How To Become a Plastic Surgeon

By Jordan Fabel •  Updated: December 4, 2021  •  8 min read  •  Health
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Going into the medical industry offers many career options. You can learn how to become a plastic surgeon and enjoy a very rewarding career. In many cases, this type of career will have you serving many high-profile individuals.

Along with the type of plastic surgery you might see in Hollywood, this type of career can be very helpful for individuals. You may work with children harmed in accidents or adults suffering from an illness.

Plastic surgeons help people in many ways. Before you choose this career option, you should understand the job duties. Let’s look at the job duties and how to become a plastic surgeon.

How To Become a Plastic Surgeon

Job Duties of a Plastic Surgeon

As a plastic surgeon, you will perform several types of operations. These types of operations will help to shape or modify the appearance of the patient. You may perform surgeries to help the patient appear younger. It’s also possible to work with those injured in accidents or with illnesses.

Some plastic surgeons help people with birth defects. There are many things you might do as a plastic surgeon. The most common job duties include:

Of course, you will perform surgeries for your patients. This is the main part of the job and the type of surgery will depend on the type of plastic surgeon you become.

How to Become a Plastic Surgeon in 7 Steps

Step #1 – Complete High School

Any student wanting to go into the medical industry will need to do very well in high school. A high GPA, along with high SAT or ACT scores is your ticket into a top bachelor’s degree program. Make sure to take plenty of AP or honors courses and do very well in those courses.

Step #2 – Get Your Bachelor’s Degree

You will need a bachelor’s degree to get into medical school. It’s important to get a degree in biology, chemistry, or physics. Some schools will provide pre-med programs, which can also work well.

If you want to get into medical school, you will need to do very well in college. Keep your GPA up and make sure you score high on the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT). This test is one of the most important you will take.

Along with the test and your GPA, you will need letters of recommendation from professors, doctors, mentors, and others. It’s a good idea to show your leadership skills, work for a healthcare facility, and do anything you can to make your application stand out.

Step #3 – Complete Your Medical Degree

You will need to complete a doctor of medicine or doctor of osteopathy degree to become a plastic surgeon. This type of degree will take four years to complete.

The first two years, you will spend in the lab and in the classroom. You will study anatomy, biochemistry, microbiology, pathology, physiology, and pharmacology.

Your second two years will be spent in clinical rotations. This will give you direct experience to learn how to work with patients.

Step #4 – Get Your Medical License

After completing medical school, you will need to get your medical license. This will require you to pass the U.S. Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE). If you become a doctor of osteopathic medicine, you will need to pass the Comprehensive Osteopathic Medical Licensing Exam (COMPLEX).

Both of these tests include three parts. You will take two parts during medical school and the final part after your residency.

Step #5 – Complete your Residency

After becoming a licensed physician, you will need to complete a general surgery residency. This will take about three years and will include clinical rotations. You will also need to complete a second three-year residency in plastic surgery. This will include rotations through plastic surgery wards in multiple practices and hospitals.

As you go through the plastic surgery residency, you will likely cover multiple types of surgery. This may include plastic microsurgery, cosmetic surgery, wound chelating, and more. You will need to attend medical conferences, conduct research, gain some teaching experience, and participate in dissecting cadavers during this residency.

Step #6 – Complete a Fellowship

You will likely want to complete a fellowship in a subspecialty of plastic surgery. A one-year fellowship program can help you to specialize in many areas including microvascular reconstructive surgery, aesthetic surgery, craniofacial surgery, hand surgery, and body contouring.

It may be a requirement to complete a research project for your specialty, as well.

Step #7 – Become Board Certified

It can be a good idea for a plastic surgeon to become board certified. You can get your certification through the American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS) or The American Board of Plastic Surgery (ABPS). Both offer board certification for plastic surgeons.

Common Skills Needed to be a Plastic Surgeon

If you want to become a plastic surgeon, you need the right skills. Many necessary skills will be acquired through your education and training. Additional skills you need include:

These skills are necessary if you want to be a successful plastic surgeon.

Frequently Asked Questions About Becoming a Plastic Surgeon

How much can I make as a plastic surgeon?

The average salary, according to, is nearly $300K per year. This is a pretty common salary, regardless of your location or specialty. However, there are some employers that pay a bit more or don’t pay quite as much., on the other hand, has an average salary of closer to $350K per year. They list the top-paying cities as Duluth, Buffalo, Fargo, Dearborn, and Oklahoma City.

What type of benefits will I get as a plastic surgeon?

When you work for an employer as a plastic surgeon, you will likely get a nice benefits package. It will probably include paid time off, a 401(k), health insurance, and malpractice insurance. Your benefits package may also include a Visa sponsorship, relocation assistance, a flexible schedule, a pension plan, and a wellness program. Other benefits may also be available.

What is the work environment like for plastic surgeons?

As a plastic surgeon, you will likely work in multiple health care environments. You may spend some time in an office and time in the operating room. It’s common to spend time sitting at a desk, standing, performing research, and updating files.

Plastic surgeons will also need to use medical equipment, along with computers and other office equipment. It’s common to be on-call for medical emergencies, as well. Expect to split your time between a clinic or hospital and the office.

What type of hours do plastic surgeons work?

As a plastic surgeon, you will likely work more than 40 hours per week. You will be called in on short notice during emergencies. Your hours may depend on how many patients you have, but can also vary quite a bit depending on where you work.

Is this a growing career?

The career of a plastic surgeon is growing, but not at a very fast rate. It’s growing at about 7% over the next ten years, which is just a bit higher than the average of all professions.

How long will it take to complete plastic surgery training?

The training will include four years to get a bachelor’s degree and four years to complete medical school. Along with the schooling, you will need another three years to complete a general surgery residency, and another three years to complete a plastic surgery residency. In total, you will need at least 14 years to become a plastic surgeon.

Many plastic surgeons enter into a fellowship to specialize. This will take about a year to complete, as well.

There are many reasons to go into a career as a plastic surgeon. If you want to enter into this type of career, you should know how to become a plastic surgeon. The rewards come in many ways including a large salary.

Those looking to work directly with patients may want to enter this career. As a plastic surgeon, you can help patients in many different ways.

Jordan Fabel

Jordan Fabel

Covering different 'paths' that people's lives can take. Creative, foster parent, ticket dismissal, you get the idea. Exploring the requirements, certifications, exams, and obviously, approved courses along each path.