Cosmetic Surgery Training Programs and Requirements

Becoming a cosmetic surgeon requires passing the required examination after 7-12 years of studying how to medically treat patients and perform an array of aesthetic procedures through traditional coursework and clinical residencies.

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Essential Information

Cosmetic surgeons gain their skills by completing accredited Doctor of Medicine programs with specialties in areas like dermatology, general surgery, obstetrics, or otolaryngology. Direct experience is acquired through clinical rotations, internships, fellowships, and medical residencies, which can take 3-8 years to complete.

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.

Internships, Residencies and Fellowships

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

Continuing Education

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.

Students interested in a career in cosmetic surgery can pursue 4-year Doctor of Medicine programs followed by 3-8 years of clinical residencies to practice in the field. Licensure is required, and voluntary certification in cosmetic surgery is available.

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