resident pursuit of fellowship training was obtained from all residency programs within the represented states. Results Of 71 general surgery positions available, 34% of positions required fellowship training. Rural positions made up 46% of available jobs. Thirty-five percent of positions were in nonacademic metropolitan settings and 17% were in academic metropolitan settings. Fellowship training was required or preferred for 18%, 28%, and 92% of rural, nonacademic, and academic metropolitan positions, respectively. From 2008 to 2012, 67% of general surgery residents pursued fellowship training. Conclusions Most general surgery residents pursue fellowship despite the fact that the majority of available jobs do not require fellowship training. The motivation for fellowship training is unclear, but residency programs should tailor training to the skills needed by the market with the goal of improving access to general surgical services.
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