How to Fund Your Cosmetic Surgery Fellowship
This is an exciting time to become a specialist in facial cosmetic surgery: the cosmetic surgery market is projected to grow to $56.495 billion by 2024, according to a Research and Markets report. Considering the limited cosmetic surgery training available in ACGME-accredited residency programs, the hands-on specialty training available in a facial cosmetic surgery fellowship will be a critical investment in your career.
However, because you will not be able to sustain other full-time employment while in facial cosmetic fellowship training, it’s critical that you have a realistic plan for meeting financial obligations. This will allow you to have an academically rewarding year in preparation for your future practice.
But first, what is a cosmetic surgery fellowship?
What is a cosmetic surgery fellowship and why do I need it?
In the AACS-certified facial cosmetic surgery fellowship, candidate surgeons are placed at a private practice with a board-certified facial cosmetic surgeon, who serves as the fellowship director. Training fellows can expect to gain the following from this experience:
- Operate alongside an experienced facial cosmetic surgeon in their private practice as direct assistant, co-surgeon, and, ultimately, primary surgeon. Participation in a minimum of 125 cosmetic surgery cases is required; in practice, the average is 300.
- Receive mentorship from some of the most skilled facial cosmetic surgeons in the specialty—who are also generous teachers and mentors.
- Train on topics ranging from aesthetic principles to creating and running a cosmetic surgery practice.
- Build skill sets in networking, marketing, and business that are imperative to a successful cosmetic practice.
- Gain familiarity with the latest cosmetic surgery technologies and trends.
5 tips for funding an AACS cosmetic surgery fellowship
1. Budget for total costs associated with your fellowship
First, understand your total budgetary needs. Most fellows incur certain costs, including:
- The cost of relocation to the city where your fellowship takes place
- Housing and living expenses
- Commuting expenses
- Professional liability coverage (malpractice insurance), may be available at a reduced rate of about 25% of the mature annual rate to fellows in the AACS-certified program
Educational materials are typically not a significant expense for training fellows, since most fellowships have their own libraries.
2. Research your fellowship stipend
Your cosmetic surgery fellowship stipend will provide you with a base income. You can reach out to your potential fellowship director (the directors’ email addresses are listed here) to learn more about the stipend offered at a given practice. As of 2022, the average fellowship stipend is approximately $40,000, but they vary by locale and practice.
3. Set aside savings ahead of time
Depending on the stipend your fellowship offers and the cost of living in the area, you may need to supplement your fellowship income. Surgical residency salaries may exceed those of fellowships, so some fellows save up money during residency.
4. Consider options to augment your income
Surgeons who do not have savings may choose to take advantage of temporary locum tenens opportunities before beginning the fellowship, which can provide a boost in income even if only for a short period of 6 months or so. Not all fellowship start dates follow the academic year calendar, so you may have a period of time to pursue a short-term opportunity between your residency and fellowship. And as a bonus, short-term placement in a high-need area may provide the opportunity for even more surgical experience.
While the fellowship is intended to be an immersive and full-time experience, in rare cases—with the support of their fellowship director—fellows have been able to continue to work part-time at another practice (i.e. their private practice) during the fellowship to supplement their income. Talk with your fellowship director, as well as past and current training fellows, for insight into how to navigate your unique options. AACS and ABFCS surgeons are a wonderful resource, as we are passionate about the specialty and about making training work in order to grow the ranks of experienced, dedicated facial cosmetic surgeons.
5. Postpone student loan payments
Many fellows are able to ease their financial burdens during fellowship training by postponing payments on medical student loans.
“There is no substitution for comprehensive training…I apply the knowledge that I learned through this training experience on a daily basis in both my cosmetic and functional practices.”
—Former facial cosmetic surgery fellow
Benefits of cosmetic surgery fellowship training
There is no replacement for the opportunity to learn surgical technique and patient care from talented mentors at the top of their field. Our fellows view this unique training opportunity as a critical investment in their career as a cosmetic surgeon.
Fellowship-trained facial cosmetic surgeons enjoy the satisfying work of giving patients renewed confidence, and career satisfaction is a key reason many of our diplomates pursue fellowship training. Doing what you love may also prevent burnout, allowing you to enjoy a thriving career and high earnings—while retaining time for a rich personal life—for many years.
Fellowship-trained surgeons are eligible for ABFCS board certification
As a medical board focused on certifying facial cosmetic surgeons solely in aesthetic procedures for the head, face, and neck, the American Board of Facial Cosmetic Surgery (ABFCS) invites highly trained surgeons who uphold the highest standards of patient safety to apply to become board-certified facial cosmetic surgeons. Our ranks include numerous surgeons coming from fields like oculoplastic surgery, otolaryngology, dermatology, and general surgery who have chosen to complete cosmetic surgery fellowships with the American Academy of Cosmetic Surgery (AACS), and well as exceptional surgeons who have qualified with equivalent experience.
Join our ranks
Interested in fellowship training?
Learn more about the AACS fellowship »
Visit the AACS website to begin your fellowship application »
Ready to become board-certified by the ABFCS? Begin the application process here »