What Is Required to Become a Plastic Surgeon?

As a plastic surgeon, you have the ability to help people improve the way they appear. While plastic, cosmetic, and reconstructive surgeons do a lot of personal improvement work, they also help people with birth defects and severe burns. It takes intensive training to work in this world that balances technical training with ethical concerns. Read on to see what it takes to become a plastic surgeon. Schools offering Surgical Technology degrees can also be found in these popular choices.


Prepare yourself for a lengthy education if you want to become a plastic surgeon. To begin, you will need to complete the same amount of schooling as other surgeons. Your first four years of college require you to study biology, organic and inorganic chemistry, math, and physics, along with your regular core coursework.

After you earn your bachelor's degree, your next stop is medical school. Competition is high, and along with scoring well on your Medical College Admission Test (MCAT), you can raise your acceptance chances with letters of recommendation and volunteer work in hospitals or clinics. Your first two years of medical school are filled with class and lab studies. The last two years provide you with an opportunity to work with actual patients in a supervised teaching environment. During this time, you study many different facets of medicine.

Important Facts about Plastic Surgeons

Average Salary (2019)* $253,523 (for plastic surgeons)
Job Outlook (2016-2026)**13% (for all physicians and surgeons)
Work EnvironmentCan either work in individual practice or as part of group practices, organizations, or hospitals; long, irregular hours, often overnight; travel may be required; must be able to stand for long periods
Similar OccupationsSurgical technologists, chiropractors, dentists, optometrists, physician assistants, registered nurses

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


Once you've completed medical school, you enter into a surgical residency program. This is where you begin to specialize in plastic surgery. Residencies are paid positions, and you usually assist with surgeries in a hospital setting, focusing on your desired area of expertise. Plastic surgery is considered a specialty, and sub-specialties include hand surgery, and head and neck surgery. Certification for one of the sub-specialties requires additional training. Specialization board certification is voluntary and obtained through rigorous examinations by the American Board of Medical Specialties.

Artistic Medical License

All physicians and surgeons must be licensed to practice medicine. Each state has its own licensing board, and if you plan on relocating, you need to check to see if your new state accepts the license you've obtained in a different state. Most states allow for reciprocity. To get your license, you have to take the United States Medical Licensing Examination and fulfill the individual requirements of your state's licensing board.

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