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Chapter I

What Does it Take to Be a Facial Plastic Surgeon? 

What is a Facial Plastic Surgeon?

Facial plastic surgeons are responsible for cosmetically enhancing or reconstructing all body parts in the head and neck region. Facial plastic surgeons also correct congenital problems such as cleft deformities and ear abnormalities. There are two types of surgery performed by facial plastic surgeons. Facial cosmetic surgery involves procedures which seek to aesthetically rejuvenate or improve specific areas of the face such as the eyelids, nose, jawline, and neck.

Facial reconstructive surgery involves repairing and correcting facial defects caused by injury, trauma, accidents, or after surgical removal of cancers. Facial plastic surgeons need to be dynamic individuals who possess expert medical knowledge and surgical expertise, exemplary interpersonal skills, and an artistic eye for aesthetics and natural beauty.

The path to becoming a facial plastic surgeon is very long and challenging. Typically, this involves approximately 15 years of training from the start of undergraduate college education to the completion of specialized fellowship training.


Those interested in pursuing a career in facial plastic surgery must earn their bachelor’s degree in a specific major of their choice while also completing required premedical coursework in such disciplines as biology, chemistry, physics, and mathematics. After completing their bachelor’s degree, students must enroll into a four-year medical school. Students can earn two types of medical degrees: (M.D.) or (D.O.). Both degrees will allow the student to graduate medical school and ultimately pursue specialized training in facial plastic surgery.

Surgical Training

After graduating from medical school, facial plastic surgeons must complete five to six years of residency training. Facial plastic surgeons typically complete 5-6 years of residency training in facial plastic surgery and otolaryngology-head & neck surgery. The first year of residency is devoted to general surgery. Those with a D.O. complete an additional 12-month internship before entering residency. Following residency, a year of subspecialty training is taken in the form of a fellowship.

Licensing and Board Certification

All states require surgeons to have a license in order to practice facial plastic surgery. Surgeons practicing in the United States must successfully pass the United States Medical Licensing Exam (USMLE) or the Comprehensive Osteopathic Medical Licensing Exam (COMLEX). Following residency and fellowship training, surgeons then sit for rigorous written and oral exams to achieve board certification in their specialty. Facial plastic surgeons are typically board certified in both facial plastic surgery, as well as otolaryngology-head & neck surgery.

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