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Plastic Surgeon Education Requirements and Career Information

Sep 24, 2019

Plastic surgeons have incredibly complex job duties, performing intricate operations on patients to modify internal and external appearances. Discover what kind of education you need to become a plastic surgeon, how many years to become a plastic surgeon, and what the job market is like for these surgeons.

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Plastic Surgeon Information and Essential Facts

Job Title Plastic Surgeon
Education Requirements Doctor of Medicine
Job Description Reconstructing patient physical features as a result of injury or elective procedures, consulting with potential patients to go over risks of procedures, recommend aftercare treatments
Median Salary (September 2019)* $264,399 for plastic surgeons
Job Outlook (2018-2028)** 1% for all surgeons

Sources: *PayScale.com, **U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Plastic Surgeon College Overview

Becoming a plastic surgeon requires a lengthy academic commitment - four years of undergraduate work, four years of medical school, and then residencies and/or a fellowship. Before you apply to any medical schools, you will need a bachelor's degree. Although surgeons don't always come from the same background, completing a pre-med program that includes courses in biology, physics, and chemistry could be a big help.

After earning an undergraduate degree, you can apply to medical school. The first two years of a Doctor of Medicine program are often referred to as the preclinical years. These years focus on the basic medical care, such as the fundamentals of body systems, diseases and patient care. The next two years are the clinical years, where students perform clinical rotations in healthcare facilities. Surgery is a required rotation, and some schools offer clerkships in plastic surgery.

After graduating from medical school, individuals will be able to focus their studies on plastic surgery through residency programs and fellowships. Some schools offer combined general and plastic surgery programs that last around six years, while others offer 2- or 3-year plastic surgery residencies independently and require individuals to first complete at least three years in general surgery residencies. Residency programs incorporate training in cosmetic and reconstructive surgery while allowing residents greater independence than that of medical students.

These plastic surgery residencies can prepare you for a career in several different specialty areas. You could choose to focus your studies on reconstructive surgery, which could take place after an accident involving trauma or burns. You might also specialize in craniofacial surgery, which is one of the major portions of pediatric surgical units, helping children who deal with facial anomalies. A residency in plastic surgery could take between six and seven years once you are done with your other courses. You might not know how many years to become a plastic surgeon it will take you before you choose a specialization.

Plastic Surgeon Job Description

Your career as a plastic surgeon could introduce you to many different types of patients. You might work with patients who come in from traumatic injuries, restoring their appearances or reconstructing bones to their original state. You could also open a private practice and perform cosmetic procedures for those who wish to alter their appearance with elective surgery. Open and honest communication whenever possible is important as a surgeon because you need to relay any potential risks involved in a necessary or elective procedure. If you perform surgery in a hospital, you may end up working very irregular hours, and you might have to respond to emergencies on normal days off. You can expect to be on your feet for many straight hours while performing surgery.

Plastic Surgeon Job Outlook and Salary Information

The United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicts little change in available positions for all types of surgeons across the country. A growth of 1% is forecast from 2018 through 2028, with 500 potential new surgeons entering the field. This number could fluctuate due to reimbursement policies with healthcare coverage. Your salary as a plastic surgeon could vary widely depending on the industry that employs you. PayScale.com recorded the median plastic surgeon salary at $264,399 as of September 2019. Plastic surgeons who specialized in skin care made a median salary of $234,444 at that same time, while those who focused in medicine/surgery earned a median amount of $291,632 in the same period.

What If You Don't Want to Attend Plastic Surgeon College?

If you decide that becoming a plastic surgeon isn't what you want, you might consider an alternative career in healthcare. You could earn a degree in chiropractic medicine and treat patients with issues in their nerves, muscles, and bones. There are also nursing programs if you want to become a registered nurse, where you might be one of the first people a patient sees when they visit a hospital or doctor's office.

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