Plastic Surgeon: Career Profile, Job Outlook, and Education Requirements

Research what it takes to become a plastic surgeon. Learn about education and training, licensing requirements, salary, and job growth to find out if this is the career for you. Schools offering Surgical Technology degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Plastic Surgeon Job Description

Sometimes tragic accidents require a medical specialist to do work to repair someone's skin damage, fix the broken bones of a client's face, or even reconstruct certain birth defects. These specialists are plastic surgeons and are the same professionals who may make a living making movie stars stay youthful looking.

Plastic surgeons have lengthy education requirements, including a medical doctor degree and a minimum of five years of residency training. The following chart provides an overview of how to become a plastic surgeon.

Degree Required Doctor of Medicine (M.D.) or Doctor of Osteopathy (D.O.)
Training Required 5 year residency in general and plastic surgery
Key Responsibilities Examine, assess, and diagnose patient deformities caused by accident, disease, or congenital abnormalities; perform invasive procedures to correct deformities and abnormalities to restore normal function and appearance; perform elective surgery to enhance physical appearance; order diagnostic tests and prescribe medications and treatment
Licensure or Certification All states require doctors to be licensed; board certification in plastic surgery is available
Job Growth (2016-2026) 14%* (for all surgeons)
Average Salary (2019) $386,059 (surgeon - plastic reconstructive)**

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), **Salary.com

Plastic Surgeon Careers

A plastic surgeon operates on a patient's face or body in order to repair or reconstruct the area. As a plastic surgeon, you may perform two types of surgery. A cosmetic surgeon's job description includes improving appearance, while a reconstructive surgeons corrects appearance after an injury or to improve bodily function. You'll most likely work in a hospital or clinic and operate in sterile surgical units. If your office is in a remote location, there is often a good deal of travel between your office and hospitals to visit patients and follow up on post-operative procedures. You'll often be required to stand on your feet for many hours when performing surgery, which can take hours depending on the procedure.

Plastic Surgeon Job Outlook

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment opportunities for surgeons in general are expected to grow by 14% over the 2016-2026 decade (www.bls.gov). This would be a total increase of 6,500 jobs. The average salary of surgeons, including plastic surgeons, was $255,110 in 2018, according to the BLS. As of June 2019, Salary.com estimated that plastic reconstructive surgeons, specifically, made an annual average wage of $386,059.

Plastic Surgeon Education Needed

Plastic surgeons require extensive training in medical and surgical procedures. To become a plastic surgeon, you typically must first hold a four-year undergraduate degree and complete pre-medical courses, such as biology, chemistry, and physics. You'll then spend another four years in medical school to earn a Doctor of Medicine (M.D.) or Doctor of Osteopathy (D.O.) degree. At least five years of additional residency training in which you focus solely on general and plastic surgery is also required. You must also have a license to practice in all states and can opt to become board certified in plastic surgery by the American Board of Plastic Surgery (ABPS) or the American Osteopathic Board of Surgery (AOBS).

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Doctors looking for related fields will find that these include many of the medical specialties such as podiatrists, chiropractors, dentists, optometrists, and veterinarians. All of these will require a doctorate as well as internships in the field. Master's degrees are necessary for work as a nurse anesthetist, midwife, or practitioner. Registered nurses need at least the equivalent to a bachelor's degree.

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