Process to Become a Plastic Surgeon

Written by paul betters
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The process of becoming a plastic surgeon starts in the same place as any other doctor's: in medical school. However, as opposed to certain other types of doctors, such as a podiatrist or an ophthalmologist, one cannot receive a doctorate in plastic surgery in medical school. Because of this, even if being a plastic surgeon is the doctor's eventual goal, the first step is to become a medical doctor in another field. Of course, becoming a doctor in the first place is hardly easy. The first step on this long road is to get into medical school in the first place. To do this, an aspiring doctor will first need to complete normal college, with good grades and preferably in a relevant field, such as pre-med or biology. With good grades, a relevant degree, and a good score on the Medical College Admission Test, or MCAT, the aspiring doctor is in a good position to get accepted to medical school.

Medical School

Following acceptance into medical school, the aspiring doctor now has four years of medical school to complete before she can become a certified Doctor of Medicine (M.D), or a Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (D.O.), depending on what path she selects, and what type of medicine she is interested in. Med school is a notoriously difficult and challenging time, generally consisting of two years taking classes followed by two years of working in a hospital or medical lab. Becoming a surgeon is the best qualification for becoming a plastic surgeon later on, although one can also become an orthopaedic doctor, or an "ear, nose, and throat" doctor, also called an otorhinolaryngologist.

Training and Residency

Upon receiving his medical degree, the doctor must complete his residency in plastic surgery. Residency is a bit like an apprenticeship, with the individual working under the supervision of a fully-licensed doctor. Although residency will usually last between three and five years, training and residency at a plastic surgery clinic will generally be a five to seven year process. There are different programs, but generally this will include three to five years of surgical training, and two to three years of residency at a plastic surgery clinic. Plastic surgery is one of, if not the most competitive residencies to get, as it is a popular and lucrative medical field. As would be expected, the better the student, the more likely he is to receive residency in the field of his choice.


Following training and residency, the doctor must become certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery to become a "true" plastic surgeon. This process consists of a difficult set of exams, both oral and written. Upon certification, the doctor will become a fully licensed plastic surgeon.

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