What is a Plastic Surgeon

Plastic surgeons, or reconstructive surgeons, are surgeons who focus on corrective or restorative surgeries. While cosmetic or aesthetic surgeries are the most well-known form of plastic surgery, this is not the main area of focus. Plastic surgery can include reconstructive surgery, microsurgery, and the treatment of burns. The name is derived from the word “plastic” meaning malleability, holding to the idea that flesh and skin can be modeled to help restore form and function. For more on job duties, please visit our plastic surgeon job description page.

Work Environment

The work environment for plastic surgeons is demanding and challenging, but it offers mental stimulation and a sense of reward beyond that of most medical fields. Plastic surgery can be used in a life-saving and improving manner, while also holding to certain aesthetic considerations. It can also lead to a greater emotional well-being among patients.

Most plastic surgeons work in either hospitals or private clinics. These will be clean and comfortable areas, with plenty of lighting. The area of specialty will dictate the patients seen, and their resulting response to the surgery.

Work Schedule

Most plastic surgeons work more than a forty-hour work week, however this is, again, dependent on their milieu of work and the specialty in which they are involved. However, regardless of these factors, surgery can extend beyond planned hours, and this can lead to much longer work weeks than one might expect.

Plastic Surgeon Job Outlook and Prospects

The job outlook for plastic surgeons is quite promising, with prospects of an 18-20% rate of growth between 2012 and 2022. This is due in large part to an aging population. Many ailments treated by plastic surgeons, including breast cancer (treated by mastectomy), as well as the need for management of complicated wounds, and the reconstruction of the body after other surgeries (such as a hip replacement) are more prevalent in the elderly. The increasing obesity problems in the United States give plastic surgeons a further demand, particularly for the performance of liposuction and other such treatments.

Plastic Surgeon Salary: Factors of Influence

The average plastic surgeon salary can extend between $70,000 to over $500,000 per year. This is based on a number of factors, including specialization, the industry worked, and the geographic location. Experience is also an important factor, with the highest paid having worked in the field for an extended period of time.

The average salary for plastic surgeons is around $340,000 per year. This is boosted by the benefits an employer may offer.

Education and Specialization 

All plastic surgeons must complete a bachelor’s degree, followed by a four-year medical degree. This will be followed by a three-year residency in general surgery, and then a two- to three-year residency focusing on plastic surgery. Some will follow this with a fellowship, allowing the surgeon to specialize in a subfield.

Those pursuing a longer residency in a more prestigious hospital can see some immediate gains in wages. However, a specialization will be of greater pecuniary substance, with specialties in craniofacial surgery, hand reconstruction, and breast reconstruction or augmentation as potential areas of focus.

Experience and Position 

Experience brings many plastic surgeon salary improvements, boosting one from the $200,000 range of most starting surgeons (depending on the geographic location) to well above $300,000.

The position worked will also raise plastic surgeon salary. With appropriate experience and skill, one can become head of a reconstructive surgery department, and be offered a teaching position in a medical school as well. 


The industry worked will make a large difference for plastic surgeon salary. Those working in a general medical and surgical hospital will often receive a lower salary than those working in specialty hospitals or private practices. These differences can range by as much as $100,000, depending on the hospital, and the skill and renown of the surgeon. 


The state worked can also bring large differences in plastic surgeon salary, though this is highly dependent on the subspecialty of the surgeon, and on the industry worked. A purely cosmetic surgeon with a private practice, for instance, will have a larger clientele in a city such as Los Angeles or New York than they will in Topeka. As such, California, New York, Florida, and Texas offer the highest wages. However, working in reconstructive surgery, Wyoming, Wisconsin, and Washington have some of the highest wages (though again, this is dependent on the subspecialty).