In its 2012 Best Jobs in America roundup, CNN Money recently ranked plastic surgery within the nation's top 100 occupations. Why such high marks? These surgeons not only rake in serious dough, they also experience work satisfaction and benefit society -- regardless of what this says about our culture, which tends to prize veneer over substance -- by improving how people feel about themselves. According to the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery, the top two plastic surgeries performed in the U.S. in 2011 were liposuction and breast augmentation, and women underwent a whopping 91 percent of that year's total plastic surgeries.
Things are looking up for these sculptors of the flesh. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, job outlook for plastic surgeons is fantastic. Indeed, employment of plastic surgeons and all physicians combined is expected to show growth of 24 percent between 2010 and 2020. This is more rapid than the average for all other occupations in the U.S. Prospects for nippers and tuckers amenable to offering their services in rural areas should be especially promising, as these more sparse and rustic geographic areas have more of a demand than supply of such specialists.
Not all plastic surgery is chinplants and facelifts, points out Robert T. Grant, M.D., plastic surgeon-in-chief for the Combined Divisions of Plastic Surgery at New York-Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia University Medical Center. He was pleasantly heart-warmed when he got a flashback visit from one of the first patients in his practice some 20 years earlier. "I didn’t recognize him at first, but he sure remembered me," said Grant. "I had reconstructed and salvaged his foot after a nasty post-heel-fracture infection." When, curiously surprised, he asked why the man had returned so many years later, the man grinned widely and explained that he was walking his daughter down the aisle the upcoming weekend -- and came to thank the good doctor for making that possible.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that wages of physicians and surgeons are among the highest of all occupations in the U.S. Indeed, physicians practicing in medical specialties, such as plastic surgery, received median total annual compensation of more than $356,000 in 2010, according to the Medical Group Management Association. Of course, no plastic surgeon starts out earning those digits, and stick-to-itness is a character trait one considering this path would do well to harness. Education and training requirements can be grueling, including four years of undergrad, four years of medical school, and tacking on an additional three to eight years in residency programs and internships. Clearly, it takes stamina to stay this course, but the end-game rewards are there.
Many plastic surgeons gain a sense of accomplishment from their work because their scalpels and lasers can dramatically improve their patients' day-to-day existence. Because the results of his work are immediately visible, says Dr. Grant, they can have a powerful and positive impact on a patient's self-esteem, body image, confidence and peace of mind. "Work with reconstructive as well as cosmetic patients can be highly rewarding," adds Dr. Grant. People's outlooks can actually be overhauled completely at the plastic surgeon's office. As most plastic surgeons would agree, that ability to, through your job, transform a person's perspective, can be quite exhilarating.
2016 Salary Information for Physicians and Surgeons
Physicians and surgeons earned a median annual salary of $204,950 in 2016, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. On the low end, physicians and surgeons earned a 25th percentile salary of $131,980, meaning 75 percent earned more than this amount. The 75th percentile salary is $261,170, meaning 25 percent earn more. In 2016, 713,800 people were employed in the U.S. as physicians and surgeons.
- CNN Money: Best Jobs In America
- Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Outlook Handbook: Physicians and Surgeons
- Robert T. Grant, M.D.; Chief of the Combined Divisions of Plastic Surgery at New York-Presbyterian Hospital-Columbia University Medical Center and New York-Presbyterian Hospital-Weill Cornell Medical Center; New York, NY
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Outlook Handbook: Physicians and Surgeons
- Career Trend: Physicians and Surgeons
Julie D. Andrews is a writer and editor living in New York City. Her articles have appeared in print or on the websites of "Prevention," "Glamour," "Fitness," "Shape," "Cosmopolitan Latina," "Elle" and "New York Magazine."