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Cosmetic Surgeon: Career and Salary Facts

Research what it takes to become a cosmetic surgeon. Learn about degree requirements, salary, licensure and outlook to find out if this is the career for you.

What Is a Cosmetic Surgeon?

Cosmetic surgeons are medical doctors who perform restorative or corrective surgery to enhance patients' appearances. Common procedures include facelifts, breast implants, and other alteration of facial features or body parts. They must complete extra training in plastic surgery and become board-certified.

You can find general career data for these surgeons in the table below.

Degree Required Doctor of Medicine, medical residency
Key Skills Compassion, physical stamina, interpersonal skills, patience
Licensure/Certification Licensure is required for all physicians and surgeons; American Board of Medical Specialties' certification is voluntary
Job Growth (2018-2028)* 7% for all physicians and surgeons
Median Annual Salary (2019)** $263,694 for all plastic surgeons

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **PayScale.com

What Would I Do As a Cosmetic Surgeon?

As a cosmetic surgeon, you'd be a medical doctor who performs restorative or corrective surgery. While a plastic surgeon might perform microsurgery or burn treatment surgery, your work as a cosmetic surgeon would most often be purely elective and aesthetic. Your job would be to enhance the appearance of parts of the human body. You might choose a specialty, from age reversal to breast augmentation to liposuction.

How Do I Become a Cosmetic Surgeon?

There are multiple steps necessary to become a cosmetic surgeon. If you were a pre-medical major or have completed a related bachelor's degree with at least a 3.0 grade point average, the next step is to enroll in a 4-year medical degree program. In medical school, you can expect to cover a plethora of subjects, such as physiology, anatomy, pharmacology and medical ethics.

Upon graduation, you'll receive your Doctor of Medicine degree and then go on to your general surgery residency. A residency is professional, on-the-job training typically completed in a medical clinic or a teaching hospital. Your residency will often last 4-5 years, and in the last two, you may choose to specialize in cosmetic surgery.

What Career Paths Are Available To Me?

As a cosmetic surgeon, your career path will depend largely on your chosen area of expertise. For example, you might choose to work exclusively with acne reduction or varicose vein removal, or your specialty may be rhinoplasty, more commonly known as nose surgery. You might work at a hospital, clinic, research facility, university or open your own private practice.

What Job Prospects Can I Expect?

Surgery continues to be a growing field. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projected that jobs for physicians and surgeons would increase by a higher than average rate of 7% between 2018 and 2028. According to PayScale.com, the median salary of plastic surgeons was $263,694 as of November 2019.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Other jobs that require doctoral-level degrees include chiropractors, dentists, and optometrists. Chiropractors are osteopaths who treat patients' pain and discomfort by working on their neuromusculoskeletal system. Dentists focus on oral hygiene and health, diagnosing, preventing, and fixing any problems. Optometrists study human eyes and correct any visual issues, typically prescribing glasses and contacts.