How to Become a Plastic Surgeon? – Overview
Cosmetic surgery is an elective procedure in most parts of the world.
However, plastic surgery is the medical solution when a person’s face needs to be reconstructed following a traumatic injury, birth defect, burn, illness or accident.
Plastic surgeons are skilled, certified, talented healthcare practitioners who perform these life-altering surgical procedures using reconstructive cosmetic treatment.
There are mainly two specialties in plastic surgery, namely cosmetic (aesthetic) surgery, and reconstructive surgery.
Cosmetic surgery is used to improve one’s physical and facial appearance and is intended mostly for aesthetic purposes.
On the other hand, reconstructive surgery is meant to resolve restrictive birth defects, injuries, etc. to ensure smooth and normal functioning of the body.
What is a Plastic Surgeon?
Plastic surgeons are specialists in performing aesthetic-enhancing surgeries which improve the outer appearance of patients.
They are also trained to perform surgical treatments that help patients to recover the use of physical functions, such as limb or digit functions, after traumatic injury, ailment, or accident.
Board-certified plastic surgeons get education and training in various aspects of cosmetic and reconstructive surgery.
These surgeons can also choose to specialize in certain cosmetic treatments, such as specific areas of the body. They are also trained to perform non-surgical treatments too, such as tattoo removal, chemical peels, or Botox injections.
A person with a solid knowledge of surgical anatomy, physiology, pathology, and other relevant sciences is considered to be an ideal candidate for a plastic surgeon.
Besides this, they should also have significant technical expertise, follow ethical behavior, have manual dexterity, good surgical judgment, and excellent communication skills.
What are the Educational Requirements to Become a Plastic Surgeon?
Just like any other doctor, the education for prospective plastic surgeons begins with a four-year undergraduate degree in science.
The curriculum is designed to fulfill medical school requirements. Thus, you will need to have a strong grasp of advanced sciences, pharmacology, physiology, and medical ethics which are taught in the first two years.
The last two years of medical school involve getting practical clinical experience.
The path to becoming a plastic surgeon is extremely competitive. Hence, if you are ready to work for long hours to secure the coveted position, then you would be an ideal candidate to become a plastic surgeon.
Let’s check the step-by-step educational aspects of becoming a plastic surgeon.
1 – Earn a bachelor’s degree
All aspiring surgeons need to complete pre-med courses during their undergraduate years. These may include biology, physics, inorganic and organic chemistry.
Before graduating, you should also appear for MCAT (Medical College Admissions Test).
Then you will need to show letters of recommendation from your medical school mentors, reputed people in your community, your professors, and if possible, from plastic surgeons currently practicing in your community.
2 – Graduate from medical school
During the first two years of medical school, you will have to study science subjects, such as microbiology, pathology, pharmacology, physiology, anatomy, and biochemistry.
The remaining two years involve participating in clinical rotations. During this period, you will get first-hand experience working with patients.
You can choose to acquire a Medical Doctor (M.D.) degree or its equivalent Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (D.O.) degree.
3 – Earn a license to practice
Every potential plastic surgeon planning to practice in the United States must have a valid medical license.
If you’ve acquired an M.D., then you need to pass the USMLE (the United States Medical Licensing Exam). If you have a D.O. degree, then you need to pass the COMLEX (Comprehensive Osteopathic Medical Licensing Exam).
Each test includes three different parts and is aimed at evaluating your ability to apply basic and advanced science concepts when practicing medicine.
4 – Enter plastic surgery residency
Once you have acquired your license to practice as a budding plastic surgeon, you will need to get the training required to become a skilled healthcare professional.
There are two main options for this. You can either choose to complete 3 years of general surgical residency. This involves clinical rotations in different types of surgeries and later a 3-year residency in plastic surgery.
On the other hand, you can also choose to enroll in a 6-year integrated residency.
This involves both types of training. At times, residency for plastic surgery may also involve conducting research studies, teaching, attending medical/surgical conferences, and dissecting cadavers.
Once you have completed either type of residency, then you need to acquire a board certification in allopathic plastic surgery.
For this, you will need to enroll in the certification exam conducted by either the American Board of Plastic Surgery (ABPS) for M.D. degree holders or enroll and pass the American Osteopathic Board of Surgery (AOBS) for D.O. degree holders.
Once you have become fully certified, then you will need to continue your education and get your certificate renewed as and when required.
5 – Complete a fellowship
Last but not least, you will need to get trained in one of the several sub-specialties within plastic surgery.
This requires completing a year-long fellowship program. Apart from getting valuable training in your chosen specialty, the fellowship duration also lets you work with experienced plastic surgeons in the private practice setting.
What is the Average Salary of a Plastic Surgeon?
Several factors govern a plastic surgeon’s salary in the US. The annual salary for a plastic surgeon in the United States is around US$ 67,000 per year.
With decade-long experience, you can earn up to US$ 360,000 or more each year.
Plastic surgeons specializing in reconstructive or cosmetic surgeries are ranked as the seventh-highest earners, with a median salary ranging from around US$ 317,000 annually.
Studies show that around 14% of plastic surgeons in the US earn about US$ 500,000 or more every year.
Plastic surgeons are incredibly popular and in demand today.
With several years of education and training under your belt, you can become a successful practicing plastic surgeon in the US and earn a high range of salary in the future.
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