How to Become a Plastic Surgeon?

November 22

Table of Contents

Suppose you have a strong interest in medicine and a persistent, creative side. In that case, you might be interested in learning how to become a plastic surgeon. Plastic surgery is an exciting and complicated specialty that demands a good eye and a strong sense of aesthetics.

Being a plastic surgeon takes a lot of training, education, and time to master. It is also one of the most challenging residencies to get into. However, all that effort pays off with a profession that consistently ranks among the highest-paid doctors in the world. 

This article will help you decide whether to become a plastic surgeon. We have outlined the required skills, duties, and responsibilities, and how much money they earn.

What is a Plastic Surgeon? 

A doctor who does cosmetic and reconstructive surgery on the skin, face, and body is known as a plastic surgeon. They may specialize in one kind of surgery, such as breast augmentation or cleft palate repair, or carry out various other operations.

Like any other surgeon, they must be thoroughly familiar with a patient's medical history before surgery and monitor the patient's vital signs to ensure everything is proceeding smoothly. To monitor the recovery process, they also conduct post-operative consultations. 

As a plastic surgeon, you could do necessary surgery to fix an accident or physical deformity and elective surgery to improve someone's appearance. You might use specialized abilities when performing plastic surgery, like employing grafts, transferring tissue, or implanting materials. You could focus on a particular branch of plastic surgery as part of your training. 

What are the Duties and Responsibilities of a Plastic Surgeon? 

Depending on their area of expertise, plastic surgeons undertake different operations. For example, craniomaxillofacial surgeons identify and handle cases involving diseases of the face, neck, jaws, and mouth. On burn injuries, surgeons may remove dead skin, graft new skin, and try to minimize scarring.

A plastic surgeon's additional duties and responsibilities include the following:

  • Performing testing before surgery
  • Ensuring that all surgical instruments are sterile
  • Giving the patient follow-up care after a surgery
  • Examining patients to detect any ailment or deformity
  • Assessing the psychological well-being of the patients
  • Informing the patients of the risks and hazards of surgical treatments
  • Maintaining contact with patients and giving them the proper medical care
  • Conducting patient consultations and advising on the most effective treatments
  • Completing some administrative duties, such as updating patient medical records
  • Referring patients to other experts, like physical therapists, to continue their recovery
  • Applying the proper medical procedures for reconstructive, cosmetic, and remedial care
  • Performing operations on patients who desire to reshape or enhance specific body areas
  • Observing federal regulations and norms regarding the confidentiality of all patient information

What are the Requirements to Become a Plastic Surgeon? 

In the US, obtaining complete independence and a license to practice plastic surgery takes time. You will start your formal medical training after earning an undergraduate degree, such as a BA or BSc, in a 4-year medical school certified by the AAMC.

This will be followed by a 6-year residency program accredited by the Accreditation Council for Graduate Med Education. You will take qualifying and licensing tests throughout the entire process, starting with the MCAT before applying to medical school, continuing through medical school and residency with the USMLE series, and finishing with board certification tests after the residency.

How Much Does It Cost to Become a Plastic Surgeon? 

Plastic surgery programs are available at the undergraduate and graduate levels at numerous medical institutions in the United States. 

However, becoming a plastic surgeon is an expensive process, much like training for any other medical specialty. 

The average price to become a plastic surgeon is USD 360,966, although this price is the same as the average price to become any other sort of physician. 

This figure covers the price of attending an undergraduate college to earn a bachelor's degree as well as the price of attending a medical school to earn an MD or DO degree.

Undergraduate tuition generally costs USD 35,551 per year or USD 142,204 for four years of study. It includes time spent in study halls, laboratories, and medical facilities. 

The cost of medical school attendance, a more thorough accounting of expenses, includes tuition, fees, accommodation, books, boarding, and supplies.

It should be noted that the price of attending medical school to become a plastic surgeon varies. 

However, the total cost would remain the same as what was stated above. To be sure, we also advise you to check with the medical school of your choice.

How to Become a Plastic Surgeon? 

A plastic surgeon may need more than ten years of training and education before becoming established. This extensive preparation is required considering the high degree of competence needed for the job and the risks involved.

The typical steps to take to become a plastic surgeon are as follows:

1. Achieve a Bachelor's Degree

To apply to medical schools, you must complete premedical courses during your undergraduate years, such as organic chemistry, inorganic chemistry, physics, and biology. 

Additionally, you ought to get letters of recommendation from your mentors and take the MCAT required for admission to medical schools. 

Even though it is not a prerequisite, many students who are accepted into medical school also complete a bachelor's degree in addition to the necessary premedical courses. 

Being active outside of the classroom, volunteering in a hospital, and exhibiting leadership abilities may also help you stand out as a candidate for medical school.

2. Complete Medical School

Before beginning clinical rotations in different medical specialties, students must complete two years of science-related classroom instruction. Anatomy, biochemistry, physiology, microbiology, pathology, and pharmacology are among the subjects you will study.

Then, as you finish clinical rotations in internal medicine, family practice, obstetrics and gynecology, surgery, pediatrics, and psychiatry, you acquire experience dealing with patients.

A Doctor of Medicine (M.D.) degree is what you will get if you go to an allopathic medical school. 

A Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (D.O.) degree can also be obtained by enrolling in an osteopathic medical school, which emphasizes the musculoskeletal system and preventive medicine.

3. Acquire a License

To practice medicine in the United States, a doctor must obtain a license. The US Medical Licensing Examination is required for M.D.s. The Comprehensive Osteopathic Medical Licensing Exam is necessary for D.O.s. 

The three portions of the USMLE and COMLEX examine applicants' ability to apply concepts from basic science to the practice of medicine.

4. Complete a Residency in Plastic Surgery

After receiving your medical license, you have two alternatives for pursuing plastic surgery training. 

You can finish a 6-year integrated residency combining both types of exercise, or you can complete three years in general surgery followed by a 3-year plastic surgery residency.

You conduct clinical rotations in various surgical specialties during your general surgery training, including abdominal, breast, pediatric, trauma, cardiothoracic, and neurological surgery. Additional rotations in cosmetic, hand, reconstructive, laser, maxillofacial, otolaryngology, and oculoplastic surgery will be a part of your plastic surgery training.

5. Complete a Subspecialty Fellowship

You could finish a 1-year fellowship program if you wanted to focus on a specific area of plastic surgery. 

Several specialties offer fellowship opportunities, such as hand surgery, craniofacial surgery, body contouring, microvascular reconstructive surgery, and aesthetic surgery.

You can be expected to do a research project and complete clinical training in your specialty. 

If you are an allopathic plastic surgeon, you can obtain voluntary subspecialty certification from the ABPS in hand surgery or plastic surgery of the head and neck.

6. Get Certified

Their board certification demonstrates a plastic surgeon's extraordinary ability in a particular medical specialization or specialty. A plastic surgeon needs to have several certifications, including the following:

American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS)

This certification shows that you have met more stringent training and education criteria than are necessary to get licensed. You must hold a medical license and pass an oral and written test to obtain this certification.

To keep this certification current, you must enroll in the comprehensive ABMS Program, a continuing professional development program.

American Board of Plastic Surgery (ABPS)

ABPS is one of the 24 specialist boards recognized by the ABMS. To acquire this certification, you must complete the necessary training and succeed on in-depth written and oral exams covering every aspect of plastic surgery.

Important Qualities Needed to Be a Plastic Surgeon

Aspiring plastic surgeons typically need the following traits to succeed in this position:

Motor Skills

Medical procedures such as sewing wounds or severing blood veins need manual dexterity, hand-eye coordination, and attention to precision. 

Under pressure, you should be able to maintain your composure and maintain a very steady hand.


Plastic surgeons must be excellent team players and can acknowledge everyone's contribution to a successful operation because they collaborate with nurses, assistants, anesthesiologists, and other medical professionals when performing surgery.

Communication Skills

Because surgeons depend on the assistance of other medical experts to conduct surgery, they must be excellent communicators to ensure a successful procedure. They must be able to communicate honestly and professionally with their team.

Aptitude for Solving Problems 

Not every surgery goes as planned, just like in any other medical specialty. 

To avoid seriously endangering the lives of their patients, plastic surgeons should be able to handle issues promptly and effectively.

Endurance and Patience

These abilities aid doctors in enduring complicated procedures. 

Plastic surgeons must be able to maintain concentration throughout a five to six-hour surgery to avoid making a deadly error.

How Much Do Plastic Surgeons Make?

A fully qualified and independent plastic surgeon makes about USD 426,806 per year on average. It is one of the highest in all of medicine.  

It is worth noting, however, that plastic surgeons' salary ranges can vary substantially depending on several aspects, including schooling, credentials, supplementary talents, and the length of time you have been working in a given field.

Additional FAQs – How to Become a Plastic Surgeon?

What are the Alternative Careers for Plastic Surgeons?

Suppose you are interested in surgery but do not want to go the plastic surgery route. In that case, you may become a vascular surgeon, cardiac surgeon, pediatric surgeon, or brain surgeon, to name a few possibilities.

Other jobs in the medical industry that you could pursue include registered nurse or physician assistant, both needing a master's or bachelor's degree. 

You might also decide to become a veterinarian, requiring a doctoral or professional degree, if dealing with animals is more your thing.

What is the Working Environment for Plastic Surgeons Like?

Plastic surgeons work in various places, such as outpatient clinics, private practices, multi-specialty practices, trauma wards, community and academic hospitals, and more. 

Plastic surgeons collaborate with medical professionals to execute a procedure as with other operations.

Emergency surgeries may also be performed by plastic surgeons on short notice. They typically operate in sterile, well-lit spaces like an operating room at a hospital. 

Additionally, they teach or train future plastic surgeons in medical colleges.

Moreover, some plastic surgeons find that working in a private setting gives them more autonomy and control. Compared to a group practice where expenses are shared, the costs to run a private practice might be significantly higher.

Is It Worth it to Be a Plastic Surgeon?

Becoming a plastic surgeon takes approximately 14 years from the beginning of post-secondary school. This does not include the additional time required for specialist training following residency.

However, the outcomes speak for themselves: plastic surgeons have some of the most outstanding medical salaries, have a stable career, and work a moderately sized but varied caseload. 

You're no longer alone on your journey to becoming a physician

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