BACKGROUND: This study compared the practice profiles of plastic surgeons applying for recertification/maintenance of certification with those applying for primary certification by the American Board of Plastic Surgery between 2003 and 2011. METHODS: American Board of Plastic Surgery case logs from both recertification and primary certification candidates from 2003 to 2011 were examined. Deidentified data included operative year, Current Procedural Terminology codes, and the candidate's designation of the case relative to (1) cosmetic or reconstructive and (2) the Maintenance of Certification in Plastic Surgery module (i.e., comprehensive, cosmetic, craniomaxillofacial, and hand). Department of Commerce unemployment data from 2003 to 2011 served as an economic indicator for the period studied. RESULTS: A negative trend in the median number of cases per candidate was observed for both groups for cosmetic, reconstructive, and total number of cases, corresponding to a rise in unemployment. With every 1 percent increase in the unemployment rate, recertification candidates demonstrated a greater loss of cosmetic cases relative to primary candidates and an accelerated decline in reconstructive cases starting in 2007. Distribution of the four Maintenance of Certification modules demonstrated a negative trend for cosmetic and comprehensive cases in both groups. Hand and craniofacial consistently constituted approximately 20 percent of cases for primary and 14 percent of cases for recertification candidates. There was a shift away from hand cases toward craniofacial cases in both groups. CONCLUSIONS: Both primary and recertification candidates reported a decline in overall caseload from 2003 to 2011. Negative economic trends have a greater impact on the practice profile of recertification candidates.