Plastic surgeons, sometimes called reconstructive surgeons, specialize in reconstructing parts of bodies that have been disfigured or that patients would like to improve in appearance. According to the American College of Surgeons, preparation for a career in plastic surgery takes a minimum of 14 years: four years of pre-medical study, four years of medical school, and six years of residencies and specialized training. Given the skill and education required to perform this job, it's hardly surprising that the pay is so high.
National Average Salary
Although the Bureau of Labor Statistics does not track the salaries of specialties within the surgical field, it reports that the average pay for specialized doctors was $356,885 as of 2010. Medscape, which conducts annual salary surveys of medical specialties, found that plastic surgeons earned an average of $270,000 per year as of 2011. Thirty-two percent of all plastic surgeons reported annual incomes of $300,000 or more, and 9 percent reportedly earned $500,000 or more per year.
Income by Practice Setting
According to Medscape, plastic surgeons who practiced in multispecialty group practices tended to outearn those in other employment situations, reporting an average income of $445,000 per year. Those in single-specialty group practices also earned above the national average for this occupation, $284,000 per year. Plastic surgeons who worked in independent solo practices reported an average of $280,000 per year. Plastic surgeons employed by hospitals reported the lowest average salary by employment situation, $155,000 per year.
Regional Income Variations
Medscape found significant regional salary variations for plastic surgeons in its 2011 survey of incomes. The highest average salary, $416,000 per year, was reported in the Southwest. Those in the North Central states earned nearly as much, averaging $413,000 per year, while those practicing in the Northwest states also reported a high salary of $389,000 per year. While most of the remaining regions reported average salaries of between $200,000 and $300,000 per year, the Southeast states reported the lowest average annual salary, $192,000.
In 2011, Medscape asked survey respondents whether or not they felt fairly compensated. Only 37 percent of plastic surgeons said they did, while 63 percent did not. Only half of plastic surgeons responded that they would choose the same surgical specialty if they could do it all over again. However, based on its own market research, CNN Money ranked plastic surgeon 97th in its 2012 list of best jobs, and gave it an A rating in terms of personal satisfaction. Prospective female plastic surgeons should be aware that the gender gap is very large in plastic surgery; men averaged $290,000 per year as of 2011, 55 percent higher than the $187,000 averaged by women in the field.