Everything you need to know to become a plastic surgeon

Being a plastic surgeon can be a fulfilling job. Although it is often associated with cosmetic procedures such as nose jobs or facelifts, these are only among the areas in which plastic surgeons can specialize. Other times, these doctors work tirelessly in hospitals to perform more serious procedures. An example may be reconstructive surgeries for burn victims.

According The aesthetic societyAmericans spent over US$9 billion on plastic surgery in 2020. From facelifts to eyelid surgeries and rhinoplasties, the demand for plastic surgery has grown tremendously since the 2000s. Statistics from the American Society of Plastic Surgery also demonstrate strong increases, especially post-pandemic, pushing the total market size value to US$68.9 billion.

Plastic surgeons are essential in the medical field – and they are well compensated for their services. The average annual salary for plastic surgeons in 2021 was US$576,000, according to a Medscape study.

High-paying careers like these often also require advanced university degrees and considerable education and training.

If this is the path you’re looking for, here’s everything you need to know to become a plastic surgeon:

The reality of being a plastic surgeon

Plastic surgery takes more time than other forms of surgery, which makes daily work demanding. Source: Win Mcnamee/Getty Images North America/Getty Images via AFP

The pay of being a plastic surgeon sounds appealing at first glance. But according to Dr Nicholas Jonesa prominent Atlanta-based plastic and reconstructive surgeon: “It’s manual labor.” Dr. Jones, who run it Nip & Tuck Plastic Surgery practice, explains that plastic surgery takes longer than other forms of surgery, which makes daily work demanding. His advice for aspiring plastic surgeons? This career may not be for you if your only goal is compensation.

Another interesting fact about the profession of plastic surgeon is how cosmetic surgery is considered an art form. Various to research explored this correlation and how art can significantly enhance a plastic surgeon’s skills.

A group of surgeons from Indiana University Medical Center decided to test it and promoted a simplified art course for plastic surgeons. The research has proven itself where there was a noticeable difference between the before and after comparison of residents’ clay sculpting after 16 hours of practice.

The exploration between surgery and art continues today. President of the American Society of Ophthalmic Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, Dr. Jennifer Sivak-Callcott also emphasizes that visual observation and imagination are essential in the field of plastic surgery. She adds: “If you can’t see things in three dimensions, it’s going to be difficult to be a very good cosmetic or reconstructive surgeon.

Qualifications Needed to Become a Plastic Surgeon

As mentioned, plastic surgeons need the best college degrees with considerable education and training. In college, aspiring plastic surgeons must complete all necessary pre-medical courses for admission to medical school. Students should also be aware of more implicit admission requirements – such as GPA, MCAT (Medical College Admissions Test) results, clinical experience and research projects.

While in medical school, it is important that you aim for high grades, especially in courses related to surgery. This is crucial because matching a plastic surgery residency usually requires impeccable academic credentials.

In addition to obtaining a bachelor’s degree and medical degree, future plastic surgeons in the United States must meet a number of other terms such as:

  • Complete a minimum of six years of specialty residency training after medical school,
  • At least three years of residency in plastic surgery,
  • Graduated from a accredited medical school.

The fastest route to the field that students can choose after medical school is an integrated plastic surgery residency which is highly selective as it covers the essentials of reconstructive or cosmetic procedures under high supervision. To give you an idea, Indiana University School of Medicine accepts only two residents per year for the three-year independent fellowship and the six-year integrated residency.

At the end of their training, students must look for a board certification of the American Board of Plastic Surgeonsa medical license in their respective jurisdictions as well as certification of a professional organization specializing in plastic surgery.

If you are looking to become certified as a plastic surgeon in a country other than the United States, most countries and even continents have their own national plastic surgery societies. To name a few, the European Association of Plastic Surgeons lists members from 28 countries (including some outside of Europe, such as Israel, Japan, Brazil, Canada and the United States), the Australian Society of Plastic Surgeons, the Mexican Association of Plastic Surgeons, Aesthetic and Reconstructive Surgery and the Brazilian Society of Plastic Surgery.

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