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Plastic surgery is a medical specialty in which function is restored to a face or body deformed by birth defect, disease or trauma. Plastic surgeons are licensed physicians who have completed six to eight years of additional training beyond medical school. A plastic surgeon income varies according to a number of factors but typically ranges between $317,563 and $471,331 annually.
Job Description: Cosmetic vs. Plastic Surgery
Although both cosmetic surgery and plastic surgery involve making improvements to a patient's face or body, training for physicians and goals for patient outcome are different. Cosmetic surgery is an elective procedure performed solely for enhancing a patient's appearance. Procedures include face-lift, rhinoplasty, or "nose job," and breast augmentation. Cosmetic surgery is performed by physicians from a variety of medical specialties including plastic surgery.
Plastic surgery is reconstructive surgery for facial and body defects that are caused by trauma, birth defects, burns and disease. The main goal of plastic or reconstructive surgery is to restore function. Examples of this kind of surgery include repair of cleft palate, scar revision and breast reconstruction after mastectomy.
Becoming either a cosmetic or plastic surgeon requires years of hard work and specialty training. The first step is earning a medical degree, either an M.D. (Medical Doctor) or D.O. (Doctor of Osteopathy) from an accredited school. Although there are no formal requirements for admission to medical school, most successful applicants have earned a minimum of a bachelor's degree in one of the life sciences, physical sciences or mathematics. Medical school admissions are competitive. Accepted students typically earned an undergraduate grade-point average of 3.71 or higher and achieved a score of at least 510 on the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT). Medical schools usually require three strong letters of recommendation that attest to an applicant's outstanding academic achievements and aptitude for a medical career.
After medical school, new physicians must complete residency training, which consists of supervised clinical and surgical practice in a chosen specialty. Plastic surgeons have two options for residency training. One option is an integrated residency training that combines three years of general surgery with three years of plastic surgery. The other option is a five-year training program in general surgery and a three-year residency in plastic surgery. At present, there is no residency program in the U.S. devoted solely to cosmetic surgery. Cosmetic surgery is a post-residency fellowship that provides training in all surgical and nonsurgical treatments for the face, breast and body.
Industry: Credentials Matter
All physicians must be licensed to practice in the state where they are working. Board certification is an optional but highly desirable credential, as it attests to a physician's level of expertise in the specialty field.
Any licensed physician can legally perform cosmetic surgery. Prospective patients have to do their research before committing to any procedure. It's important to look at a doctor's residency and post-residency training, experience and proven competence with respect to the cosmetic procedure sought. Certification by the American Board of Cosmetic Surgery is a patient's assurance that the physician has completed fellowship training exclusively in cosmetic surgery. Plastic surgeons can obtain certification through the American Board of Plastic Surgery.
The average plastic surgeon salary in the United States is $379,823 per year. The average annual salary for a cosmetic surgeon is $400,000 per year. Geographic location, experience, board certification and subspecialty practice affects earnings.
A plastic surgery office manager typically earns around $45,000 per year or $24.57 per hour. A plastic surgery patient coordinator salary is slightly higher, averaging $52,628 per year. A plastic surgery consultant salary varies according to the job title. Patient coordinators and medical sales consultants can be classified as plastic surgery consultants because they may meet with patients as part of the treatment plan. Sales consultants earn an average of $54,992 annually, while medical sales executives average $80,554. Ultimately, however, it is the physician who discusses treatment options with the patient or the patient's guardian, in the event a patient is a minor.
Denise Dayton is a a freelance writer who specializes in business, education and technology. She has written for eHow.com, Library Journal, The Searcher, Bureau of Education and Research, and corporate clients.
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