Some injuries or medical conditions interfere with a patient's quality of life because they're physically debilitating. Others can be problematic because they're disfiguring and other people can't see past the deformity. When patients require full-blown facial reconstruction as the result of major surgery, a traumatic injury or a congenital defect, they can turn to plastic surgeons or otolaryngologists to perform the repair.
Plastic Surgeon Salaries
Lay people often associate plastic surgery with vanity procedures such as facelifts and tummy tucks, but the full name of the specialty is plastic and reconstructive surgery. Surgeons who focus on reconstructive procedures can restore patients to a normal or near-normal appearance, providing a substantial improvement in their quality of life. A 2012 review of physician salary surveys by Modern Healthcare magazine reported average salaries ranging from $303,000 to $488,354 for plastic surgeons. The Medical Group Management Association's survey, one of the largest, placed the average at $420,004. The rival American Medical Group Association reported a median salary of $444,312 for plastic surgeons.
Otolaryngologists are also known as ear-nose-throat doctors, reflecting their areas of expertise. While they often treat minor ailments such as sinus infections or ear infections, they're also skilled facial surgeons and can perform reconstructive procedures. Modern Healthcare didn't review otolaryngology salaries, but they show up in some of the major surveys. The AMGA's 2012 survey reported a median salary of $374,387 for otolaryngologists, while the recruiting firm Merritt Hawkins reported offers ranging from $300,000 to $530,000 and an average salary of $412,000.
Plastic surgeons and otolaryngologists begin their careers with a four-year premedical degree, then four more years in a medical or osteopathic college. Their paths diverge after graduating from medical school. Otolaryngologists complete a five-year residency in their specialty, gradually acquiring skills and responsibility until they're ready to practice independently. Plastic surgeons either spend three years in general surgery and then three more in a plastic surgery residency or complete a single, six-year residency that meets both requirements. Surgeons who plan to specialize in reconstructive surgery must spend one more year training in a craniofacial fellowship. Doctors in either discipline must take and pass rigorous examinations after their residency to become board-certified surgeons.
Both plastic surgeons and otolaryngologists earn salaries that place them in the upper ranges for doctors in general, though they aren't exceptional among other surgeons. For example, the AMGA survey reported median salaries of $710,556 for orthopedic spinal surgeons and $656,250 for neurosurgeons. General surgeons were in the same range as otolaryngologists and plastic surgeons, at a median salary of $370,024. They both outearned nonsurgeons such as hematologist-oncologists at $348,157, neurologists at $249,250, and endocrinologists at $221,400 per year.
- Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis: Plastic Surgery
- Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis: Otolaryngology
- Modern Healthcare: Market Pricing (2012 Physician Salary Special Feature)
- Cejka Search: Physician Salaries Reported By the American Medical Group Association (AMGA)
- Merritt Hawkins: 2012 Review of Physician Recruiting Incentives
- China Photos/Getty Images News/Getty Images