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Educational difference between a plastic surgeon and a cosmetic surgeon

Because the procedures and outcomes of each are quite different, the training of cosmetic surgeons and plastic surgeons is also very different. As there are no residency programs specifically focused on cosmetic surgery, physicians pursuing cosmetic surgery have backgrounds that include medical school, a residency and/or fellowship program, preferably in a surgical specialty, usually followed by attaining board certification in that specialty, and post-residency training specifically in cosmetic surgery. This can be done through a cosmetic surgery fellowship program, as well as through workshops, seminars and lectures. Physicians with significant experience in cosmetic surgery become certified by the American Board of Cosmetic Surgery (ABCS), which has established a strict set of criteria to ensure experience and proficiency specifically in cosmetic surgery.

Plastic surgeons follow a similar path as many cosmetic surgeons. However, after finishing medical school they complete a residency and/or fellowship in plastic surgery, and then may become certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery. At this point, a plastic surgeons additional training in cosmetic surgery is optional. If they choose, they may take steps to gain experience in cosmetic surgery through a fellowship training program, workshops, seminars and lectures, and then become certified by the American Board of Cosmetic Surgery after having completed the necessary requirements.

Board certification is extremely important in determining a surgeon's qualifications. Each of the aforementioned certifying boards has very different requirements and measures a physician's education and experience in different fields. It is important that the public as well as healthcare professionals understand these differences so patients can make informed decisions when choosing a surgeon for a specific procedure, whether it is a cosmetic or plastic surgeon. Education and patient safety are at the very core of the American Academy of Cosmetic Surgery (AACS) mission to advance the specialty of cosmetic surgery and quality patient care. As the only Academy for providing continuing medical education to cosmetic surgeons, AACS believes adhering to these principles provides the public with reassurance of the formal training and advanced education of cosmetic surgeons.


This information provided for educational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. For medical questions, Consult a physician.