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Behind The Scenes of The American Plastic Surgery Industry

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The plastic surgery industry is one of the largest and most lucrative industries in the United States, if not the world. According to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, Americans spent an estimated $16 billion on plastic surgery in 2016, which was more than any other country that year. And the next year, more than 200,000 teens received plastic surgery (which has created an enormous amount of controversy and sparked multiple debates). Because of how profitable and fast-growing this industry is, plastic surgeons are one of the highest paid surgeons (averaging $360,000 in 2011), earning anywhere from $237,000 (starting pay) to $820,000 per year. According to Grand View Research, if the industry continues to grow at this rate, then the industry as a whole will be worth $43.9 billion by 2025.

Plastic surgeons require an extreme amount of skill, education, and dedication. Plastic surgeons (cosmetic and reconstructive) are surgeons who specialize in correcting or improving the appearance of physical features, either for solely the aesthetic or for a purpose (or both). There are two main types of plastic surgeons – reconstructive and cosmetic. Reconstructive surgeons focus on treating parts of the body that are affected by birth defects, tumors, disease, developmental problems, or burns. A lot of the time, the work that reconstructive surgeons do serves a purpose besides just aesthetics. Cosmetic surgeons, on the other hand, focus more on unnecessary procedures – such as rhinoplasties and breast augmentations. To become a plastic surgeon (reconstructive or cosmetic), you must acquire a four-year undergraduate degree, and take required courses – such as biology, chemistry, and physics. After this, you attend medical school, which takes four years if you want to acquire an M.D. (Doctor of Medicine degree) or O.D. (Doctor of Osteopathy). Once you’ve completed school and have been hired, you spend at least 5 years in residency, focusing on general and plastic surgery. Most surgeons (not all) choose to become board certified in plastic surgery by the American Board of Plastic Surgery or the American Osteopathic Board of Surgery, which makes them a more trusted and preferred surgeon. The job outlook for plastic surgeons is promising right now – employment opportunities for plastic surgeons are expected to grow 14% by 2026, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Besides that, plastic surgeons must have a strong work ethic and be dedicated. On average, a typical plastic surgeon works 50 hours a week, with most of that time standing for hours on end.

The majority of plastic surgeons are content with the job they chose. From a 2019 Medscape report, the majority of plastic surgeons (68%) reported they would go into the medical field again if they had to choose again. From the same majority, 90% of plastic surgeons said they would choose the same specialty. According to a 2019 compensation report from Medscape, plastic surgeons that worked in larger medical practices benefit from economies of scale, which leads to a lower overhead percentage. While plastic surgeons are mostly content with their jobs overall, only 52% (2019) of plastic surgeons believe that they are fairly compensated (while still not a satisfactory amount, it did go up from an original 37% in a 2014 report). The salary of a typical plastic surgeon can take years to achieve, with most surgeons not reaching average salary ($382,000 in 2011, but it has gone up substantially) until their 6th year practicing. This is most likely due to the advantage of them passing their boards, which makes them a preferred surgeon (even though being board certified is not a requirement). To add to this, from the same report, 27% of surgeons believed the most challenging aspect of their job was that they don’t receive fair reimbursement.

The cosmetic plastic surgery industry made approximately $16 billion in 2016, and that number stayed steady throughout the following years. According to an article from BioSpace, more than $16.5 billion was spent on plastic surgery in 2018. A large amount of this money comes from breast augmentations, the most common (invasive) cosmetic procedure in the United States. The American Society of Plastic Surgeons reports that there were 313,735 breast augmentations in 2018, which was up 4.4% from the previous year. Breast augmentations average anywhere from $5,000 to $10,000, depending on the surgeon and facility. Keeping the number of breast augmentations and average cost of them in mind, then breast augmentations alone made up approximately $2.3 billion (≅ 13.94%) of the amount spent on the plastic surgery industry in that year. Not to mention, the second most common (invasive) cosmetic procedure in 2018 was liposuction (258,558 procedures done). While liposuctions aren’t as costly as breast augmentations (averaging $2,000 to $3,500 per treatment region), they still made up a large amount of the money spent on the industry (≅ 4.7% in 2018). Because of the high prices of plastic surgery in the United States, many people fly to countries such as Japan, India, and Mexico for lower prices, or to have an operation that would be illegal in the United States. Despite the higher cost of surgeries in the United States, multiple sources report that they are usually safer and produce better outcomes.

Overall, the plastic surgery industry is definitely one of the biggest industries in the U.S. and will more than likely continue to be one, partly because of the impact of celebrities, insecurities, and social media. The plastic surgery industry, including the jobs that go along with it, will most likely continue to grow and the demand for plastic surgery will grow with it. The industry shows no potential to fail and/or decline since job outlook and surgeries per year have increased. Hopefully, current procedures will improve and become more advanced, leading to less botched operations. To summarize it, I believe (as well as multiple sources) that the plastic surgery industry will continue to expand and possibly become the biggest industry in the U.S., if not the world.


  1. American Society of Plastic Surgeons. (2017, April 12). More than $16 Billion Spent on Cosmetic Plastic Surgery. Retrieved September 26, 2019, from
  2. American Society of Plastic Surgeons. (2019). 2018 NATIONAL PLASTIC SURGERY STATISTICS. Retrieved September 26, 2019, from
  3. Medscape, L. K. (2019, April 29). Medscape Plastic Surgeon Compensation Report 2019. Retrieved September 26, 2019, from
  4. BioSpace. (2019, April 10). Americans Spent More than $16.5 Billion on Cosmetic Plastic Surgery in 2018. Retrieved September 26, 2019, from

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Behind The Scenes Of The American Plastic Surgery Industry. (2021, March 18). GradesFixer. Retrieved December 8, 2022, from
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