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How To Become A Dermatologist

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Are you fascinated with how skincare works and dreams of helping physically insecure people improve their appearance or even treat skin conditions? If this is you, dermatology may be the path for you.

In this post, we’re going to go over how you can become a dermatologist, your potential salary, the job outlook, and other related discussions to mentally prepare you for what lies ahead. 

Let’s get right into it!

What Is A Dermatologist?

What is a dermatologist

Dermatologists are skin experts who diagnose and treat various conditions of the skin, nails, hair, and mucous membranes. Their services range from cosmetic concerns (scars, hair loss, aging, etc.) to acne, skin infections, skin cancer, contact dermatitis, and genetic disorders.

Since they deal with a variety of patient conditions, their specialization also varies. The most common type of practice is cosmetic dermatology, but others specialize in pediatric dermatology; dermatopathology; Mohs surgery, which is essentially treating skin cancer; or, other specific techniques such as Botox injections, laser therapy, liposuction, or skin grafting

Dermatologists perform physical examinations (sometimes using black light), prescribe antibiotics or other types of medicine, and perform invasive or minimally invasive procedures.  

They also provide preventative skincare to certain health-related issues. So, if you know someone who is at risk of skin cancer, you may suggest visiting a derma who will likely perform skin surveys to locate precancerous lesions. 🙂

How To Become A Dermatologist?

The long pathway to becoming a dermatologist involves 12 years of education and training after high school. 

A few schools offer an accelerated option (6 or 7 year-program) combining bachelor and medical degrees, but if that’s not an option for you, here are the approximate years of training to become a dermatologist. 

1. College (4 years)

You don’t need to be a science major to qualify for med school; any four-year bachelor’s degree would cut it. But keep in mind that some schools require certain prerequisite subjects in Math, English or Science, so be sure to do your due diligence. 

Early on in college, it’s also important to get good grades, have volunteer experiences, and get strong recommendations. Because if you don’t know it yet, med school is an extremely competitive field.

If you’re done with your bachelor’s and think your academic record isn’t great, you can also consider taking a Postbaccalaureate Premedical Program which takes around one to three years to complete.

And, you should already have taken the Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT) (and slay it as much as possible) before applying to med school. 

2. Med School (4 years)

There are two schools to go to to become a certified dermatologist.

      • Allopathic School 

This type of school awards you a Doctor of Medicine (MD) degree and is probably what you have in mind when thinking about med school. Here you’ll be trained with medications, surgery, and radiation.

      • Osteopathic School 

An Osteopathic school will give you a Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (DO) degree and takes a more holistic approach to train dermatology enthusiasts. 

Much like many other medical degrees, your first two years for this specialty will be lectures, labs, and practicum courses. Typically, you’ll learn Anatomy, Biochemistry, Pharmacology, and Pathology in depth during these years.

The last two years will be spent doing clinical rotations to practice diagnosing and treating patients. You’ll work with a team with the supervision of a qualified physician for several weeks in each clinical area (Emergency Medicine, Internal Medicine, Psychiatry, Obstetrics, etc.).

The biggest hurdles are probably taking and passing the U.S. Medical Licensing Exam (USMLE) Step 1 (after the second year), and USMLE Step 2 (before the final year). For both, you need to aim for high scores to secure a slot in dermatology residency.

3. Residency (4 years)

Graduating from med school with an MD or DO degree theoretically qualifies you to start practicing dermatology. But in reality, you can only truly secure an employed position and inspire the confidence of your patients after completing a residency program.

The first year is in general medicine, also known as the transitional year. The following three years are clinical residency in the specialty

As a dermatology resident, you will be doing patient rounds, ordering and analyzing test results, working with other healthcare practitioners, presenting cases, supervising med students, etc. 

The most exciting part is; you’ll be directly involved in treating patients under the supervision of an attending physician. 😃

4. Sub-specialties (1-2 years)

Dermatology sub-specialties

If you choose to further specialize after residency, you can spend one or two more years in a sub-specialty field such as cosmetic surgery, dermatopathology, laser medicine, phototherapy, Moh’s Surgery, immunodermatology, pediatric dermatology, or procedural dermatology

(Note: Read this post on How To Long Does It Take To Be A Doctor for a quick reference guide to some of the most common physician specialties and their total years of training.)

Potential Salary

Because of the required years of education and training, a dermatologist’s salary is higher than in other medical careers. Best part? It grows over the years of practice!

Here’s an estimate from

Average Annual Salary:RangeAverage Hourly Rate:Range
$344,600$251,752- $454,451$166$121- $218

That is just around 75% of the total compensation. Consider the bonuses and other benefits (social security, healthcare, pension, etc.) and you’ll get a generous reward for your hard work.

(Note: If you want to compare a dermatologist’s salary estimate to that of a cardiologist, check out our post on How To Become A Cardiologist.)

Job Outlook

Will dermatology still be in high demand in the next few years? The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) tells us that it’s likely to be so. 

In fact, all physician and surgeon careers are projected to grow 7% faster than the average occupations from 2018-2028. The aging and growing population are said to cause the overall growth, so plenty of consumers will still seek the expertise of a dermatologist.

Furthermore, job prospects for graduates are also expected to be good owing to the matching system in med schools where medical graduates land their first jobs. 

What Does The Typical Day Of A Dermatologist Look Like?

Dermatology is one of the most versatile specialties and so there’s a lot of variety to how dermatologists spend one day to another. 

But typically, a dermatologist’s day consists of patient visits, calls and follow-ups, quick lunch breaks, conferences, and research.

Dr. Jennifer Hsaio, a dermatologist at UCLA Medical Center in Santa Monica spends her mornings treating various skin conditions (skin cancer, psoriasis, acne, etc.). In the afternoons, she visits her patients with a resident allowing her to teach both about a certain skin condition.

Dr. Hsaio also likes her procedures to be integrated into her schedules throughout the week instead of scheduling it on specific days. This, for her, helps keep things interesting.

(You can read more about how Dr. Hsaio spends her day here!)

Another interesting look into the day in the life of a dermatologist is seen on Dr. Dray’s vlog here. She starts with her very own skincare routine and gives tips throughout the video on how to best take care of your skin.

She then explains how her day to day life as a medical dermatologist goes. In that particular day’s afternoon, she’s doing a cyst removal procedure on her patient’s back.

In the evening she spends some time exercising and gives more tips on certain beauty products and skincare regimens. 

After all the busyness in a dermatologist day to day life, many of them still take time to read the latest research, or attend a seminar or conference to consistently keep themselves updated with the latest tech that may present better treatment options for patients.

Top Dermatologists On Instagram

Looking to follow some renowned dermatologists on instagram? Here are some who are rocking it in the field!

Top Books About Dermatology

Whether you’re a derm student or just looking for some good books to read about dermatology, there are plenty of good books to get started. Here’s a list of five for you:

  1. Review of Dermatology by Dr. Ali Alikhan, and Dr. Thomas L.H Hocker 
  2. Dermatology for the USMLE Dr. Alvaro J. Ramos
  3. Clinical Dermatology: A Color Guide to Diagnosis and Therapy by Dr. Thomas P. Habif 
  4. Andrews’ Diseases of the Skin: Clinical Dermatology by Dr. William D. James, Dr. Dirk Elston, Dr. James R. Treat, Dr. Misha A. Rosenbach, and Dr. Isaac Neuhaus 
  5. Beyond Beautiful: Using the Power of Your Mind and Aesthetic Breakthroughs to Look Naturally Young and Radiant by Dr. Doris Day and Jodie Gould

Whenever you’re ready, there are 4 ways I can help you:

1. The Med School Handbook:  Join thousands of other students who have taken advantage of the hundreds of FREE tips & strategies I wish I were given on the first day of medical school to crush it with less stress. 

2. The Med School BlueprintJoin the hundreds of students who have used our A-Z blueprint and playbook for EVERY phase of the medical journey so you can start to see grades like these. 

3. Med Ignite Study ProgramGet personalized help to create the perfect study system for yourself so you can see better grades ASAP on your medical journey & see results like these. 

4. Learn the one study strategy that saved my grades in medical school here (viewed by more than a million students like you). 

This is it for our post on how to become a dermatologist. I hope you found it helpful and enjoyed it. 

If you did, you may also want to check out:

How To Become A Cardiologist
37 Types Of Careers In Medicine
8 Jobs After Medical School Without Residency
How To Study in Medical School [Ultimate Guide]
Which Medical School Should I Apply To? [4 Things To Consider]
How Long Does It Take To Be A Doctor? [Detailed Breakdown]
Step 1 Is Now Pass-Fail
How To Become A Cancer Doctor

Until the next time, my friend…

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