Cosmetic Surgeons


Education and Training Requirements

High School

If you want to pursue a career in medicine, prepare yourself by developing the self-discipline to concentrate on schoolwork in high school in order to achieve the grades necessary to gain entrance to a good undergraduate program. Performing well at the college level can help you compete for slots in medical school. Start working hard in high school by taking college preparatory classes such as mathematics, including algebra and geometry, and sciences, including biology, chemistry, and physics. Also, consider taking a foreign language. Many college programs have foreign language requirements, and a familiarity with some foreign languages may help you with your medical studies later on. Finally, don't forget to take English courses. These classes will help you develop your research and writing skills—two skills that will be essential to you in your career.

Check out school clubs and civic organizations that offer volunteer opportunities for students in places like local hospitals or nursing homes. In addition to the experience you will get by volunteering, you will also have the opportunity to establish valuable relationships with people who work in the health care field. Clubs such as Kiwanis, Rotary, and Lions often count community leaders such as doctors, hospital administrators, and other health care professionals among their members. Many of these clubs have charter clubs in high schools, and student members have regular contact with these community leaders.

Postsecondary Training

Training to become a doctor is a rigorous, lengthy process. After high school, students pursuing a career in medicine can expect to spend 11 to 16 years in school and training before they can practice medicine. Requirements include four years of undergraduate school, four years of medical school, and three to eight years of residency. Not all students who apply to medical school are accepted, and many go on to other careers in the field of medicine. Entry to medical school is very competitive, and prospective students must show they possess exceptional academic abilities. Medical schools also consider character, personality, leadership qualities, and participation in extracurricular activities when deciding whether to accept a student.

The minimum education requirement for entry to a medical school is three years of college, although most applicants have at least a bachelor's degree and many have advanced degrees. Undergraduate degrees obtained by medical school applicants vary, but many have degrees in mathematics, engineering, or sciences such as biology, or in premed. Premedical students complete courses in physics, biology, mathematics, English, and inorganic and organic chemistry. Some students also volunteer at local hospitals or clinics to gain practical experience. This volunteer experience will weigh in a student's favor on competitive medical school applications. Junior and senior years in undergraduate school for students planning to go on to medical school are very busy years.

In addition to keeping up with their studies, junior and senior undergraduates often spend much of their time researching medical school programs, volunteering, or gaining other experience that could be helpful on a medical school application. Students should keep in mind that acceptance to medical school is highly competitive. At the top 118 medical schools in the nation, for example, the average applicant acceptance rate for fall 2018 was just 6.8 percent, according to U.S. News & World Report. The top 10 medical schools had an acceptance rate of only 2.4 percent. Medical school lasts four years, in addition to the four years a student has already put in at the undergraduate level, so those who want to pursue a medical career should be prepared to commit many years to being a student.

All physicians, whether or not they plan to specialize in a field such as cosmetic surgery, must complete additional training. Specialty training, depending on the field, varies from three to eight years. Traditionally, medical school graduates spend their first graduate year in a hospital internship. This first year of training following medical school is called the PGY-1 (short for postgraduate year one), during which graduates work long hours to learn about assuming the responsibility for care of patients in the role of a physician. After the first year, students are generally matched up into an internship program known as a residency program. It is during residency that physicians-in-training are introduced to their chosen specialties. Residents work under physicians who are specialists in their chosen fields at a teaching hospital. Medical school graduates must apply to residency programs by ranking their preferences for different hospitals. Independent agencies, such as the National Residency Matching Program (, match the student's preferences with the programs for which they are qualified. Accepted residency programs are accredited by the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (

Other Education or Training

The American Academy of Cosmetic Surgery, American Society of Plastic Surgeons, American Medical Association, and other medical associations provide continuing education classes to help surgeons maintain their professional and business management skills. Contact these organizations for more information.  


Certification, Licensing, and Special Requirements

Certification or Licensing

All 50 states, the District of Columbia, and U.S. territories require physicians be licensed to practice. Certification by one of the 24 certifying boards recognized by the American Board of Medical Specialties is not a legal requirement. Many physicians choose to become certified in their field because certification enables the public to identify practitioners who have met a standard of training and experience beyond the level required for licensure. As consumers become more informed and health care becomes more market driven, physicians who are board certified are expected to be more in demand. Many patient advocate groups and patient information sources urge patients to choose physicians who are board certified.  

In order to receive certification from the American Board of Plastic Surgery (ABPS), a candidate must have successfully completed the approved residency program in plastic surgery. The plastic and reconstructive surgeon then applies to the ABPS and, once the application is approved, takes the qualifying written examination. After passing the written examination, the applicant must then pass the oral examination. To become certified, the plastic and reconstructive surgeon must also practice the specialty of plastic surgery for three years. The candidate can take the written examination any time during the three years of practice, but the oral examination cannot be taken before the candidate has finished the three-year practice requirement.

The American Board of Cosmetic Surgery also offers board certification. According to its Web site, candidates must: 

  • first must furnish proof of prior board certification by: (i) one of the following boards recognized by the American Board of Medical Specialties, the Bureau of Osteopathic Specialists of the American Osteopathic Association, or the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada in one of the following surgical specialties: general surgery, plastic surgery, otolaryngology, obstetrics and gynecology, thoracic surgery, neurological surgery, orthopaedic surgery orology, ophthalmology (with completion of an American Society of Ophthalmic Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery-approved oculoplastic fellowship), OR (ii) The American Board of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery, with an M.D. degree
  • spend a full year training (i.e., fellowship) exclusively and comprehensively in cosmetic surgery
  • perform a minimum of 300 individual cosmetic surgery procedures of the face, breast, and body
  • receive additional in-depth training in non-surgical cosmetic procedures, including Botox and fillers, laser resurfacing, and skin care
  • perform and document an additional minimum set of cosmetic procedures following completion of a one-year fellowship
  • pass a comprehensive, rigorous two-day oral and written exam covering all aspects of cosmetic surgery

Experience, Skills, and Personality Traits

With education, internship, and residency requirements to fulfill, cosmetic surgeons may have as much as 12 years or more of experience working in the medical field before embarking on their chosen career of plastic surgery. To pursue board certification, candidates must have a minimum of two years of experience. Success in this field requires strong communication skills, empathy, dexterity, physical stamina, and patience. Leadership, organizational, and problem-solving skills are also desirable traits.