The Pros and Cons of Becoming an Aesthetic Surgeon

Choosing a medical specialty is a decision that can have significant and long-lasting consequences.

Do you choose something fast-paced and adrenaline-filled, like an ER doctor? Do you pick something more general, like primary care? Or do you go with something that has a slower pace with more patient interaction—something like aesthetic surgery

If you’re considering this specialty, here are a few pros and cons of becoming an aesthetic surgeon.

Predictable hours

In the case of many medical specialties that are hospital-based, your hours are not yours to choose from. You may work around the clock, and when you’re not on duty, you may be on call.  This kind of shift requires evening and weekend availability and can be quite a burden, especially for doctors with families at home.

With aesthetic medicine, on the other hand, patients come in during your medical spa, clinic, outpatient surgery facility, or private office’s specific open hours. And since aesthetic procedures are generally elective, their scheduling is more predictable. 

This predictable scheduling and regular office hours make it much easier to be there for your child’s school play or big game.

Higher average pay

A surgeon’s training takes many years, beyond even the lengthy training that all doctors must go through. While general surgeons may spend five years in residency, a plastic surgeon’s training requires another two or three years of specialty training in a fellowship program. 

Why? Because plastic surgeons use a vast range of surgical techniques, including vascular surgery, bone grafts, tissue sculpting, and skin grafts. 

Medical school tuition, fees, and health insurance during the 2019-2020 academic year range from $37,556 (public, in-state) to $62,194 (public, out-of-state). 

Average private school figures come in at $60,665 and $62,111 for in-state and out-of-state students, respectively. 

Although new physicians graduated with an average debt of $251,600 in 2020, however, plastic surgery specialists are generally able to pay down that debt more quickly than those who specialize elsewhere. In 2018, plastic surgery was the highest-paid medical specialty with salaries averaging $501,000 (the only specialty, in fact, to average higher than the $500,000 mark). 

Lower stress

In many specialties, you’re often dealing with patients who are going through incredibly difficult experiences. From people with chronic pain or illness to victims of accidents or heart attacks to a wide range of other life and death scenarios, patients who need your services are very often worried, scared, or in great pain. 

While some may thrive under such circumstances, after years of a daily adrenaline rush, the stress of literally holding the lives of others in your hands can often become too much to handle.

While aesthetic medical patients may often suffer from body image disturbances resulting in depression, anxiety, and a generally diminished quality of life, they generally aren’t dealing with life-threatening conditions. As an aesthetic medicine practitioner, you’ll play a pivotal role in helping patients overcome these body image issues, and the resulting benefits can be life-altering.

Aesthetic medicine offers the opportunity to spend more time and build a relationship with a smaller base of patients while playing a vital role in helping those patients to feel better about themselves. 

High job satisfaction

In comparison to other specialties, plastic surgeons experience considerably higher job satisfaction. 

According to results of a survey reported in an August 2010 article in “Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery,” respondents who reported regretting their aesthetic surgery career choice numbered at only 4 percent. Those working in a group practice reported the greatest job satisfaction along with those who helped educate medical residents and those who performed primarily cosmetic procedures, as opposed to reconstructive surgery. 

Because plastic surgery is a field that uses a greater variety of techniques and procedures and deals with a wider range of anatomy, it allows the surgeon to exercise a greater amount of creativity. 

It also offers flexibility in lifestyle, with the option to work in trauma, for example, as opposed to elective surgeries such as breast reconstruction or cosmetic surgery.

Of course, like any life choice, the decision of which medical specialty to pursue is an intensely personal one. For those of you who’ve weighed the pros and cons, however, and decided on a path toward aesthetic surgery the benefits can be immense.

Happy studies!

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