Objectives Burnout is common among surgical residents and may be related to personality characteristics, emotional intelligence (EI), or work experiences. Design Longitudinal cohort study over 1 year. Setting Tertiary academic medical centers in the Northeast. Participants All general surgery residents in 2 programs (n = 143) were invited to complete an electronic survey at 3 time points; 88, 64, and 69 residents completed the survey (overall response rate 52%). Results Severe burnout was observed in 51% of residents (n = 41). Higher scores were associated with female sex (p = 0.02). Burnout scores were highest at the beginning and end of the academic year; EI and personality scores remained stable. On bivariate analysis, high EI score (p < 0.001), agreeableness and emotional stability personality features (p = 0.003), and positive job experiences (p < 0.01) were protective against burnout. Higher EI and positive work experiences were independent predictors of lower burnout (p < 0.01) after multivariable adjustment. Conclusions Surgical residents have high levels of burnout. Higher EI and positive work experiences are associated with lower burnout. Focused interventions to improve EI and optimize the work environment may prevent or lessen burnout.