To be board certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery, a doctor must graduate from an accredited medical school, do internship and residency training in either general surgery or otolaryngology, complete an approved residency in plastic and reconstructive surgery, practice a minimum of two years after graduation, and pass extensive written and oral exams. These include a review of all cases done by the surgeon in the preceding year. The process take approximately seven and one half years after graduation from medical school.
The reason for this extensive training is that the plastic surgeon is one of the few medical specialists who is truly called upon to help with every part of the body. From brain surgery, to cleft lip in infants, ear, throat, breast, malformed genitals, injured hands, legs and feet, there is really no body part that plastic surgeons aren't called upon to fix when other surgeons run up against difficult situations. While many people feel that plastic surgeons spend all of their time doing Rhinoplasties and Liposuction, that is far from the case.
Plastic surgery encompasses both cosmetic and reconstructive procedures. One important item to note: In most states, only physicians who hold a certificate in Plastic Surgery can call themselves "Plastic Surgeons". The rule doesn't always apply to the term "Cosmetic Surgeon", so it is not unusual to see dermatologists, dentists or other doctors presenting themselves as cosmetic surgeons. While the mere term "Cosmetic Surgeon" should not be considered a red flag, you should always verify that you are getting what you think you are getting.