Medicine is a grueling and incredibly competitive field and, within the field, plastic surgery is among the most competitive routes one can take. Therefore, first and foremost, make sure that you are committed and incredibly passionate before venturing out on the path of pursuing a career in plastic surgery.
Once in college you’ll have to get a bachelor's degree in a premedical major – think biology or chemistry. You must complete all of the required courses for medical school while an undergraduate.
Next, take the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT), and connect with a counselor to narrow down a list of realistic medical schools to apply to. The applications to get into medical school are typically sent out during the senior year of college. Try to look for a school with a plastic surgery residency program as it will make subsequent steps that include specialization considerably easier.
Once in medical school you must graduate with a four-year doctor of medicine (MD) degree (you undergo a third year clinical rotation before choosing a specialty). Once you have your MD degree in tow, you must go through a three-year surgical residency training. Even if you think you’re 100 percent sure that plastic surgery is where your heart lies, it’s a good idea to research the field through the American Board of Plastic Surgery and make sure to do a rotation or externship with a plastic surgeon. These steps will allow you to learn the rules, regulations and the everyday role of a plastic surgeon.
During residency is when you will choose a specialty after completing the general surgery training (think hand surgery, aesthetic surgery). Once your residency is completed, you will need certification with the American Board of Plastic Surgery. However it’s important to note that while the American Board of Plastic Surgery is the oldest certifying body, there are others including the American Board of Cosmetic Surgery.
Some doctors opt to pursue a fellowship after completing their residency before officially beginning their plastic surgery career.
It’s recommended that you seek out job opportunities early on in the last or next to last year of your plastic surgery residency. You’ll also want to remember to network during all of the training as it is key in securing employment opportunities in this very crowded and competitive field. In the same vein you’ll want to attend as many conferences as possible.
Samantha Ferry is a freelancer for AboutPlasticSurgery.com and other medical and health lifestyle websites.