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In 2011, Americans underwent 13.8 million cosmetic procedures - many of which involved injectables, particularly Botox. More astounding were the costs. As an industry, plastic surgery billed upward of $10.4 billion that year. Although you might have dollar signs in your eyes as you think about becoming a plastic surgeon, there are things you should know before entering the field.
On average, a physician spends four years in an undergraduate program and four years in medical school. From there, it’s on to a residency. Residencies vary by specialty, and for plastic surgery, it’s a long one. The first three years are spent in general surgery training, according to the American College of Surgeons. The next two years are focused on plastic surgery training. At a minimum, you’re looking at 13 years of schooling and training. If you want to specialize in a field of plastic surgery, you can tack on another six to 12 months.
After graduating, most surgeons carry a lot of debt. The number varies by choice of college and medical school, but the average is just over $145,000, revealed a 2012 survey by U.S. News & World Report. If you attend a private school, you can expect to owe about $10,000 more - the average medical student from a private institution owed $155,000 after graduating.
Racking up a six-figure debt would give anyone pause, but the earning potential of a plastic surgeon is fairly high. In 2011, half of all plastic surgeons earned at least $264,000 a year, reports CNN Money. However, this number doesn’t account for the actual practice - a factor that has great bearing on earnings. For example, plastic surgeons in multispecialty practices averaged $445,000 a year, found a 2012 survey by Medscape. Those at health care organizations averaged $285,000 a year, while those working at plastic surgery group practices came in third, earning an average of $284,000 a year.
Of the more than 7,000 board-certified plastic surgeons in the U.S. in 2006, 623 were women, according to The New York Times. In 2012, about one out of every nine plastic surgeons was female. But the disparity doesn’t stop there. As of 2012, men made 55 percent more than women in the field. On average, males earned $290,000, while females made just $187,000 annually.
During your career as a plastic surgeon, you’ll inevitably perform certain procedures more than others. For many plastic surgeons, it’ll be breast augmentation - the most popular plastic surgery of 2012. Liposuction was a close second. In fact, it was the most popular procedure in 2011, dropping from almost 325,500 cases to just over 313,000 in 2012. Nose jobs and facelifts were also popular.
- American College of Surgeons: How Many Years of Postgraduate Training Do Surgical Residents Undergo?
- U.S. News and World Report: 10 Medical Schools That Lead to the Most Debt
- CNN Money: Best Jobs in America – Plastic Surgeon
- Medscape News: Plastic Surgeon Compensation Report 2012 Results
- The New York Times: Does the Sex of the Surgeon Matter?
- NJ.com: Three Questions – A Female Plastic Surgeon Talks About Why So Few Women Enter the Field
- American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery: Most Popular Surgery Procedures in 2012
- Mother Nature Network: 9 Interesting Plastic Surgery Facts
Based in Minneapolis, Minn., Dana Severson has been writing marketing materials for small-to-mid-sized businesses since 2005. Prior to this, Severson worked as a manager of business development for a marketing company, developing targeted marketing campaigns for Big G, Betty Crocker and Pillsbury, among others.