What Education Is Required to Be a Plastic Surgeon?

Many plastic surgeons work in hospitals or private practices to perform functional or cosmetic operations on people who want or need their appearance changed. Read on to discover the education you'll need to complete in order to become a practicing plastic surgeon. Schools offering Surgical Technology degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Educational Requirements for Plastic Surgeons

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS, www.bls.gov), to become a plastic surgeon, you'll need to complete undergraduate education, medical school, and a residency program. The BLS also reported that acceptance to medical schools and residency programs is competitive. These schools and programs won't only consider your test scores, grades, and personal statements, but they'll also assess your character and leadership qualities.

Important Facts About Plastic Surgeons

Prerequisites Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT)
Degree Fields of Study Doctor of Medicine (M.D.) or Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (D.O.)
Key Skills Patience; leadership; organization; physical stamina; problem solving; manual dexterity; attention to detail; empathy
Continuing Education Board certification available by passing an exam administered by the American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS), the American Osteopathic Association (AOA), or the American Board of Physician Specialties (ABPS)

Undergraduate Degree

While there's no single degree that will make you a competitive medical school applicant, you might consider majoring in a science, such as biology or chemistry. Your undergraduate program may offer 'pre-med' degrees specifically designed to prepare you for graduate study in medicine. If you choose to pursue a pre-med degree, you'll take classes in biology, chemistry, physics, and mathematics. If your school doesn't offer a pre-med degree, it may offer a pre-med track or program, which will focus on advising and test preparation.

Medical School

The BLS reports that you'll spend your first two years of medical school taking courses in subjects such as:

  • Anatomy
  • Pathology
  • Bioethics
  • Medical law
  • Pharmacology

You'll also learn how to examine patients and diagnose their illnesses. After your first two years of school, you'll complete seven rotations, with lengths that vary from four to seven weeks. These rotations will expose you to the various fields of medicine, such as general practice, surgery, pediatrics, obstetrics/gynecology, neurology, psychiatry, and emergency medicine. You'll also spend the final two years of medical school choosing your specialty - in this case, surgery - and preparing to begin your residency.

Surgical Residency

During your residency, you'll receive opportunities to improve your practice through paid hands-on training. In accordance with requirements set by the American Board of Plastic Surgery (ABPS, www.abplsurg.org), your residency will teach you general surgical techniques as well as plastic surgery methodologies. Depending on your program, you may be required to complete a general surgery residency before being allowed to enter a plastic surgery residency. You'll learn how to:

  • Administer anesthesia
  • Manage trauma, including burns
  • Operate on children and adults
  • Present a proper bedside manner to patients

The ABPS reported that as of July 2014, you'll need to complete a minimum of three years of plastic surgery training at the same institution, where you'll learn how to perform plastic surgery for both functional and cosmetic purposes. During this period, you'll rotate through the plastic surgery wards of several hospitals and practices. You'll also need to take on an increased level of responsibility as you move through your residency. You might also be required to attend conferences, teach medical students, and perform clinical procedures. The ABPS requires that the last year must be at a level of senior responsibility in order to qualify for Board certification.

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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