Have you always wanted to help individuals change the way their bodies look? If so, then working as a plastic surgeon may be the perfect career for you. This career requires a number of different skills, including a broad knowledge of medicine and surgery, as well as adept people skills. The job generally consists of consulting with and examining patients, ordering medical tests for diagnosis, and, of course, performing a variety of surgery types. For plastic surgeons, the job market is only supposed to get better in the coming years as the population ages and new medical advances continue to bloom. If this career sounds interesting to you, read on for further details to give you a more well-rounded view of what being a plastic surgeon is like.
Overview of a Plastic Surgeon Salary
As of 2018, the average salary of a plastic surgeon is around $378,435 per year. The typical pay range for plastic surgeons can vary depending on a variety of factors, but stays generally within the vicinity of $316,000 to $469,000. A surgeon’s education, years of experience, additional skills and extra certifications can cause the rate to fluctuate wildly from practice to practice. A plastic surgeon’s average total compensation comes to around $390,035, and includes a yearly bonus, healthcare and retirement plans.
Earning Factors of a Plastic Surgeon
There are several factors that can affect plastic surgeons’ salaries. Surgeons with more experience may be able to charge higher rates or work at more prestigious clinics that happen to be more expensive. Additionally, the geographical location surgeons work in can cause their salaries to vary drastically. For instance, a surgeon in a large urban center like Los Angeles or New York City may make more money than one in Des Moines, Iowa.
Plastic Surgeon Job Description
Many people may think that plastic surgeons only help individuals change parts of their bodies by performing surgeries like nose jobs, face lifts or breast augmentations. However, plastic surgeons do so much more than that. Plastic surgeons are responsible for reconstructive surgery: surgery that helps restore parts of a patient’s body after trauma, disease, infections, tumors or other medical issues. For instance, tragic accidents can result in patients needing a specialist to fix broken bones or repair damaged skin. Plastic surgeons must become proficient in both cosmetic surgeries that alter and improve patients’ appearances and reconstructive surgeries that correct and restore patient’s body parts. Additionally, plastic surgeons may be responsible for the following tasks:
Plastic surgeons work in hospitals and clinics, operating in sterile surgical rooms. They must have intelligence, the ability to work under high stress and excellent fine motor skills in their hands. Plastic surgeons generally work 40 hours a week on a full-time schedule, though they often work in the evenings and on weekends. Some patients may need emergency surgery, which may require the plastic surgeon to show up at a moment’s notice.
For many surgeries, plastic surgeons must stand on their feet for many hours at a time. Therefore, plastic surgeons need to be in good physical shape so that they are able to continue standing upright and bent over while performing surgery as well as potentially moving heavier patients. The surgery itself is a high-stress and complex process that involves working with a team of other physicians and nurses. Thus, plastic surgeons must be able to work with other individuals in high-stress situations, delegating tasks and ensuring that procedures happen in an orderly manner.
It’s important for plastic surgeons to exhibit these qualities that are a staple in all surgery-related fields:
The best plastic surgeons are able to balance their broad knowledge of surgical procedures with strong interpersonal skills.
Types of Surgeries Performed
There is a variety of cosmetic and reconstructive surgeries that a plastic surgeon may perform, and this large variety contributes to the high salary. In short, plastic surgeons get paid more because they have to perform more types of surgeries.
Cosmetic surgeries are performed when a patient dislikes some feature and wants it changed and altered by a plastic surgeon. These surgeries are performed all over the body, but most often on the head, neck and body. Surgeons are not correcting some deficiency on the body, nor is anything life threatening about the issues at hand. Therefore, all cosmetic surgeries are elective. Some of the potential cosmetic surgeries can include:
- Facial Contouring: Rhinoplasties (nose jobs), cheek and chin enhancements
- Breast Enhancement: Reductions, lifts, augmentations
- Facial Rejuvenation: Facelifts, neck lifts, brow lifts, eyelid lifts
- Body Contouring: Liposuction, tummy tucks, treatment for gynecomastia
- Skin Rejuvenation: Laser hair removal, lip fillers, Botox
For reconstructive surgeries, on the other hand, plastic surgeons rebuild various parts of patients’ bodies that may have been damaged due to accidents, diseases or other reasons. Reconstructive surgery is explicitly surgery designed to correct dysfunctional areas of the body. There is a variety of types of procedures that plastic surgeons perform, and these may include:
- Congenital Defect Repairs
- Cleft Palate Surgery
- Hand Surgery
- Burn Repair
- Breast Reconstruction
- Lower Extremity Reconstruction
- Scar Repair
Surgeon Job Outlook
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that employment opportunities for plastic surgeons and other health care professionals look good on the horizon, as they are predicted to grow by 14 percent from 2014 until 2024 for a total increase in 99,300 jobs. More surgery and healthcare jobs are needed as baby boomers age, the healthcare industry grows, more individuals obtain health insurance and new medical technology advances. Because of these increasing statistics, many medical schools are admitting larger numbers of medical students to meet demands.
Surgeon Education Requirements
Plastic surgeons must have extensive medical and surgical training, as is common for any surgeon. First, individuals who want to become plastic surgeons need a four-year undergraduate degree in which they have completed requisite science courses like chemistry, biology and physics. Then comes four years of medical school, where individuals earn either an M.D. (Doctor of Medicine) or D.O. (Doctor of Osteopathy) degree. After completing these eight years of school, plastic surgeons must undergo at least five years of residency where they focus their time on general surgery as well as plastic surgery specialties. In this process, students are supervised by physicians with many years of experience. The potential plastic surgeons are then able to learn from this experience and apply it to their own practices later in life.
One nice aspect to plastic surgery residency is that residents are able to earn a salary while learning their craft. The amount of pay depends on the institution, but salaries generally increase with every year a resident advances. For instance, a first-year resident may earn around $49,000 a year, while a second-year resident may earn $51,000.
After residency, some plastic surgeons may pursue a fellowship that allows them to choose a subfield of plastic surgery to specialize in. For example, a fellowship would allow a plastic surgeon to specialize in hair replacement, craniofacial or eyelid surgery, hand surgery or breast reconstruction. Most plastic surgeons choose a specialty, even though they are all required to be well-versed with issues related to the head and body, as well as breast surgery, fluid replacement and working with burn tissue.
Many states require plastic surgeons to obtain a license in order to practice, as well as become board certified by either the American Osteopathic Board of Surgery (AOBS) or the American Board of Plastic Surgery (ABPS). Education requirements are fairly uniform across the United States, as each state requires a specific license for surgeons to perform their duties. This ensures that no matter where patients go, they are able to have access to safe, high-quality medical procedures.
Becoming a plastic surgeon can be a long and arduous process, but it’s not all for nothing. In fact, the whole reason the process takes so long is so that these surgeons are equipped with all the medical knowledge available so that they can take care of patients as well as they can. The rather substantial salary tends to reflect the many years of schooling it takes to become a plastic surgeon, but also the responsibility inherent in the job. Plastic surgeons may work highly stressful surgeries, but the gift of giving someone a repaired nose or reconstructed face outweighs many of the more stressful aspects of the job. If you’re looking for a highly rewarding job in the medical field, look no further than becoming a plastic surgeon.