How To Become a Dermatologist

Written by Peter Jones

So you want to be a dermatologist. That’s great! Dermatologists are so much more than just the doctors you turn to for acne treatment. They can save lives, bring relief to patients suffering with chronic and uncomfortable conditions, treat rashes and infections, and do a million other things—including skin cancer prevention, education, and treatment.

Dermatologists have a range of duties on a daily basis which are as diverse as their patients’ needs. They can work in a hospital setting, a clinical private practice setting, or in a more academic environment. And they can usually get their patient care for a given week accomplished in 30-40 hours, which is less than many other medical fields.

Dermatologists make an average of over $300k per year, with some making as much as $385k. It is the third highest paying of the physician specialties. Given that the demand for physicians in general is expected to grow 18% in the next decade or so, it’s a safe bet that dermatology will continue to be a good field to enter.

Required Education

Dermatology is one of the most competitive fields out there. Start by getting the best grades you can, and don’t stop until you’re finished school completely. You’ll need a four-year medical degree plus the completion of a three-year residency program in dermatology, which will include board-certification and licensing. The first step in this process is obviously a bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution. Then, just keep working your way through, making sure to perform as well as possible. The better you do, the better position you’ll be in to get a job when you get out of school.

No matter what, you’ll have to deal with the USMLE and/or COMLEX exams. Study hard. Once you get to the residency stage, you can decide what you want your practice to look like, and whether you would like to sub-specialize in either Dermatopathology, Pediatric Dermatology, or Procedural Dermatology. (Subspecialties will typically require an additional exam).

Possible Career Paths

Most dermatologists work in outpatient settings, though some do work as a team with hospital surgeons, completing rounds, or making emergency assessments. You’ll probably spend the bulk of your time in your own clinical setting.

You might wish to consider joining a professional organization to aid with networking, community service, furthering your research, and continuing education/training. Consider joining the American Academy of Dermatology, American Dermatological Association, or the American Society of Dermatology as a start.

Start Early!

If you’re serious about becoming a dermatologist and you are still in college, take advantage of your summers off to intern or volunteer. Remember this is an incredibly competitive field, so anything you can do to get ahead is good.

About the author

Peter Jones