Plastic Surgeon

Plastic surgeons shape and mould regions of the body, such as the ears, face, trunk, hands and other extremities, for cosmetic and functional effect.

They also repair congenital problems, such as cleft palates or malformed bone structure in hands or feet. Cosmetic surgery reshapes normal body parts for aesthetic reasons, while reconstructive surgery repairs or replaces body parts damaged by accidents, illness or malformation. Plastic surgeons are medical doctors trained in patient interactions, trauma care and basic surgery techniques as well as in specialised techniques such as tissue transfer, body contouring and laser surgery. Within the medical speciality field of plastic surgery there are many subspecialities:  

  • Hand surgery
  • Craniofacial surgery
  • Cutaneous malignancy surgery
  • Aesthetic surgery
  • Breast reconstruction

While most plastic surgeons choose a speciality, all certified surgeons are trained in congenital problems with the head, neck and trunk, burn management, fluid replacement, breast surgery and other basic skills.

Plastic surgeons work in hospitals and operate in sterile surgical units. They spend time travelling between their consulting rooms and hospitals to visit their patients and follow up on post-operation procedures. Plastic surgeons must be on their feet for long periods when performing surgery, which can take hours, depending on the particular procedure.

For those willing to endure the many years of training necessary to qualify, career prospects are bright; demand for medical care continues to grow and more patients than ever are wanting to have or needing, plastic surgery.

Personal Requirements

A plastic surgeon should:

  • have above average intelligence and an aptitude for science
  • be able to work accurately and precisely
  • able to make critical decisions, often concerning matters of life and death, quickly and confidently
  • be responsible and sympathetic
  • be willing to study to keep up with medical advances
  • have good eye-hand coordination
  • have manual dexterity and a very steady hand
  • have good vision

How to Enter

Schooling & School Subjects

Compulsory Subjects: Mathematics, Physical Science
Recommended subjects: Life Sciences

  • Pass matric with a Bachelor's pass
  • Meet the admission requirements (APS) set by the university
  • All applications for admission to MBChB and Medical degrees are subject to selection.
  • Due to the limited number of spaces available, only a small percentage of applicants are admitted.

What to Study

MBChB degree

  • Theoretical training: 6 years.
  • Student internship: 1 year.
  • Internship: 2 years.
    Community Service: 1 year at an approved medical faculty.

Registration with the Health Professions Council of South Africa (HPCSA) is mandatory for this occupation. Registration as an Independent Medical Practitioner with the HPCSA will only be permitted once all the necessary criteria have been met.

Specialisation in Plastic Surgery

To specialise in this area, a number of years of post-graduate study will be required.

Consult the HPCSA website for the most up-to-date information relating to this area of specialization. This information can be found in the various sections under the Professional Board for Medical and Dental (and medical science) professionals.

Refer to the medical faculty of the relevant university for additional information.


  • clinics and hospitals
  • private practice

Further Information

Health Professions Council of South Africa (HPCSA) 
(553) of Hamilton and
Madiba Streets,
Arcadia, Pretoria
Tel: (012) 338-9300

Association of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgeons of Southern Africa
PostNet Suite 98,
Private Bag X 9,
Benmore, 2010
Tel: (011) 784-4537

American Society of Plastic Surgeons

Getting Started

  • do voluntary work for a health care facility
  • try to obtain part-time or voluntary work at a general hospital or other health care facility
  • do first aid courses with such organisations as St John’s Ambulance
  • speak to a plastic surgeon about this career and ask if you can observe him/her at work

Programmes by Study Institutions

Related Occupations

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