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How Do I Become a Cosmetic Surgeon?

Becoming a cosmetic surgeon requires over a decade of training.
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  • Written By: Charity Delich
  • Edited By: C. Wilborn
  • Last Modified Date: 15 July 2014
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While the idea of becoming a cosmetic surgeon sounds lucrative and exciting, it is not a career for the faint of heart. The fourteen years of training usually required to reach that goal is intense, and someone who wishes to become a cosmetic surgeon should examine whether they are willing and able to put in the long hours and dedication necessary to complete the training. Some ways to evaluate whether this career could be the right fit include interviewing medical students, talking to practicing cosmetic surgeons, or volunteering at a hospital or clinic.

A person who desires to become a cosmetic surgeon should start planning for his or her career in high school by focusing on achieving a solid academic track record. Additionally, he or she should build solid foundations for college and medical classes by studying advanced science courses such as biology, chemistry, and physics, and by taking advanced math courses. Failing to take these courses in high school will require more work in college and medical school. While the training and certification requirements to become a cosmetic surgeon may vary from country to country, nearly all countries will require a person to complete advanced education and training in order to become a cosmetic surgeon.

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After finishing high school, a person wishing to become a cosmetic surgeon will need to complete a four-year undergraduate degree at an accredited college. Although an undergraduate degree in a particular field is not usually required to attend medical school, a student should elect a major that focuses on science-related fields. Popular majors include pre-med, biology, chemistry, or physics.

Admission to medical schools is competitive, so it is essential for a person wishing to become a cosmetic surgeon to maintain a high grade point average in college. Additionally, as each medical school has specific requirements for admission, aspiring cosmetic surgeons should review medical schools that interest them to determine which schools may be the best fit, and whether their college courses will meet the schools’ pre-requisites. Typically, potential medical school students start the process of applying to medical schools at the end of their junior college years.

In addition to obtaining a relevant college degree and maintaining good grades, an individual seeking to become a cosmetic surgeon will usually need to take a standardized entrance exam, such as the Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT), prior to being admitted to medical school. The MCAT is a standardized, multiple-choice test that assists medical school admission committees in determining which students will likely do well in medical school. Admission requirements vary by country, but most are very selective.

Once admitted to medical school, medical students will complete a program that usually lasts at least four years. During the first two years or more of school, medical students attend classroom lectures and labs focusing on basic sciences. Next, students work with patients in a clinical setting underneath the supervision of a doctor. Then students usually complete elective clinical rotations, which offer the chance to further explore specialties. After completing medical school, a doctor receives a degree, such as Medical Doctor (MD) or Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (DO).

Following medical school, an individual seeking to become a cosmetic surgeon may spend three years undertaking general surgical training and two or three years of specialized training in the area of plastic surgery. Additionally, in order to practice as a cosmetic surgeon, a candidate may need to pass certain certification exams. In the United States, for example, a candidate will need to pass the United Stated Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE) as well as a certification exam administered by the American Board of Plastic Surgery (ABPS).

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