If there’s one thing that all physicians have in common, it’s that they want to make sure they earn fair compensation for the difficult work they do. And in high-paying specialties, such as plastic surgery, the salaries can range dramatically depending on who you serve, where you practice, and in what subspecialty you work.
Of all the medical specialties and subspecialties that exist, plastic surgeons consistently rank amongst the United States’ highest-paid physicians. But what exactly is the average plastic surgeon salary in the U.S.?
Here’s a look at how much plastic surgeons make, where they make the most, and where they’re most in demand.
How Much Does a Plastic Surgeon Make?
Plastic surgeons fall into two main categories: cosmetic surgeons and reconstructive surgeons.
When most people think of a plastic surgeon, they think of a cosmetic surgeon who performs breast augmentation surgery, rhinoplasty, facelifts, and other forms of cosmetic surgery that are elective but not medically necessary.
Reconstructive surgeons, on the other hand, dedicate their careers to correcting abnormalities caused by congenital disabilities and injuries.
Reconstructive plastic surgery is necessary to improve the function of the body. Cosmetic surgery is designed for aesthetics and not necessarily for function.
And while these subspecialists vary in the day-to-day work they do, all plastic surgeons have to undergo significant training. In addition to medical school, plastic surgeons spend approximately six years in residency: two years in general surgery training and four years of plastic surgery training.
After all those years of schooling and training, plastic surgeons need to make sure they’re compensated fairly for their specialized training. So what exactly is the national average and salary range for a plastic surgeon?
Here’s a look at the numbers:
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, a surgeon’s average salary is $252,040 per year. But that’s the average salary amongst general surgeons. The BLS does not differentiate the salaries of surgeons of different specialties.
According to other compensation sources, plastic surgeons earn considerably more per year than the average surgeon. Here’s a comparison of the salary figures from various sources:
|Economic Research Institute||$439,275|
Compared to other surgeons in other specialties, plastic surgeons are earning salaries in the top percentile of their field.
What Factors Affect a Plastic Surgeon’s Salary?
Various factors affect a plastic surgeon’s salary, including gender, level of experience, and your plastic surgery practice’s location.
Here’s how these elements affect your annual salary:
Whether you’re a cosmetic surgeon or a reconstructive surgeon, salaries are highest in geographical regions where there is a shortage of qualified and experienced plastic surgeons.
According to Zippia, the cities that pay plastic surgeons the most are as follows:
- Indianapolis, Indiana
- Twin Falls, Idaho
- Saint Petersburg, Florida
- Memphis, Tennessee
- Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
MGMA (the Medical Group Management Association) reports that plastic surgeons in the Midwest earn an average of $343,495 and receive an average of $12,693 in relocation expenses.
Physicians can command high salaries in regions where the supply of specialists outweighs the demand. And while cities such as New York, Los Angeles, and San Francisco may have a high cost of living, plastic surgeons working in other regions of the country can earn just as much, or more, depending on how much they are in need.
Board certification alone won’t net you a higher salary, but it can put you in better standing than other surgeons in the field. In turn, being board certified can provide you with a more significant amount of job opportunities, allowing you to negotiate amongst various employers to get the salary you deserve.
And when patients have to pay out of pocket, they tend to look for “surgeons” who charge the least amount of money. The problem is that surgeons offering inexpensive cosmetic procedures often aren’t board certified to do cosmetic surgery at all.
Talk shows and television shows, such as Botched, have brought to light the danger of having cosmetic surgery with a surgeon who is not board certified. This has made the general public much more aware of the need to see a board certified surgeon, thus making the need to be board certified more critical than ever before.
In addition to board certification, your years of experience are also a factor, as most patients prefer to see a surgeon with hundreds or thousands of surgeries under their belt as opposed to a surgeon who’s just starting in the field.
Gender Wage Gap
Unfortunately for female physicians, a gender wage gap exists in almost every area of medicine and healthcare.
According to a 2020 Medscape report, 64% of all plastic surgeons are men, and they earn an average of $487,000 per year. Their female counterparts earn just $433,000 per year, approximately 11% less. However, it’s interesting to note that the plastic surgery gender wage gap of 11% is considerably less than the average wage gap among all physicians, which is a staggering 25.2% less.
What Regions Have the Greatest Demand for Plastic Surgeons?
While reconstructive surgery isn’t something that people plan on or save money for, cosmetic surgery is. So by looking at the Google search trends, it’s easy to identify where the need for cosmetic plastic surgeons lies.
According to Google Trends Relative Search Volumes, the demand for plastic surgeons is highest in the following states:
- New Mexico
These are the states where the need for plastic surgeons is in the highest demand. Based on these same criteria, the states with the least demand for plastic surgeons include Oregon, Virginia, and Connecticut.
With that said, people in California, Florida, and Hawaii generate the most Google searches for finding a plastic surgeon. People in Oregon, Virginia, and Alaska Google plastic surgeons the least.
So what does all of this info mean?
The geographic region plays a significant role in how much you can earn as a plastic surgeon. Whether you’re looking for your first job after residency or looking to relocate your private practice to a new state, keep these figures in mind. Remember that these figures are always changing, depending on the physician supply and the demand for plastic surgery procedures.
Learn more: Physician Compensation Report 2020
The Importance of Contract Review
One of the smartest ways to ensure that you’re getting a fair salary for your specialty and region is to hire a contract review specialist. A contract review specialist will review all of your contract terms, including your base salary, benefits, signing bonuses, job responsibilities, and terms of contract renewal and termination.
A contract review specialist may also be able to negotiate better terms for you. From negotiating your salary to getting you a better signing bonus, this is the best way to protect your future earnings and put you on a path to earn the salary and build the wealth that you deserve.
How to Manage Your Salary and Build Wealth
Regardless of your specialty or area of medical expertise, there are four things that all physicians need to do in order to protect their assets and build wealth:
- You need to have a sound retirement plan.
- You need to devote some time to tax-planning.
- You need to work with a financial planner or financial consultant to guide you into the best investments.
- You must protect your income with disability insurance.
As a plastic surgeon, you have the potential to earn tens of millions of dollars throughout the course of your career. It’s crucial to know what steps to take to protect your own interests, build wealth, and protect your financial future both for yourself as well as your dependents and heirs.
Diversify Your Investments
Investing in 401ks, IRAs, Roth IRAs, and deferred compensation plans, such as the 457 b, is the backbone of any sound retirement plan. Many traditional retirement plans allow you to make contributions that are tax-deductible, allowing you to reduce your tax burden each year and have more money to put into other investment vehicles.
Those other investment vehicles include many things like buying stocks and other securities, investing in bonds, and purchasing real estate.
There is always risk with investing in stocks and real estate, but investing over many years almost always results in net gains. Being diversified in where you put your money is the best way to protect yourself should one of those investments result in a net loss.
Protect Your Future Income With Disability Insurance
To make contributions to your retirement accounts and have money to invest, you need an income. Should you become ill or injured and could no longer work and earn money, that situation would most likely completely derail those retirement plans.
Unless, of course, you have disability insurance. Why? Because disability insurance protects your future income, money that you haven’t earned yet.
With a disability insurance policy, you can still collect a portion of your salary even if you are too injured to work. The benefits you collect can cover mortgage payments, medical school loan payments, utilities, healthcare, and all sorts of other expenses. You can even use that money to continue to make contributions to retirement plans and other investments.
Do you own a private practice? If so, you can protect your business by adding a Business Overhead Expense policy (BOE). This is another form of disability insurance that protects your business interests and allows you to maintain your practice even when you cannot work.
Pay Attention to Tax Planning
Tax planning is the best tool you have to reduce your taxable income, reduce your tax liability, and have more cash on hand each year in order to make investments that will net long-term wealth.
Consult with a tax advisor throughout the year to ensure that you’re maximizing your contributions to a retirement plan and investing in ways that will give you tax-free income in retirement. A professional tax pro will ensure that you’re following the federal tax laws. They’ll also help you take advantage of every opportunity you have to pay fewer taxes and keep more money in your pocket.
For more information on physician tax planning, download our free tax planning guide.
Whether you’re a cosmetic surgeon or a reconstructive surgeon, you deserve fair compensation for the complicated and challenging work that you do.
Your subspecialty, level of experience, gender, and geographic region are just some of the factors that will affect your salary. And the best way to ensure that you’re getting a fair wage is to hire a contract review specialist to scrutinize your contract and negotiate better terms on your behalf.
If you’re about to sign a new physician’s employment contract, contact Physicians Thrive now. Protect your interests. Make sure that you are in a position to earn the highest salary. Take out insurance policies that will protect your future income.
With a sound retirement plan, the proper insurances, and a tax planning strategy, you can build immense amounts of wealth throughout your career.
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