Colon and rectal surgery–also referred to as colorectal surgery–is a subspecialty within general surgery. Surgeons focus on the general health of internal organs related to parts of the gastrointestinal tract and the female reproductive system. Organs include the small intestine, rectum, colon, liver, urinary tract, and others.

Because of the wide range of organs and conditions colon and rectal surgeons treat, they work closely with other fields, especially oncology, gastroenterology, urology, and OBGYN.

In this specialty spotlight, we take a look at the field of colorectal surgery and how to become a colon and rectal surgeon.


The Education Path

Because a colon and rectal surgeon works cross-specialty, the path can begin as early as medical school. Elective rotations during clinical years can be valuable opportunities for exploring specialties you may collaborate with as a colorectal surgeon.

Following medical school, the path to becoming a colorectal surgeon begins with a five-year, general surgery residency. Following residency, future surgeons must complete a year of training in colon and rectal surgery. Once practicing, colorectal surgeons have a board certification eligibility period of seven years and must complete continuing education credits every five years.

Read more about education requirements here.


Practicing in Colon and Rectal Surgery

The field of colon and rectal surgery is small but busy. A 2020 study found that the U.S. has only 0.16 colorectal surgeons per 100,000 people. However, density varies significantly based on geography. U.S. counties with a higher college-educated population, higher non-white populations, or populations with higher insurance rates all have more colorectal surgeons per capita.

Despite the small size of the field, the Mayo Clinic states that its three campuses in Minnesota, Arizona, and Florida alone see more than 11,000 patients per year.

According to, colorectal surgeons make an average of $339,791 per year, which is slightly below the average for general surgeons.