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.

Career Information at a Glance

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 about becoming 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 (2012-2022) 18%*
Median Salary (2014) $346,408**

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

Plastic Surgeon Career Profile

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: cosmetic surgery to improve appearance and reconstructive surgery to correct 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.

Job Outlook for Plastic Surgeons

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment opportunities for surgeons and other physicians were expected to grow by 18% over the 2012-2022 decade (www.bls.gov). This would be a total increase of 123,300 jobs. This was to occur because of the growth of healthcare industries, including surgery, as well as an increasing aging population and the demand for new medical technologies.

The average salary of surgeons, including plastic surgeons, was greater than $187,199 in 2013, according to the BLS. What you can expect to make will vary depending upon the location in which you choose to practice. In Rhode Island, the median annual wage in 2014 was $363,867, while in New York, it was $408,450. As of October, 2014, Salary.com estimated that plastic reconstructive surgeons specifically, made an annual median wage of $346,408 nationwide.

Education Requirements for Plastic Surgeons

Plastic surgeons require extensive training in medical and surgical procedures. To become a plastic surgeon, you typically must first hold a 4-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).

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