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Cosmetic Surgery Training Programs and Requirements

Cosmetic surgeons complete aesthetic enhancements or maintenance procedures on the human body. These surgeons gain their skills by completing traditional medical degree programs that offer subspecialty surgery disciplines in dermatology, facial plastics, general plastics and oral-maxillofacial surgery. Continuing medical education and fellowships in cosmetic surgery refine surgeons' knowledge and skills.

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Training Requirements and Recommendations

Cosmetic surgeons complete traditional medical degree programs with specialty areas in dermatology, general surgery, obstetrics or otolaryngology. In addition, they supplement their specialty area with continued medical education courses, clinical internships and fellowships in cosmetic surgery. Here cosmetic surgeons learn how to complete face lifts, breast augmentations and other aesthetic beauty regimes.

It's a common misconception that cosmetic and plastic surgery are the same. However, cosmetic surgeons perform elective patient procedures while plastic surgeons perform medically necessitated restorative surgery. Unlike cosmetic surgeons who may specialize in dermatology, obstetrics/gynecology or general surgery, plastic surgeons specialize in plastic surgery. They study burns, birth disorders and facial and body defects. They do not study cosmetic procedures.

Formal Education

Cosmetic surgeons, like all doctors, complete extensive formal education degree programs. Typically, they complete at least three years of undergraduate degree coursework, four years of medical school and 3-8 years of clinical internships and medical residencies. Medical degree programs prepare students to assess, diagnose and manage patient healthcare. Cosmetic surgery disciplines provide theoretical knowledge and clinical surgical expertise in various cosmetic procedures.

Doctor of Medicine (M.D.) Degree Program

Those interested in becoming cosmetic surgeons should complete traditional 4-year M.D. degree programs accredited by the Liaison Committee on Medical Education (LCME). Coursework includes anatomy, biology, biochemistry, pathology, physiology and psychology. Medical degree programs also teach aspiring doctors and cosmetic surgeons to document medical histories, examine patients and diagnose acute and chronic illnesses.

Students specializing in cosmetic surgery complete additional coursework and clinical rotations or fellowships. They learn to perform such procedures as abdominoplasties, facial implants, hair transplants, liposuction, rhinoplasties, scar revisions, skin resurfacing and soft tissue augmentations.

Job Experience

Medical degree program internships and residencies provide prospective cosmetic surgeons practical, clinical experience. These paid on-the-job training programs may last up to four years years after medical school and refine board specialty skills and expertise. Upon completion of these required programs, candidates are prepared to sit for board licensing and certification examinations.

Additional fellowships in cosmetic surgery offer clinical experience in body, breast and extremity, dermatologic, facial and general cosmetic surgical procedures. These intensive post-residency training programs offer surgeons highly specialized training and experience in cosmetic medicine.

Licenses and Certifications

Prospective cosmetic surgeons must successfully pass the United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE) in order to practice medicine. In order to sit for the USMLE, candidates must complete an accredited medical school degree program and relevant internships and residencies. Doctors and surgeons who specialize must also be board certified within that specialty. The American Board of Medical Specialists (ABMS) oversees this certification.

Although cosmetic surgeons are not required to be certified in cosmetic surgery, many pursue fellowships accredited by the American Academy of Cosmetic Surgery (AACS). Completion of these fellowships and successful passage of the 2-day examination leads to voluntary professional certification with the AACS. The AACS represents cosmetic surgeons in the American Medical Association

Workshops and Seminars

The AACS offers annual conferences and seminars for cosmetic surgeons. It also provides surgery workshops and webinars that sharpen cosmetic surgeons' skills and educate them on new cutting-edge developmental surgical procedures and state-of-the-art equipment.

Additional Professional Development

Cosmetic surgeons work irregular and sometimes long hours. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics recommends that doctors and surgeons possess pleasant bedside manners, emotional stability and excellent decision-making skills. Surgeons are required to stand on their feet for long periods of time and maintain patience and meticulous attention to detail. Most work in hospitals, clinics or private practices.

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