Cosmetic surgeons are medical doctors who perform restorative or corrective surgery to enhance patients’ appearances. Common procedures include facelifts, breast implants, and other alteration of facial features or body parts. They must complete extra training in plastic surgery and become board-certified.

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Education, Training, & Certification

A plastic surgeon’s education begins with a bachelor’s degree. Ideal programs include biology, physics and chemistry. Some schools offer pre-med programs that prepare you for graduate study in medicine. If you decide to pursue a pre-med degree, you’ll have to take classes in math, physics, chemistry and biology. If your school doesn’t offer a pre-med degree, it may offer a pre-med program or track, which focuses on advising and test preparation.

To gain admission into a medical school, you must pass the Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT) as well as submit letters of recommendation from mentors, professors, reputable doctors or people with good standing in the community. Demonstrating leadership qualities, working in a health care facility and participating in various medical conferences can give you an advantage when applying to a medical school.

These programs can take you up to six years beyond the bachelor’s to complete, typically splitting time between clinical and academic experiences. Clinical experience in the early years may focus on general surgical techniques including transplant, trauma and cardiac surgery. The final years of study may allow you to focus more intensely in plastic and reconstructive surgery to help you prepare for cosmetic work.

After completing a 6-year residency, you may move on to a 1-year cosmetic surgery fellowship, which allows for further specialization in less medically- and more aesthetically-minded practices. Some fellowships may take up to two years to complete. Fellowships may allow you to transition directly into independent practice of cosmetic surgery.

Fellowships are available in such areas as burn surgery, micrographic surgery, craniofacial surgery and breast reconstruction. You can study techniques for:

Duties and responsibilities of a cosmetic surgeon

A cosmetic surgeon performs operations that modify the appearance or shape of part of a patient’s body. These licensed medical professionals not only perform cosmetic surgeries such as facelifts or nose jobs, but they also perform reconstructive surgeries for patients with facial and body abnormalities caused by injury, birth defects, disease or aging.

The specific procedures cosmetic surgeons perform depend on their specialty. For instance, craniomaxillofacial surgeons diagnose and treat patients with conditions affecting the face, neck, jaws and mouth. Cosmetic surgeons may perform liposuction or breast augmentations. Burn surgeons may remove dead skin, graft new skin and work to reduce scarring on patients with burn injuries.

Other duties and responsibilities of a plastic surgeon include:

Conducting consultations with patients and recommending the best treatments

Performing tests before surgery

Providing follow-up care for the patient after surgery

Referring patients to other specialists, such as physical therapists, to complete their recovery

Performing some administrative tasks, including updating the medical records of patients

Necessary skills to become a cosmetic surgeon

To be successful in this role, aspiring cosmetic surgeons generally need the following qualities:

  • Motor skills
  • Teamwork
  • Communication skills
  • Problem-solving skills
  • Patience and stamina