Plastic Surgeon Salary: Requirements, Education, and More

The path to becoming a plastic surgeon is long and requires extensive collegiate, post-graduate, and on-the-job training. But what is the average plastic surgeon salary? The occupation of performing essential and cosmetic surgical procedures upon living human being demands a high degree of expertise and ability, with the salary of the plastic surgeon reflecting the high barriers to entry into the occupation.

Continue reading to learn what plastic surgeons do, the educational and experiential requirements to become a plastic surgeon and an analysis of what they earn upon achieving the qualifications to practice.


A plastic surgeon is a medical doctor who engages in procedures to reconstruct and improve upon the physical appearance of patients. The primary procedures performed by the plastic surgeon are cosmetic or reconstructive.

surgery equipment

Image via Pixabay


The requisite education of the plastic surgeon is that of Doctor of Medicine. To reach this point in one’s education, high-school must be sufficiently completed to gain entry to undergraduate college. The undergraduate performance must then be sufficient to get the aspiring plastic surgeon into medical school.

Prior to entry to medical school, certain undergraduate pre-requisites must be fulfilled including chemistry, biology, and physics. This leads many aspiring doctors to major in pre-med for their undergraduate degree to lead into medical school seamlessly while ensuring all the prerequisite courses are covered. Completion of medical school leads into a residency, which is comprised of further practical study and training.


The clinical of the plastic surgeon provides the hands-on training necessary to learn how to apply educational learning in the practical environment. The specialty of the aspiring doctor is also clarified and developed in this stage, and thus finding an accomplished and proficient residency environment is important to the development of the plastic surgeon.

The clinical element of the medical school experience is when the students, having learned the fundamentals of the human body, diseases, and patient care during the first two years of class, begin to apply it by performing clinical rotations. Surgery is a required rotation, and some school have the potential for you to take a clerkship in plastic surgery. Seek out such medical schools should plastic surgery be your goal, as such experience is essential.


After completing the clinical years of medical school, the aspiring doctor then engages in their residency. Some institutions offer a combined general and plastic surgery program that completes in approximately 6 years. Other schools present 2-3 year plastic surgery residencies independently, generally requiring the applicant to have completed at least 3 years in general surgery residencies.

Residency programs for plastic surgeons are extensive, although offer greater to the student than traditional medical students. Plastic surgeons may wish to practice within a subspecialty, which requires further training. This would include a focus on hands or heads and necks in particular in their eventual practice. To achieve this, a fellowship is necessary, often an additional year of focused training in particular methods and research.

After four years of undergraduate, four years of medical school, three years of general surgical residency, two or three years of plastic surgery residency, and an optional year for a fellowship, the aspiring plastic surgeon has the educational requirements to practice, but still yet must achieve certification and licensure before practicing.


To practice and earning a plastic surgeon salary, the aspiring medical professional must first be licensed, which comes after the residency of the plastic surgeon. All physicians, counting plastic surgeons, require licensure to practice, although state regulations may differ. A universal requirement of plastic surgeons is the successful passing of the United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE) or the Comprehensive Osteopathic Medical Licensing Exam.


Having achieved the requisite education, residency, potential fellowship, and licensure, the plastic surgeon may then opt to achieve further board certification by passing an exam issued by the American Board of Plastic Surgery of the American Osteopathic Board of Surgery. With these assets, the plastic surgeon is ready to take their first step down their career path, after some thirteen to fifteen years of higher education.

The career path of the plastic surgeon is forked in the middle, providing one of two primary paths. The first is that of reconstructive surgery, performing medically essential procedures for individuals in need, whether due to an accident or other development. Reconstructive surgery need not be aesthetically pleasing, however, and so the skill of the plastic surgeon can markedly improve upon the outcome.

Reconstructive surgical techniques seek to improve upon the function of the patient and/or their mobility. Such procedures are meant to improve upon function, or return normal function or to approximate a normal appearance following an event such as an accident or experience with disease. As with cosmetic surgeons discussed below, the reconstructive plastic surgeon can focus upon particular areas or systems of the body.

Cosmetic surgery is the second fork in the career path of the plastic surgeon. Cosmetic surgery and microsurgery include procedures such as tummy tucks, hair restoration, breast augmentation, and facial alternations to combat aging or simply to change one’s appearance. The cosmetic surgeon is associated with the glitz and glamour of show business, an industry famous for the use of plastic surgery to maintain a superficially pleasing appearance.

The high-level skills of the plastic surgeon are increasingly sought after in American society. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicts the continued expansion of plastic surgery as an employing occupation in the United States, estimating a 14% increase in the employment of plastic surgeons between 2014 and 2024. Recognizing the skill necessary, and the growing prospects of employment for the aspiring plastic surgeon, it is necessary that we consider the earnings potential of the occupation.


The BLS reported in 2015 that the mean salary for all plastic surgeons, including plastic surgeons, was $233,150. The estimated mean salary of the plastic surgeon in particular as of 2017 according to was $364,233. Clearly, the plastic surgeon has the potential to earn a substantial sum of income for their heavy investment in their education and skill development.

Plastic surgeons work a considerable amount of time in the performance of their duties to earn their plastic surgeon salary, often more than 40 hours each week. The salary of the plastic surgeon will be affected by whether they perform emergency operations in hospitals, engage largely in academic settings, or work in private practice to conduct nominal cosmetic surgery for wealthier demographics.

According to, the salaries of board-certified plastic surgeons can vary from $250,000 to $530,000 in 2017 (numbers are approximate). The plastic surgeon salary can thus range substantially depending upon the area of practice, and the environment in which the plastic surgeon works. Plastic surgeons may work in hospitals, clinics, academic settings, or private practices.

The salary of the plastic surgeon is affected by the area of practice in which they operate. Reconstructive surgery while noble may pay less than facial cosmetic surgery. While the former is essential and performed alongside traditional medicine and is often insured, the latter is entirely nominal and engaged in by individuals who can afford procedures outside of insurance.


To provide an idea as to where in the range of $250,000 to $530,000 that represents the general plastic surgeon salary, it is necessary to explore the factors that affect it. Specialized plastic surgeons can make even more.

Outside of specialization, the geographic location in which the plastic surgeon operates will affect their salary. A leading plastic surgeon in Los Angeles will earn a markedly different salary than a leading plastic surgeon in Des Moines, Iowa. The professional reputation of the plastic surgeon also determines what they can command for their salary. The number of years of experience of the plastic surgeon influences their reputation.

Beginning plastic surgeons can expect to earn less than their experienced peers, with some plastic surgeons just starting out reporting earning as little as $67,000 annually. A surgeon with more than 10 years of experience can expect to earn over $300,000, depending upon where they practice. Those practicing in a general medical hospital earn as much as $100,000 less annually than private practitioners.


healthcare ducks

Image via Pixabay

The salary of the plastic surgeon is ranked as the seventh highest specialty, with a mean salary of $317,000 a year. Some 14% of plastic surgeons earn in excess of $500,000 each year, while some 11% of plastic surgeons earn $100,000 or less annually. While experience increases the amount that the plastic surgeon earns, reaching the point of practice is significant.

When deciding upon any career, it is important to explore the necessary investment to begin earning in said career, and the return on the investment. The plastic surgeon must complete 13 years of primary education, and 13 to 15 years of graduate education and professional training, performing sufficiently all the while.

The aspiring plastic surgeon must weigh the prospective salary of their intended practice against the cost of reaching it, and then decide accordingly. The plastic surgeon salary is high, but the cost of becoming a plastic surgeon is also lofty.

Featured Image via Pixabay

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.