How Can I Become a Dermatologist? Salary, Cost, and Programs

How Can I Become a Dermatologist
How Can I Become a Dermatologist

What Does a Dermatologist Do?

A Dermatologist is a person who offer life-changing medical diagnoses and treatments that restore health, prevent illness, improve quality of life, and bring relief for people who suffer from a variety of conditions that often cause severe mental and physical impairment.

A Dermatologist is also a physician specialists who diagnose and treat disorders of the skin, hair, nails, and mucous membranes in both adults and children. Most these services provided are broad, ranging from acne, infections, genetic disorders, and skin cancer to cosmetic issues such as scars, hair loss, tattoo removal, and aging.

Like most medical doctors, the day-to-day duties of dermatologists are as varied as the patients with whom they work, to diagnose infections or other skin conditions, they perform physical examinations, occasionally with the assistance of black light.

Some disorders, such as systemic diseases, are treated with prescribed antibiotics or other types of medicine. The professionals also perform several types of minor surgical procedures, including the excision of moles and techniques like Mohs surgery – a specialized procedure that removes skin cancer from sensitive regions (such as the face) with minimal scarring and physical disruption.

Given that the high visibility of skin conditions can greatly impact a patient’s quality of life, dermatologists will often focus on cosmetic issues.

Majority of them are trained in techniques like Botox injections, as well as laser therapy to improve the appearance of birthmarks. Also, some dermatologists also perform vitiligo surgery or skin grafting, which is used to treat burn victims or patients with large scars.

Dermatologists also provide education and preventative care for skin and other health-related issues. For instance, they perform skin surveys to locate lesions that may be precancerous, especially among patients who are at high risk for skin cancer.

In these ways, a dermatologist is able to alleviate pain and suffering and can vastly improve the lives of those stricken with physical disfigurement and other debilitating conditions of the skin.

Workplace Details

While the majority of dermatologists work in outpatient individual or group practice clinics, some choose to work in hospitals or in more academic settings.

Generally speaking, dermatologists enjoy a less demanding schedule as compared to many other medical specialties.

According to a 2012 Medscape poll of thousands of U.S dermatologists, the majority of dermatologists spend 30 to 40 hours per week treating patients, with one-quarter of dermatologists spending fewer than 30 hours per week.

Office-based dermatologists typically enjoy comfortable working conditions, as they spend less time on their feet than other medical professionals such as surgeons or hospitalists.

Dermatologists who work in research or academia may have additional responsibilities that require longer hours, although occasionally cutting their clinical responsibilities in turn.

Steps to Become a Dermatologist

1 Enroll in a four-year college or university to earn your bachelor’s degree.

Dermatology is one of the most highly competitive medical course in the university, and requires many years of education and training.

To become a dermatologist the first step is an undergraduate degree from a four-year college, including pre-medical courses in biology, organic chemistry, physics, and general chemistry.

Some candidates must also complete math and biochemistry coursework, depending on the medical school they plan to attend.

2 Take the MCAT.

Students must also take and perform well on the Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT) during junior year of college in order to be accepted to medical school.

3 Attend medical school.

Following the undergraduate program, aspiring dermatologists must attend a four-year accredited medical school. The Admission to medical school is extremely competitive, so a high undergraduate GPA is mandatory.

Following acceptance, it remains essential to maintain academic momentum and high performance throughout medical school.

4 Pass the USMLE parts one and two during medical school.

Students take the U.S. Medical Licensing Exam (USMLE) – part one following their second year of study, and part two just before their final year – and must earn a high score in order to obtain a dermatology residency.

5 Apply for and obtain residency.

Having determined that dermatology is your chosen specialty, in medical school you must apply for residency. This competition for securing a dermatology residency is among the most intense of all medical fields, with an estimated one-third of applicants failing to be accepted.

Once matched to a program, you will begin your residency after graduating from medical school.

A residency in dermatology involves one year as an intern in either general surgery or internal medicine, followed by three years of clinical residency in dermatology.

6 Pass part three of the USMLE.

At the end of residency, you must pass the final part of this exam in order to be a practicing physician in the United States.

7 Get licensed.

Medical doctors must obtain and keep a current license from their state in order to practice.

8 Consider fellowship and board certification.

After the successful completion of residency, many dermatologists elect to become “board-certified” and also to pursue further training through a one- or two-year fellowship in subspecialized fields such as cosmetic surgery, laser medicine, dermatopathology, phototherapy, immunodermatology, or Mohs micrographic surgery.

9 Consider career opportunities with experience.

Dermatologists can obtain greater influence and responsibility within their field by pursuing positions in research or academics. And beyond their clinical responsibilities, these positions also require efforts to secure research funding, publish in scientific journals, present at professional conferences, and teach medical students and residents.

Finally, it should be noted that dermatologists can further advance their career, responsibilities, and income by engaging in subspecialty training and additional training in surgical techniques, thereby making themselves even more uniquely qualified to perform subspecialty procedures.

Exploring Degree Paths

The long pathway to becoming a dermatologist typically combines the following steps:

  • Bachelor’s (undergraduate) degree (4 years)
  • Medical school (4 years)
  • Dermatology residency (4 years)

A few schools offer an accelerated option that combines the bachelor’s and medical degrees into a single 6- or 7-year program


4 years

As a pre-med undergraduate, you can major in any subject. And also, be aware that many medical schools have prerequisites in math, English, and the sciences you’ll need to fulfill to qualify for admission. American Association of Medical Colleges (AAMC) lists prerequisite by schools on its website.

Admission to medical school is competitive. Note: Before applying, you’ll need to take that Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT) Having great scores will give you an edge, as will strong recommendations and work and volunteer experience in healthcare.

If your academic record or test scores aren’t as strong as you’d like, you might benefit from a  postabaccaulaureate program before medical school. This range from 1 to 3 years in length.

Some grant master’s degrees upon completion, and If the program is linked to a medical school, good performance may lead to a conditional acceptance.


4 years

Next, let’s talk about medical schools, There are basically two types: Both can prepare you to become a fully qualified dermatologist, but they have slightly different approaches:

  • Allopathic schools – These are usually what we think of when we say “medical school,” Emphasis is on treating conditions with medications, radiation, or surgery. The programs award Doctor of Medicine (MD) degrees.
  • Osteopathic schools – These take a more holistic approach to medicine that emphasizes prevention and wellness, Osteopathic medical schools award Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (DO) degrees.

The admission process for medical school is rigorous. You should expect to fill out applications, provide personal recommendations, and interview with the admissions committee.

Once accepted, medical school students spend the first two years in lab, lecture, and practicum courses. The curriculum usually covers:


Explore gross (visible) anatomy of the human body through lectures, dissections, videos, and medical imaging.


Delve into the structure and behavior of the chemicals that make up the body, including proteins, amino acids, nucleic acids, and carbohydrates.


Study mechanisms of drug action, how drugs are processed by the body, and methods for administering drugs to patients.


Learn about the disease process and how specific diseases impact organs and body systems.

During Years 3 and 4, medical students practice diagnosing and treating patients under the supervision of qualified physicians during clinical rotations, Expect to spend several weeks each in emergency medicine, psychiatry, obstetrics, internal medicine, and many more clinical areas.


4 years

Then there’s residency. This is theoretically possible to practice dermatology after graduating from medical school and passing your licensing exams.

However, if you want to find an employed position, gain medical staff privileges at a hospital, and inspire the confidence of many patients, you’ll need to complete a residency accredited by the (ACGME) This typically takes 4 years – one in general medicine and three in the specialty.

Residents practice under the supervision of an attending physician, Activities include rounding on patients, working with nurses, ordering and interpreting tests, presenting cases, treating patients, and supervising medical students.

You’ll also attend classroom sessions led by the clinical faculty and participate in educational activities like journal club.

Keys to Success as a Dermatologist

Necessary Skills and Qualities

Academic strength

Because dermatology is such a competitive field, successful dermatologists must possess both a strong academic track record and an intrinsic desire to succeed.


The ability to tolerate long working hours, a lack of sleep, and the stresses of medical training is also essential to becoming a dermatologist, as with any physician, due to the rigorous years of education and clinical experience through residencies and fellowships.

Additionally, dermatologists who perform surgery require excellent and sustained fine motor skills and the ability to maintain focus during delicate procedures.

Excellent communication

Given that many dermatologic conditions manifest as signs of an underlying medical illness, a dermatologist must know how to interview patients and obtain a thorough medical history.

This requires a firm command of verbal and interpersonal skills in order to communicate effectively with patients and their families and to obtain critically important clinical information.

Comfort with bodily functions

As an additional consideration, certain skin conditions can be unpleasant in appearance, A dermatologist must be comfortable with and able to tolerate discomfort regarding issues that relate to blood and bodily functions.

Additional Credentials

Licensed physicians who have completed a dermatology residency can become board-certified by sitting for the dermatology board examination, which is administered by the American Board of Dermatology (ABD).

Board certification is not required to practice, but is preferred by many hospitals, employers, and patients.

To maintain board certification, a dermatologist must complete continuing medical education (CME) requirements throughout his career, and must retake and pass the board examination every ten years.

Three organizations offer primary certification in dermatology. The Most (but not all) states recognize certification by all three organizations.

Some dermatologists also complete a fellowship in a dermatologic subspecialty, Organizations that offer board certification are indicated in parentheses:

  • Pediatric dermatology (ABMS, AOA)
  • Dermatopathology (ABMS, AOA)
  • Micrographic surgery (AOA)
  • Dermatologic oncology
  • Procedural dermatology



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