How To Become A Plastic Surgeon – What’s your next step?

How To Become A Plastic Surgeon

Plastic surgery deals with the repair, reconstruction, or replacement of physical undesirable qualities. It uses aesthetic surgical principles not only to improve these undesirable qualities to the desired structure but in all reconstructive procedures as well. Plastic surgeons not only perform cosmetic surgeries such as nose jobs or facelifts, but they also perform reconstructive surgeries for patients who have injuries from a car accident or for those with birth defects. If becoming a plastic surgeon piques your interest, continue reading this guide on how to become a plastic surgeon!


Be prepared for this extensive list of educational and extracurricular requirements, although it’s understandable why a future surgeon should go above and beyond for future clients. After all, our physical features are a part of our identity and clients should feel a strong sense of trust and dedication in all surgeons.

A few added duties to truly go above and beyond are to collect letters of recommendation from professors, mentors, and if possible, plastic surgeons currently practicing, as well as working in a hospital setting and participating in extracurricular activities will help to support your advantage when applying to medical school. Also, it’s recommended to become familiar with the acting role of being a plastic surgeon through the rules and guidelines of the ABPS and connect with groups like the ABPS. After completing your residency, you will be ready to perform plastic surgery as you have truly learned how to become a plastic surgeon. Additionally, you may decide to further master your skills in your chosen area and do a fellowship.

The More Training The Better

Fellowships offer the opportunity for surgeons to sharpen their skills, learn which area of expertise piques their interest the most, and train under talented and qualified cosmetic surgeons with years of experience behind them. Plus, many fellows learn a lot about what it takes to run a successful medical practice. Those interested in pursuing a cosmetic enhancement practice would benefit greatly from the benefits provided by fellowships. Consider Dr. Finkel, one of the few female plastic surgeons in the Phoenix area, who spent about 5 years training in General Surgery and then another 2 years training in plastic surgery before she opened up her own private practice. Training and fellowship opportunities allow new doctors the opportunity to learn from veteran doctors in different fields of specialty to help them decide which direction they want to practice longterm.

A study in 2008 revealed 36% of graduating plastic surgeon residents felt they weren’t equipped with enough training to feel comfortable offering cosmetic procedures to their patients. If you want to pursue a career in cosmetic medicine, it will be necessary for you to plan for additional cosmetic surgery and non-surgical procedure training. The number of different procedures that fall under the plastic surgery sector are extremely vast, which often lead plastic surgeons to pick a handful of surgeries that they specialize in. This helps them become the best in their industry for those specific procedures. While they may perform many types of surgeries, many plastic surgeons will have one specific procedure always tied to their name. For example, Dr. Finkel specializes in breast reconstruction after mastectomy, although she still performs many other cosmetic surgeries, she is known best for her breast augmentation and reconstruction procedures.

Job Expectations

If you are seeking a career that is both fulfilling, and exciting, plastic surgery is an excellent choice. Plastic surgeons have the freedom to practice in a variety of environments including academic and community hospital, trauma, research, in private practice, multi-specialty practice, or in an outpatient clinic. The plastic surgeon field in itself is so diverse that you have the freedom to choose to limit practice to one area or practice the entire scope of plastic surgery.

Most plastic surgeons work more than 40 hours a week and may be called in for an emergency procedure in the case of an injury or illness. As with all surgeries, plastic surgeons do not perform surgery alone, other surgeons or assistants will always be present. Teamwork is a phenomenal thing, as it can minimize patient anxiety as well as stress for you, the surgeon.

As far as workload, demand for plastic surgeons continues on a steady incline. In 2013, there were 15.1 million cosmetic surgeries performed, and according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), this number is expected to increase more than eighteen-percent from 2014 to 2022. In a 2011 survey by the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery, acceptance of cosmetic plastic surgery has broadened, with seventy-percent of people ages eighteen to twenty-four saying they approve of cosmetic procedures. Even a recent study by the Central YMCA shows young children, ages eleven to sixteen, have considered a procedure. As Baby Boomers age, it is also predicted that cosmetic surgery will increase in people ages fifty-five to seventy-five. Consider your schedule jam-packed.

Salary Expectations

There are many factors that play a role in the pay structure of a plastic surgeon including the level of experience, location, and whether it be a private practice or hospital. According to the ongoing Allied Physicians Salary Survey, plastic surgeons earn anywhere from $237,000 (entry-level) to $820,000 (top earners) per year, not including commissions, bonuses, and profit sharing opportunities.

How To Become A Plastic Surgeon

Overall, being a plastic surgeon is a gratifying and worthwhile career. As a plastic surgeon, you will be able to enjoy the satisfaction of being able to help patients in very unique ways. You will be equipped to mold your lifestyle into private practice, academic, or in a thriving practice, and select your well-defined specialty. If you are in your first or second year of medical school, I deeply encourage you to try and get some exposure to plastic surgery. In order to get a complete perspective of the life of a plastic surgeon, ask if you can sit in on one of the resident teaching conferences (where a collection of cases is usually presented and discussed), or try to spend a couple of afternoons in the OR or with different surgeons at your institution.

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