There is no degree for plastic surgery. Rather, aspiring plastic surgeons must attain an undergraduate degree and a Doctorate of Medicine degree before doing a residency.
Plastic surgery is an area of medicine that focuses on repairing or reconstructing the forms and functions of the human body. Along the path toward your doctorate degree, you'll delve into coursework in anatomy, physical diagnosis and pharmacology, as well as complete clerkships, clinical rotations and a capstone project.
While pursuing residency in plastic surgery, you'll encounter advanced courses in topics such as maxillofacial deformity, emergency medicine and aesthetic surgery, and complete practical experience. Additionally, students may complete research projects and clinical labs. For admissions, a high school diploma or its equivalent is required to enter a bachelor's program, a bachelor's degree is required to enter an MD program, an MD degree is required to begin a residency.
Bachelor's Degree in Biology
The Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) suggests any student considering a career in medicine pursue an undergraduate major that focuses heavily on math and science courses, such as an undergraduate degree in biology (www.aamc.org). A Bachelor of Science in Biology or Bachelor of Arts in Biology explores technical topics, such as calculus, microbiology and organic chemistry. Undergraduate students may participate in research projects and clinical labs.
Along with courses in science-based topics, a biology curriculum includes general education coursework such as mathematics, English, history and sociology. Typical topics covered include:
- Computational biology
- Anatomy and physiology
- Human biology
- Plant biology
Doctor of Medicine
The Doctor of Medicine (MD) is the minimum educational requirement necessary for professional practice as a physician. Earning an MD involves the intensive study of subjects related to biology, like pathology and genetics, as well as clinical residencies working in hospitals and clinics. Students may also have the opportunity to participate in medical research involving disease treatment and prevention. Most students receive a medical degree in 3-4 years.
Admission into medical programs can be highly competitive, and applicants are expected to possess high grades from accredited institutions of higher education. Prospective medical students must submit letters of recommendation and a letter from the Dean. Additionally, applicants submit results from the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT).
The MD curriculum includes courses in biology and medical practice. Students also complete clerkships, clinical electives, a thesis and a capstone project. Other courses found in the program include:
- Medical genetics
- Family medicine
- Physical diagnosis
Plastic Surgery Residency
To become a plastic surgeon, candidates have to complete a number of training programs teaching general and plastic surgery techniques. Some residency programs separate general surgery and plastic surgery training; however, some students can combine these requirements at select schools. The curriculum in plastic surgery programs often concentrates on practical clinical training and developing specialization fundamentals.
All program participants must have substantial education and possess at least a Doctor of Medicine degree. Other prerequisites may include letters of recommendation, graduate test scores and medical school transcripts.
Training and education in plastic surgery residency programs centers on preparing candidates for real world practice. Training covers surgical specialties such as:
- Aesthetic surgery
- Congenital anomalies
- Maxillofacial deformities
- Cosmetic surgery
Popular Career Options
A bachelor's degree in biology might lead to a career with scientific laboratories or chemical manufacturing companies. Job titles for graduates may include:
- Park ranger
- Public health consultant
- Research associate
Employment Outlook and Salary Info
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) forecasts an overall growth of 4% in the employment of physicians and surgeons from 2019-2029 (www.bls.gov). Physicians and surgeons earned a mean annual salary of $218,850 in May 2020, according to the BLS.
Plastic surgeons typically work out of private offices; however, some can be found at hospitals. According to Salary.com plastic reconstructive surgeons earned a median annual salary of $400,839 in March 2021.
Those interested in plastic surgery as a career, will need a bachelor's degree and doctor of medicine before entering into residency. Training in general and plastic surgery techniques will prepare graduates for a career within the field.