FREE Consult: Master More - Faster - for Impressive Boards ScoresSCHEDULE CALL
FREE Consult: Master More - Faster - for Impressive Boards Scores


Plastic Surgery vs. Nephrology: Which Specialty is Right for You?

Want FREE Cardiology Flashcards?

Cardiology is key for impressive USMLE scores. Master cardiology from a Harvard-trained anesthesiologist who scored USMLE 270 with these 130+ high-yield flash cards. You’ll be begging for cardio questions - even if vitals make you queasy.

by Yousmle Staff in Career

Plastic surgery vs. nephrology is one of the biggest debates among medical students interested in physiology. Both specialties allow you to explore the complex workings of the human body and use your skills to improve patient outcomes. However, they also have significant differences, such as the scope of practice, the work environment, and the training requirements.

How do you decide which one is right for you? In this article, we will provide helpful information and tips to help you make an intelligent decision on plastic surgery vs. nephrology and find a fulfilling career that matches your interests and abilities. We will also help you evaluate practical factors such as job availability, salary, and training duration.

Plastic Surgery vs. Nephrology: Salary and Job Security

Plastic surgery might be your specialty if you want to earn a lot of money and have a steady demand for your services. But be prepared for a competitive job market after fellowship, even if you graduate from a prestigious program.

Nephrology, meanwhile, offers more job openings. You can easily find a hospital that needs nephrologists, and the career outlook is positive, even if the salary is not as high as plastic surgery. But nephrology also comes with some challenges, such as lower satisfaction rates which we will discuss later.

According to recent data, plastic surgeons have the highest average annual salary among medical specialties at $619,000, while nephrologists earn less with an average of $312,000.

Estimated Physician Average Yearly Salary by Medical Specialty in the US

Plastic surgeons earn $619,000 per year on average, while nephrologists earn less with $312,000 annually

Plastic Surgery vs. Nephrology: Competitiveness

Here we can assess the competitiveness of a specialty by looking at the unmatched rate – the % of people who apply and do not match into their preferred specialty. Plastic surgery was the most competitive residency in the 2022 Match, with a 37.3% unmatched rate among US Seniors.

Internal medicine had a 2% unmatched rate, while plastic surgery had a 37.3% unmatched rate among US seniors

To pursue a career in nephrology, you must first match into an internal medicine residency. Among US Seniors, the unmatched percentage for internal medicine residency was only 2%, making it less competitive than other residencies. However, this does not mean that nephrology is less competitive. After completing your internal medicine residency, you will still need to match into a fellowship, which is generally more competitive than matching into a residency. 

Below is the unmatched percentage among non-pediatric fellowships with >100 applicants. The unmatched percentage of US Seniors applying to the nephrology fellowship was 1.9%, making it less competitive compared to most fellowships with >100 applicants.

Plastic Surgery vs Nephrology

Training Path: Fellowship vs. Residency

Plastic surgery residency requires completion of a five to six-year residency program accredited by the Residency Review Committee for Plastic Surgery (RRC-PS). Nephrology involves three years of internal medicine followed by two more years in a nephrology fellowship with an optional third year.

A nephrology fellowship is typically less competitive than a plastic surgery residency. Your USMLE scores, med school, and research are the main things for residency applications. Research is also a big thing for fellowship applications, and your residency program counts more, but your USMLE scores matter much less.

Plastic Surgery vs. Nephrology: Work-Life Balance

Work-life balance is a crucial factor for many medical professionals. Plastic surgeons and nephrologists have to deal with demanding schedules and on-call duties. However, due to the nature of their work, nephrologists may have a slightly better balance between work and personal life.

Plastic surgeons often have demanding surgical schedules and may work long hours in the operating room. They may also be on-call for emergencies such as trauma or burn accidents.

On average, plastic surgeons work 52.2 hours per week, ranking in the middle of medical specialties, while nephrologists work more hours with 54.9 hours, ranking near the upper end of all medical specialties.

Estimated Physician Weekly Working Hours by Medical Specialty in the US

Plastic surgeons work an average of 52.2 hours per week, while nephrologists work slightly more hours, at 54.9 per week.

Nephrologists require more documentation due to extensive diagnostic tests, resulting in an estimated 18 hours of admin/paperwork per week, while plastic surgeons have only 11 hours, ranking near the lower end of all medical specialties.

Estimated Physician Admin/Paperwork Hours by Medical Specialty in the US

Plastic surgeons work on admin/paperwork an average of 11 hours per week, while nephrologists work more hours, at 18 per week.

Training Duration and Subspecialties

The training duration is a key aspect to consider when choosing between plastic surgery vs nephrology. Nephrology has three years of internal medicine and a two-year training period, while plastic surgery has a minimum of five to six-year residency program.

After completing a plastic surgery residency program, some surgeons may choose to pursue additional fellowships to further specialize in a particular aspect of plastic surgery. This can increase the length of your plastic surgery training.

Plastic Surgery vs. Nephrology: Job Satisfaction and Burnout Rates

Job satisfaction plays a significant role in career fulfillment. According to various studies, plastic surgery tends to have higher job satisfaction rates than nephrology. Many plastic surgeons express contentment with their career choice and would choose it again if given the chance.

According to recent data, plastic surgery ranked at the upper end of all medical specialties with 97% of plastic surgeons stating that they would choose the same specialty again, while nephrology ranked near the lower end with 72% of nephrologists feeling the same way.

Job Satisfaction Rate By Medical Specialty in the US

Plastic surgeons reported a 97% job satisfaction rate, while nephrologists reported lower satisfaction with 72%

Nephrology and plastic surgery both have burnout rates of 44% and 46%, respectively, placing them near the lower end among medical specialties.

Burnout Rate By Medical Specialty in the US

Plastic surgeons have a burnout rate of 46%, while nephrologists have a lower burnout rate of 44%.

Plastic Surgery vs. Nephrology Comparison

To provide a visual overview, here’s a table comparing plastic surgery and nephrology:

AspectPlastic SurgeryNephrology
Average SalaryHigh income, especially in specialized areas like reconstructive or cosmetic surgeryLower than plastic surgery
Job SecurityStable field with availability of both reconstructive and cosmetic proceduresHigh demand due to increasing rates of chronic kidney disease and kidney-related conditions
Training PathTypically involves 5-6 years of plastic surgery residencyTypically involves 3 years of internal medicine residency, and 2-3 years of nephrology fellowship

LifestyleGenerally predictable work schedule and increased opportunities for time off, but may involve on-call responsibilities for trauma or burn cases
More predictable schedules but higher administrative burden. Call duties mainly for inpatient consults.
Administrative PaperworkLow to Moderate documentation requirements for patient records and surgical plans Higher administrative requirements.
Job SatisfactionGenerally high, satisfaction tied to successful surgeries and patient outcomesLower
Burnout RatesLow to Moderate, depending on the workload and stress associated with surgical proceduresLow to Moderate
PersonalityRequires creativity, precision, and good communication skills, attention to aestheticsStrong problem-solving and critical thinking skills, ability to handle complex and challenging cases

Please note that this table serves as a general comparison. To determine the most suitable career for you, consider your personal and career priorities and goals.

Concluding Thoughts

Choosing the right specialty between plastic surgery vs. nephrology depends heavily on your priorities. To determine this, try reverse engineering your ideal life and identify your top priority. A helpful exercise is to write down the top five things you want to achieve in your career and personal life. Knowing these priorities will make finding a career that aligns with them easier. Often, the biggest obstacle is not a lack of knowledge about different fields but a lack of self-awareness about our own preferences.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Want FREE Cardiology Flashcards?

Cardiology is key for impressive USMLE scores. Master cardiology from a Harvard-trained anesthesiologist who scored USMLE 270 with these 130+ high-yield flash cards. You’ll be begging for cardio questions - even if vitals make you queasy.