When a cosmetic surgeon works in private practice, either alone or with a group of other specialists offering their services, the surgeon is essentially self-employed and running his or her own business. Surgeons may also work for hospitals, Health Maintenance Organizations (HMOs), or the government, such as at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. In addition, universities employ a number of surgeons in academic positions. Approximately 38,200 surgeons (including cosmetic surgeons) are employed in the United States.
All physicians are required to have a medical degree. Beyond that, there are many options for entering various specialties. Four years of residency training is required of all surgeons certified by the American Board of Cosmetic Surgery (ABCS). However, the nature of that residency training, and to some extent, the location, may be up to the individual. To become certified by the ABCS, candidates must first complete a residency program and meet other requirements.
Cosmetic surgeons can learn about job openings via networking, through contacts made during their training (including fellowships), by viewing job listings on the Internet and in professional journals, and by visiting the Web sites of hospitals and other organizations that employ surgeons.
Once physicians become licensed as cosmetic surgeons, their opportunities for advancement are largely up to them. For many cosmetic surgeons, if they have not already done so, becoming board certified by the American Board of Cosmetic Surgery is a first step in advancing their careers. As consumers become more informed about their options for cosmetic surgery, cosmetic surgeons with added credentials such as board certifications are likely to be in higher demand. Many associations, such as the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, offer a screening service for consumers to check a cosmetic surgeon's qualifications when choosing a surgeon.
Any further training a cosmetic surgeon undergoes, such as the additional years of residency required to learn a subspecialty, will increase his or her earnings.
Cosmetic surgeons who are part of a hospital's cosmetic surgery department may have opportunities for advancement within their department or to a higher position at other hospitals. Generally, cosmetic surgeons who are promoted within their departments have years of experience. Some do research outside of their surgery duties and publish their works in medical journals. Others teach cosmetic surgery at universities or become part of the staff to teach residents in a teaching hospital.
Some cosmetic surgeons with years of experience go on to chair cosmetic surgery departments at major hospitals or universities, spending less time on cosmetic surgery and more time on administrative duties and research.
Tips for Entry
Learn about the field of medicine by volunteering at a local hospital, nursing home, or clinic.
Interview a medical professional for a term paper or other school project, or tell a doctor you know that you are interested in learning more about the profession and request an information interview.
Ask your teacher or school counselor to help you apply to attend the National Youth Leadership Forum available for high school students interested in a career in medicine with B+ or above grade point averages.
Take college preparatory classes such as English, mathematics, biology, chemistry, physics, and foreign languages.
Work on developing your communication skills, an important trait when dealing with patients and other medical professionals, by participating in your school's speech or debate club.