Plastic surgery is a subspecialty of the surgical industry. The goal of plastic surgery is to repair, restore, construct and reconstruct both function and aesthetic appeal to an area of the body. Surgeons who work in this industry consistently pull in six figure salaries, although those who have been in the field longer make more than entry-level surgeons.
According to the ongoing Allied Physicians Salary Survey, plastic surgeons earn anywhere from $237,000 (entry-level) to $820,000 (top earners) per year. Additionally, Salary.com lists a median salary of $321,017 as of 2010 for reconstructive plastic surgeons. This is comparable to the median salary of $339,738 the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) provides for specialized physicians and surgeons for 2008. The BLS assumes that workers typically have 2080 work hours per year. Using this assumption and the Allied Physicians Salary Survey data, the hourly rate for plastic surgeons ranges from about $114 to $394.
As Disease.com asserts, plastic surgeons may receive additional money on top of their salaries. Commissions typically are between $3,000 and $36,000 a year. Profit sharing and bonuses also account for extra funds, although these are more variable, depending on experience level and the number of plastic surgeons in a practice. Translated into hourly wages, commissions alone account for an extra $1.44 to $17.31 per work hour.
Type of and Number of Surgeries
Plastic surgeons are divided into two major groups, cosmetic and reconstructive. Cosmetic surgeons focus on procedures like liposuction, face lifts, tummy tucks and breast augmentation. Reconstructive surgeons work primarily with malformations from birth defects or trauma, like burns. Statistics for 2009 and 2010 from the American Society of Plastic Surgeons indicates that the number of cosmetic procedures is more than double the number of reconstructive procedures. Because surgeons are paid for every procedure they do, this suggests that cosmetic surgeons may make more than reconstructive surgeons, particularly since cosmetic procedures usually aren't covered under insurance. However, reconstructive surgeries may be more invasive and complicated, raising fees. Additionally, the line between cosmetic and reconstructive surgery is somewhat blurred. All reconstructive surgeons apply cosmetic principles during their surgeries, and some procedures may fall into both categories. For instance, a nose job may make a person look better while solving breathing problems.
The pay for plastic surgeons is somewhat tied to the economy — as the economy worsens and people cannot afford plastic surgery, doctors perform fewer procedures, subsequently decreasing their pay. Additionally, as technology gets better, plastic surgeons are introducing new procedures or improving old ones. This results not only in increased safety, but also increased efficiency and the possibility for a greater number of procedures. As the population continues to fight obesity and injury and continues to age, plastic surgeons will have good prospects. Those interested in the field should pay close attention to where they live for a job and the sector in which they work. Some states pay higher rates than others, and self-employed surgeons typically make more overall than salaried surgeons, according to the BLS.
Wanda Thibodeaux is a freelance writer and editor based in Eagan, Minn. She has been published in both print and Web publications and has written on everything from fly fishing to parenting. She currently works through her business website, Takingdictation.com, which functions globally and welcomes new clients.