Medical Specialty

How Competitive is a Plastic Surgery Residency? Updated for 2023

If you want a career as a plastic surgeon, here is how competitive the medical specialty is to match into a plastic surgery residency. Plastic surgery is the branch of medicine that involves the restoration, reconstruction, or alteration of the human body. It can be divided into two main categories: reconstructive surgery and cosmetic surgery. Reconstructive surgery includes craniofacial surgery, hand surgery, microsurgery, and the treatment of burns.

Statistics on the Plastic Surgery Match

In 2020, plastic surgery had a total of 340 applicants and 194 spots. This equates to 1.75 applicants per position. Of the 173 U.S. MD seniors who applied, 103 did not match. That is an incredibly high number of non-matched US seniors!

Total Positions Total Number of Applicants Number of Applicants per Position
194 340 1.75

Osteopathic (DO) Students Matching into Plastic Surgery

In 2022, plastic surgery was Not a Friendly field for osteopathic students. Typically, MD students are matching into plastic surgery residency spots with few DO spots available.

International Medical Graduates (IMGs) Matching into Plastic Surgery

Because there are 1.42 U.S. MD applicants per 1 program spot, plastic surgery is considered to be Not Friendly for IMGs students.

Honors, Research and Awards for Plastic Surgery Residency Candidates

The average matched U.S. applicant had 8.7 volunteer experiences and 3.7 work experiences. They had 6.1 research experiences and 28.4 abstracts, presentations and publications. That makes this specialty on where the number of publications needed is Extremely High.

Research Experiences Abstracts, Presentations and Publications Work Experiences Volunteer Experiences
6.1 28.4 3.7 8.7

Average Step 1 and Step 2 Scores for Plastic Surgery

The mean U.S. Step 1 score for matched medical students in plastic surgery was 251. The mean USMLE Step 2 CK score was 257.

Overall Competitiveness of Plastic Surgery Residency and Chances of Matching

The overall competitiveness level of plastic surgery is Extremely High for a U.S. senior. With a Step 1 score of 200, the probability of matching is 13%. With a Step 1 score of >240, the probability is 57%.

How long is a residency in plastic surgery? What is the lifestyle like for a plastic surgery resident?

Compared to other residencies, plastic surgery has a Long training length. As far as lifestyle, plastic surgeons generally have a Medium stress lifestyle. Of course, lifestyle is very subjective and if you love what you do, it does not matter! And if you hate what you do, it can still be rough no matter what. In medicine, you should find the specialty that makes you enjoy your everyday interactions with patients, staff and colleagues.

What is the average salary for a plastic surgeon?

The average salary post-graduation from a plastic surgery residency is $479,000, provided one does not go on to sub-specialty training which can change the salary substantially. Academic versus private practice as well as location also play a large role in physician compensation.

What are fellowships one can do from a plastic surgery residency?

Following the successful completion of general plastic surgery residency, some physicians may choose to continue their graduate medical education with subspecialty training. Board-certified subspecialists complete additional training and qualifying examinations beyond those required for board certification in plastic surgery. Currently, several fellowships are available in plastic surgery including:

    • Burn surgery fellowship
    • Complex gender surgery and microsurgery fellowship
    • Craniofacial surgery fellowship
    • Hand and upper extremity fellowship
    • Neuroplastic and Reconstructive Surgery
    • Reconstructive microsurgery fellowship

What are the best plastic surgery residencies in the country?

The best residency for plastic surgery, or any specialty, is very driven by personal preference and situation. How close you are to family, loved ones, the type of training environment, the opportunities available are all things to take into consideration above and beyond name recognition of a program. However, there are some highly regarded names in the world of plastic surgery including:

    • Stanford
    • University of Pennsylvania
    • Johns Hopkins
    • Harvard
    • University of Pittsburgh
    • UCLA

Much of the data above is available from the AAMC Charting the Outcomes report.

Explore Other Specialties:

SpecialtyAverage Step 1 Score (Matched)Average Step 2 Score (Matched)
Child Neurology233246
Diagnostic Radiology241249
Emergency Medicine233247
Family Medicine221238
General Surgery237249
Internal Medicine235248
Internal Medicine/Pediatrics236250
Interventional Radiology247255
Neurological Surgery248252
Obstetrics and Gynecology232248
Orthopaedic Surgery248255
Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation228241
Plastic Surgery249256
Radiation Oncology243250
Vascular Surgery239247


Working together to help you achieve your medical school dreams. MedSchoolCoach provides pre-med and medical school admissions consulting services, MCAT and USMLE/COMLEX tutoring, and unique experiences that help students become physicians.

Related Articles

Back to top button