Key Differences between a Cosmetic Surgeon VS Plastic Surgeon


Are you confused about key differences between Cosmetic Surgeons VS Plastic Surgeons? Do you think they’re generally the same? If so, this brief overview will HELP you with cosmetic surgery research so you can understand key differences between Cosmetic vs Plastic Surgeons. Reviewing this will help you understand how to recognise an experienced Specialist Plastic, Cosmetic & Reconstructive Surgeon versus a general doctor or skin disease doctor who offers cosmetic surgery but isn’t authorised by RACS nor by AHPRA to call themselves a Plastic Surgeon.

Cosmetic Surgeon vs Plastic Surgeon. Key Differences You Need To Know

  • Not all Surgeons who offer Cosmetic Surgery are alike in their:
    • medical training
    • surgical qualifications and recognition by medical boards
    • surgery specialities (surgical study, skills and expertise)
    • technical expertise (ongoing education and advanced surgical technique conferences with leading Plastic Surgery experts across the globe)
    • number of surgeries performed
  • A so-called Cosmetic Surgeon differs greatly from a Specialist Plastic Surgeon (they may also call themselves a cosmetic surgeon but a cosmetic surgeon without FRACS (Plas) cannot call themselves a Plastic Surgeon – it’s a protected medical title).
  • Find out more in the Plastic Surgeon vs Cosmetic Doctor VIDEO shown below.

Continue reading to understand WHY SOME SURGEONS are GOOD CHOICES for cosmetic surgery VS choosing a less trained doctor or non-specialist who has less experience AND no formal Specialist surgery qualifications nor recognition by Australian Medical Boards.

  • Although government health departments and health groups are lobbying to change the rules, currently it’s not illegal for ANYONE in Australia – with a basic medical degree – to operate
    • despite having MINIMAL to NO surgical training and NO formal qualifications
    • despite not having recognition by AHPRA for a specific surgical ability including RACS testing and extensive examinations
  • A Specialist, on the other hand, has FRACS (Plas) training, qualifications and recognition by RACS and the Medical Board / AHPRA (Australia).

TIP: A Specialist Plastic Surgeon ALSO has current membership status in groups such as ASAPS, ISAPS, ASPS and more.

  • These medical memberships are ONLY available to genuine Plastic Surgeons
  • Cosmetic doctors who operate cannot JOIN them nor participate in training; NOR can they call themselves a Plastic Surgeon – because they didn’t do the extensive training required to become a Specialist Plastic Surgeon.

Plastic Surgeon vs Cosmetic Surgeon: Definitions and Distinctions


A so-called “cosmetic surgeon” could be a general doctor, a GP or even a skin disease doctor – in other words, a medical professional who has a medical degree but who is NOT recognised or qualified as a Specialist Plastic Surgeon per RACS.

What you need to recognise when you research your choice of Surgeon

Key differences between Plastic Surgeons vs Cosmetic Surgeons include, but are not limited to:

  • Genuine Specialist Plastic Surgeons have up to 12 more years of additional surgical training in cosmetic and reconstructive plastic surgery procedures.
  • They have Australia Medical board recognition AS a Specialist (this elite medical qualification takes over a decade of difficult training and numerous examinations)
  • In addition to using FRACS (Plas) by their names or in their BIOs, they’ll also have ASPS, ISAPS, ASAPS or similar memberships ONLY available to bonafide Plastic Surgeons.
  • Most Specialists have studied in top Universities in Australia AND have worked alongside international leaders in Plastic Surgery during internships or volunteer work overseas
  • They will have Hospital operating room privileges and admitting rights – vs only being able to operate in a back room and NOT being able to admit patients.
  • They tend to work alongside very experienced general Anaesthetists AND use fully-asleep forms of Anesthesia vs twilight only (most back-room clinics are restricted to using what’s known as ‘awake’ surgery).

Melbourne Hospitals in which our Surgeons can operate include:

St Vincent’s Private Hospital – Kew

Masada Private Hospital – St Kilda

Epworth Hospital – Hawthorn

Epworth Hospital – Richmond 

Epworth Hospital – Cliveden

St John Of God Hospital – Berwick 

The Avenue Hospital – Windsor

Want to know more about key differences between a Cosmetic Surgeon vs a Plastic Surgeon?

best Plastic Surgeons in Melbourne- how to tell if your surgeon is a cosmetic doctor vs a plastic surgeon

  • ABC’s 4 Corners recently aired a program on dangers of patients not understanding differences between general DOCTORS and actual SPECIALISTS
  • This media story WARNED patients about risks of cheap surgery offers and botched Australia cosmetic surgery results including:

Watch the ABC FOUR CORNERS video expose on the cosmetic surgery industry which highlight post-surgery problems and disfigurement.

  • These patient stories occurred in patients who did NOT understand key differences between a FRACS Plastic Surgeon and GPs and other doctors calling themselves a “cosmetic surgeon”.
  • They thought these types of doctors were alike (but these Surgeons were very different in training).

A cosmetic surgeon could be just about anyone with a basic medical degree, despite having little surgical training and no recognition by the Australian Medical Board as a genuine RACS accredited Surgeon or Specialist.

If they are not FRACS (Plas) they are NOT a Plastic Surgeon.

What to look for when choosing which Plastic Surgeon

Do your research – download the “7 Steps to  Cosmetic Surgery Guide”

7 Steps Download

These icons below indicate your Surgeon is a Specialist Plastic Surgeon recognised as such by AHPRA and the Australian Medical Board. The most important one is FRACS (Plas) BUT your Surgeon should ALSO have at least ONE other icon on their BIO.

Our Specialist Plastic Surgeons’ affiliations include:



The difference between a Plastic and Cosmetic Surgeon


Next steps to doing Surgeon research:

If you want to compare surgery consultations between a genuine PLASTIC SURGEON and a less-qualified doctor – to find out WHY OUR Surgeons are some of Melbourne’s most sought-after Surgeons for operations in Australia (Melbourne and Sydney) – Phone 0388491444 today!

Or send in an enquiry form. You can also attend free monthly events in Melbourne to learn more about plastic surgery options and surgeon differences.

Resources and References

Australian Society of Plastic Surgeons (Find specialist plastic surgeons), Australian Society of Plastic Surgeons (Patient Safety Regulated by Plastic Surgery Regulation Laws), Australian Society of Plastic Surgeons (Information for patients), Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency AHPRA (Register of practitioners), Health Victoria (The Department of Health and Human Services).





Australian Society of Plastic Surgeons (Find specialist plastic surgeons), Australian Society of Plastic Surgeons (Patient Safety Regulated by Plastic Surgery Regulation Laws), Australian Society of Plastic Surgeons (Information for patients), Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency AHPRA (Register of practitioners), Health Victoria (The Department of Health and Human Services)



Last updated: 29/11/2019
Author profile image
Michelle Staughton
Michelle Staughton is a Patient Education Interviewer and Patient Care Coordinator for several top Plastic Surgeons in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia. With over 4 years’ experience helping plastic surgery patients at Coco Ruby Plastic Surgery, after having been a patient herself, Michelle offers a wealth of knowledge to help surgical patients with cosmetic and plastic surgery planning and recovery tips.