Cosmetic Surgeons


Exploring this Job

At the high school and undergraduate levels, you can begin to learn about the field of medicine by volunteering at hospitals, nursing homes, or clinics. By working in these settings you will not only have the opportunity to gauge how much you enjoy this type of work, but you will also have the chance to be around professionals in the field.

Another way you can explore is by talking to medical professionals, for example, interviewing one for a term paper or other school project. Or you may simply tell a doctor you know that you are interested in his or her profession and request an information interview. Come to the interview prepared to ask questions. Ask the doctor how he or she got started in the field. What does he or she like most about the job, and what least? What were the years of school like? People are often happy to talk about their jobs if you show a sincere interest, and you may even discover a mentor in this way.

One national for-profit organization, Envision, offers National Youth Leadership Forums for high school students who are interested in a variety of academic areas. Its nine-day medicine forum, which is available in nearly 10 U.S. cities during the summer, gives students an opportunity to gain hands-on experience in medicine by visiting medical schools, research facilities, and hospitals and talking to people in various stages of the medical career path, from first-year medical students to practicing physicians. The curriculum in its medical forum covers a broad range of topics in medicine, including educational requirements, career options, clinical practice, and current issues facing the profession. Forums are open to 9th through 11th graders with B+ or above grade point averages. Teachers and school counselors recommend students accepted for forums. Students may ask about the program at their school or contact the organization themselves. Tuition fees and travel expenses apply, but many students are able to find sponsors in their community.

The Job

Doctors, especially specialists such as cosmetic surgeons, generally work long hours. Surgeries of all types demand strict attention to detail, and cosmetic surgeries in which the emphasis is on the quality of the patient's appearance can be especially challenging. Still, the profession offers high earnings and personal rewards. Physicians tend to be people who thrive on challenge and are willing to devote a lot of time to their careers. 

Of course, cosmetic surgeons do not spend all their working hours in surgery. Daily tasks include patient consultation and record keeping, among other duties. Also, no matter what setting a surgeon practices in, he or she is likely to have administrative duties as well. Surgeons in private practice have an office to manage with duties ranging from hiring employees to marketing the practice to overseeing upkeep of the office. Surgeons who work in a hospital's plastic surgery department have commitments to the hospital outside of performing surgeries and seeing patients. For example, cosmetic surgeons frequently are required to provide general hospital emergency room coverage and split up this task with the other surgeons.

Today's cosmetic surgeons perform a wider range of procedures than their counterparts did only a few decades ago. Previously, the profession focused on reconstructive surgeries, with a few surgeons catering to those who could afford cosmetic procedures. Today, cosmetic surgeries are no longer performed on just celebrities or the wealthy. The public has become familiar with liposuction, implants and facelifts because these procedures have become more accessible to the general population.

According to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS), the top five cosmetic procedures in 2018 were breast augmentation, liposuction, nose reshaping, eyelid surgery, and tummy tuck. And as cosmetic surgery becomes more commonplace, an increasing number of men are having it done. Nose reshaping, hair transplants, liposuction, eyelid surgery, and breast reduction are some of the most popular procedures among men, according to the ASPS. Today's cosmetic surgeons perform more strictly cosmetic procedures than the average cosmetic surgeon did even a decade ago. It should be noted, however, that more reconstructive procedures remain important.

There are different settings in which a cosmetic surgeon may work. Three arrangements are common. The first is private practice, in which the surgeon is the sole physician in a practice with his or her own staff. The physician performs surgeries either in his or her own clinic or at a hospital where he or she has privileges. The second is group practice, in which a surgeon is part of a group of cosmetic surgeons or other related specialists who market their services together. Group practice surgeons may also perform surgeries in their own clinic or at a hospital. The third common arrangement is working in hospital departments, where a surgeon is a member of a hospital's plastic surgery department. A less common career path for cosmetic surgeons who have considerable surgical experience are professorships at academic institutions or teaching hospitals.

Because plastic surgery is a highly specialized field, plastic surgeons generally work in urban areas, both large and small. Most rural areas don't have enough patients to create a reasonable demand.