Plastic Surgeon: Career and Salary Facts

Explore the career requirements for plastic surgeons. Get the facts about education, salary and licensing requirements to determine if this is the right career for you. Schools offering Surgical Technology degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is a Plastic Surgeon?

A plastic surgeon is a doctor who specializes in performing plastic surgical operations. They diagnose patients, recommend treatments, and perform operations such as reconstructive surgery, cosmetic surgery and microsurgery. For these treatments, they work closely with other medical professionals, such as surgical assistants, operating room technicians and nurses. After the procedure, they follow up with patients to monitor recovery. There are also some plastic surgeons who conduct research in topics such as human tissue aging, wound healing and innovative bandaging.

The following chart provides an overview about becoming a plastic surgeon.

Degree Required Doctor of Medicine (M.D.) or Doctor of Osteopathy (D.O.)
Training Required 5 to 7 year residency in general and plastic surgery
Licensure or Certification All states require doctors to be licensed; board certification in plastic surgery is available
Key Responsibilities Examine, evaluate and diagnose patient deformities caused by accident, disease or congenital abnormalities; restore normal function and appearance by performing surgical procedures to correct abnormalities and deformities
Job Growth (2014-2024) 20%* for all surgeons
Median Salary (2017) $364,233**

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

What Will I Do as a Plastic Surgeon?

Plastic surgery covers different types of reconstructive and cosmetic techniques. Reconstruction surgeons restore form and function to areas of the body affected by injury, illness or birth defect. Microsurgeons reconnect donor nerves, muscles and blood vessels. Hand surgeons treat acute and chronic hand and upper limb issues. Craniofacial surgeons repair face and head birth defects; and oral and maxiollofacial surgeons repair mouth and jaw issues. Cosmetic surgery improves the body's aesthetics. In addition to performing surgical procedures, as a plastic surgeon, you can research the impact of aging and illness on tissue, cellular healing techniques and improved bandage treatments.

What Training Will I Need?

There are two types of plastic surgery residency programs - independent and integrated models. Training to be a plastic surgeon takes five to seven years. Before you can apply to the independent model, you must complete a minimum of three years of clinical general surgery training in the same program with increasing responsibility. If you have already completed satisfactory training and are eligible for certification in neurological, orthopaedic, otolaryngology, thoracic or urology surgery, you may apply for a plastic surgery residency. Once your prerequisites are completed, you will receive two or three years of plastic surgery training, during one of which you must act as chief or senior.

If you have completed your medical or osteopathic degree in the United States or Canada and choose an integrated residency program, you will complete five or six years of Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME)-accredited plastic surgery training. Accredited curriculum will include no less than two years of plastic surgery training, and at least one year of chief or senior plastic surgery responsibility.

Where Will I Work?

As a board-certified plastic surgeon, you can use your skills in a private practice, a hospital, clinic or an academic setting. The annual salary for most plastic surgeons ranged from $250,243 to $531,785 in 2017, according to Salary.com.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

As a surgeon, you could choose to work as a generalist, or you could focus your practice in a different area of the field, such as pediatric or cardiothoracic surgery. To do so, you would choose a general surgery residency after medical school, followed by an optional specialized fellowship. Alternatively, you could think about becoming a physician assistant, as these medical professionals can work closely with a plastic surgeon. A physician assistant needs a master's degree and a license in order to practice.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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