Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeon: Job Description, Duties, Salary, and Other Requirements

FT Contributor
A maxillofacial surgeon smiling at the camera while his colleagues operate in the background.
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There are many reasons to pursue a career as a surgeon. Maybe you want the financial security of one of America’s highest-paying jobs, or perhaps medicine was your perfect fit on your career personality test.

Whatever the reason, the average oral and maxillofacial surgeon makes over $116 an hour, making this an incredibly lucrative career for the right person.

Here is what you need to know before you decide whether medical school is really worth the cost and time that it will take to become an oral and maxillofacial surgeon.

What Does an Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeon Do?

Surgery is never easy, but the stakes are even higher when it comes to your face.

An oral and maxillofacial surgeon cares for the hard and soft tissues in your oral and maxillofacial areas. This includes your head, neck, face, and jaw. These sensitive areas can be more susceptible to disease and injury, requiring surgical treatment from a surgeon.

More specifically, an oral and maxillofacial surgeon can diagnose problems and defects, using training and experience to pinpoint issues and surgery or other means to resolve them. These surgeons are also licensed to administer anesthesia.  

These are some of the conditions that can be treated:

Many of these are serious, sensitive issues that can provoke a highly emotional response from patients. Therefore, surgeons must be excellent communicators who are patient and empathetic in order to handle these types of emotionally charged environments. A surgeon has to operate with painstaking detail, demanding patience in a team-oriented environment.

An oral and maxillofacial surgeon faces enormous responsibility, which is a reason why they make so much.

Average Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeon Salary

How much you earn as an oral and maxillofacial surgeon ultimately depends on many factors, including where you live, where you work, and the level of experience and education you attain.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the average annual wage of an oral and maxillofacial surgeon is $242,370.

2018 Average Wages by Industry: Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeon

Type of Industry Employment Hourly Mean Wage Annual Mean Wage
Dental offices 4,070 $127.61 $265,430
General medical and surgical hospitals 350 $50.56 $105,160
Physicians offices 210 $78.42 $163,110
Colleges, universities, and professional schools 50 $51.45 $107,030
Outpatient Care Centers Not available $49.35 $102,660

Reports show that these surgeons are not very widespread and are more common in the northern and eastern parts of the United States.

These are some of the wages reported by state:

  • California — $264,380;
  • New York — $249,460;
  • Texas — $181,260;
  • Indiana — $272,360;
  • Pennsylvania — $225,600.

In some positions, you have to worry about the hourly versus salary difference of your wages. As a surgeon, that’s not a concern when you stand to make well over $100 for each hour of work.

Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeon Education, Licenses, Certifications, and Training

If you have to have surgery on your face or mouth, you need to get the very best possible care to resolve your medical issues without any cosmetic damages. That’s why education is so important for this field, but it isn’t easy.

Many students today hesitate when it comes to whether to get a master’s degree, but medical school is even more of an undertaking. While financial aid such as the FAFSA can help, tuition is still likely to be expensive and require student loans.

An aspiring oral and maxillofacial surgeon must complete traditional college, in addition to dental school and a hospital-based residency.


Many oral and maxillofacial surgeons complete their bachelor’s programs just like other surgeons, even though only two years of college are required to apply for dental school. College curriculum includes a heavy emphasis on science courses, such as biology and chemistry.

Dental School

Dental school provides basic training and education through a four-year program. With dental school complete and your Doctor of Dental Surgery (DDS) degree in hand, you are then ready for your residency program.


A residency program is an intensive, hands-on experience designed to provide real-world application and training for budding surgeons. It is a program that usually lasts four years with a concentrated focus on surgeries and procedures.


Depending on the specialty, some surgeons continue to a fellowship. This program is designed to focus on a sub-specialty in the field, including tasks such as cosmetic surgery or pediatric surgery involving the face or mouth.

In total, a budding oral and maxillofacial surgeon can expect more than 12 years of combined education and training before entering the workplace as an independent surgeon.

Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeon Job Outlook

According to the BLS, there were 4,830 surgeons in 2018, creating a niche market for those seeking an alternative to an overcrowded dental pool.

Oral and maxillofacial surgeons are estimated to experience a 9.1% job growth rate, with wages growing by an estimated 4.1% each year. That is even better than a traditional dentist’s job outlook, which is expected to grow by 7%.

With a solid outlook like this, there’s less worry about how to get rid of your student loan debt.

Should I Become an Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeon?

If the path to licensing was any indication, becoming an oral and maxillofacial surgeon is a long road. With schooling that can take over 15 years, a surgeon must undergo a rigorous hospital residency to learn the finer details of surgery before you are able to operate independently.

It is a lucrative career but one that demands a relentless schedule. If you are able to commit to the training it requires, you will earn a position that allows you to work indoors in a controlled, hands-on environment.

As an oral and maxillofacial surgeon, you will meet people from all walks of life and have the opportunity to change their life for the better with your care.

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