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Cosmetic Surgeon: Education Requirements and Career Information

Working as a cosmetic surgeon requires significant formal education. Learn about the required education, job duties and licensure to see if this is the right career for you.

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Cosmetic surgeons must undergo substantial education and training, beginning with a bachelor's in a pre-med field and ending with a doctoral degree in medicine or osteopathic medicine, in addition to a lengthy residency. After completing education/training requirements, a state exam must be passed to become licensed.

Essential Information

Cosmetic surgeons, also known as plastic surgeons, have completed a professional degree program and one or more residencies. They must earn state licensure, and voluntary certification is available. With growing innovations in the field, such as reconstructive surgery methods and advanced cosmetic procedures, the need for these surgeons is increasing.

Required Education Bachelor's degree in pre-med or a science-heavy field; Doctor of Medicine or Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine; residency training
Licensure and Certification State licensure; voluntary certification is available through the American Board of Plastic Surgery (ABPS)
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)* 14% for all physicians and surgeons
Mean Annual Salary (2015)* $197,700 for all physicians and surgeons

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

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Education Requirements for Cosmetic Surgeons

Cosmetic surgeons perform detailed and complex surgeries to help patients with enhancements they wish to make to their appearances. Due to the sensitive and delicate nature of these surgeries, there is a high level of education required before entering the field.

Prospective cosmetic surgeons typically begin their studies in a bachelor's degree program with a pre-med focus, such as chemistry or physics. After their undergraduate studies, these students typically must complete a 4-year Doctor of Medicine (MD) or Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (DO) program and a residency, in addition to passing the U.S. Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE), to qualify for state licensure.

The American Board of Plastic Surgeons (ABPS) offers voluntary certification for plastic surgeons (www.abplsurg.org). Various education and training paths can qualify candidates for certification, but the most common is completion of a 5-year general surgery residency followed by a 3-year plastic surgery residency. Candidates also must pass ABPS' written and oral examinations.

Career Information for Cosmetic Surgeons

The many years of school and hard work that are required to become a cosmetic surgeon can be demanding and expensive; however, the reward can be an above-average salary and many job options. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the mean wage for all physicians and surgeons not listed separately by the organization was $197,700 a year as of May 2015. Additionally, the BLS predicted employment for all physicians and surgeons to increase 14% between 2014 and 2024, which was faster than the average for all professions (www.bls.gov).

Becoming a cosmetic surgeon takes extensive schooling, involving both an undergraduate and doctoral degree as well as a residency. State licensure must also be held, and certification is offered.

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