How to Become a Dermatologist

What Does a Dermatologist Do?

dermatologist checking a patient's skin

Dermatologists provide 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. Dermatologists are physician specialists who diagnose and treat disorders of the skin, hair, nails, and mucous membranes in both adults and children. The extent of services provided is 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. These professionals also perform several types of minor surgical procedures, including the excision of moles and techniques like Moh’s 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. Many are trained in techniques like Botox injections, as well as laser therapy to improve the appearance of birthmarks. 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 example, 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.

Salary and Job Outlook

State
Average Wage
New York
$177330
California
$201790
Florida
$219010
Texas
$207750
Pennsylvania
$197250

Hover over any state to explore local income and job growth data.

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ALABAMA
Median Salary: 
Over $187,200
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $117,100
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): Over $187,200

2014-2024 Job Growth: 21%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 220

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Birmingham$158,980Over $187,200Over $187,200
Huntsville$156,350Over $187,200Over $187,200

ALASKA
Median Salary: 
Over $187,200
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $53,300
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): Over $187,200

2014-2024 Job Growth: 17%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 10

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Anchorage$52,370$163,440Over $187,200

ARIZONA
Median Salary: 
Over $187,200
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $73,200
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): Over $187,200

2014-2024 Job Growth: 18%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 230

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Phoenix$60,600Over $187,200Over $187,200
Tuscon$129,080Over $187,200Over $187,200

ARKANSAS
Median Salary: 
Over $187,200
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $48,800
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): Over $187,200

2014-2024 Job Growth: 17%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 120

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Little Rock$46,260$78,120Over $187,200
Fort Smith$85,250Over $187,200Over $187,200

CALIFORNIA
Median Salary: 
Over $187,200
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $58,800
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): Over $187,200

2014-2024 Job Growth: 20%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 1,120

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Los Angeles$87,480Over $187,200Over $187,200
San Francisco Bay$59,510Over $187,200Over $187,200
San Diego$98,080Over $187,200Over $187,200
Sacramento$129,880Over $187,200Over $187,200

COLORADO
Median Salary: 
Over $187,200
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $101,500
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): Over $187,200

2014-2024 Job Growth: 25%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 130

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Denver$97,350Over $187,200Over $187,200
Colorado Springs$96,310Over $187,200Over $187,200

CONNECTICUT
Median Salary: 
Over $187,200
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $59,300
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): Over $187,200

2014-2024 Job Growth: 12%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 270

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Hartford$55,840Over $187,200Over $187,200
Bridgeport$59,120Over $187,200Over $187,200
New Haven$71,070Over $187,200Over $187,200

DELAWARE
Median Salary: 
Over $187,200
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $58,100
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): Over $187,200

2014-2024 Job Growth: 13%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 60

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Wilmington$56,810Over $187,200Over $187,200
Dover$95,220Over $187,200Over $187,200

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA
Median Salary: 
$168,600
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $56,500
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): Over $187,200

2014-2024 Job Growth: 8%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 80

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Washington DC$70,350$174,880Over $187,200

FLORIDA
Median Salary: 
Over $187,200
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $49,600
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): Over $187,200

2014-2024 Job Growth: 28%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 1,030

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Miami$53,920Over $187,200Over $187,200
Orlando$130,920Over $187,200Over $187,200
Tampa$47,580Over $187,200Over $187,200
Jacksonville$43,140$124,870Over $187,200

GEORGIA
Median Salary: 
Over $187,200
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $92,600
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): Over $187,200

2014-2024 Job Growth: 33%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 770

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Atlanta$140,960Over $187,200Over $187,200
Augusta$45,100$88,300Over $187,200

HAWAII
Median Salary: 
Over $187,200
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $76,800
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): Over $187,200

2014-2024 Job Growth: 6%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 40

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Honolulu$67,970Over $187,200Over $187,200

IDAHO
Median Salary: 
Over $187,200
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $92,600
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): Over $187,200

Job Growth Data Not Available

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Boise$62,640Over $187,200Over $187,200
Idaho Falls$118,280Over $187,200Over $187,200

ILLINOIS
Median Salary: 
Over $187,200
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $52,900
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): Over $187,200

2014-2024 Job Growth: 9%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 570

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Chicago$50,030$177,170Over $187,200
Rockford$61,820$174,500Over $187,200

INDIANA
Median Salary: 
Over $187,200
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $112,300
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): Over $187,200

2014-2024 Job Growth: 19%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 420

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Indianapolis$95,880Over $187,200Over $187,200
South Bend$68,610Over $187,200Over $187,200
Fort Wayne$132,920Over $187,200Over $187,200

IOWA
Median Salary: 
Over $187,200
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $101,000
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): Over $187,200

2014-2024 Job Growth: 13%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 100

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Des Moines$69,780Over $187,200Over $187,200
Cedar Rapids$115,170$181,940Over $187,200

KANSAS
Median Salary: 
Over $187,200
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $46,800
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): Over $187,200

2014-2024 Job Growth: 10%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 140

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Wichita$146,690Over $187,200Over $187,200
Kansas City$45,950Over $187,200Over $187,200

KENTUCKY
Median Salary: 
$183,200
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $52,400
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): Over $187,200

2014-2024 Job Growth: 23%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 270

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Louisville$54,790$131,970Over $187,200

LOUISIANA
Median Salary: 
Over $187,200
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $103,300
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): Over $187,200

2014-2024 Job Growth: 10%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 210

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
New Orleans$135,540$185,360Over $187,200
Baton Rouge$157,080Over $187,200Over $187,200
Lafayette$85,520$121,150Over $187,200

MAINE
Median Salary: 
Over $187,200
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $58,700
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): Over $187,200

2014-2024 Job Growth: 9%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 90

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Portland$54,360Over $187,200Over $187,200
Lewiston$166,570Over $187,200Over $187,200

MARYLAND
Median Salary: 
$173,300
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $83,400
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): Over $187,200

2014-2024 Job Growth: 14%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 430

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Baltimore$60,040Over $187,200Over $187,200
Frederick$84,080$132,830Over $187,200

MASSACHUSETTS
Median Salary: 
$169,900
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $55,800
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): Over $187,200

2014-2024 Job Growth: 7%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 370

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Boston$54,360$79,440Over $187,200
Worcester$54,050$178,540Over $187,200
Springfield$55,170$155,220Over $187,200

MICHIGAN
Median Salary: 
$176,800
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $52,700
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): Over $187,200

2014-2024 Job Growth: 8%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 440

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Detroit$48,730$162,580Over $187,200
Grand Rapids$109,540Over $187,200Over $187,200

MINNESOTA
Median Salary: 
Over $187,200
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $137,800
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): Over $187,200

2014-2024 Job Growth: 14%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 160

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Minneapolis - St. Paul$134,390Over $187,200Over $187,200
Rochester$104,470Over $187,200Over $187,200

MISSISSIPPI
Median Salary: 
Over $187,200
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $44,600
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): Over $187,200

2014-2024 Job Growth: 12%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 80

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Gulfport$85,890Over $187,200Over $187,200

MISSOURI
Median Salary: 
Over $187,200
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $82,100
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): Over $187,200

2014-2024 Job Growth: 10%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 140

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
St. Louis$83,530Over $187,200Over $187,200
Kansas City$45,950Over $187,200Over $187,200

MONTANA
Median Salary: 
Over $187,200
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $136,200
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): Over $187,200

2014-2024 Job Growth: 14%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 50

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Billings$177,170Over $187,200Over $187,200
Missoula$117,150Over $187,200Over $187,200

NEBRASKA
Median Salary: 
$133,500
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $53,800
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): Over $187,200

2014-2024 Job Growth: 12%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 70

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Omaha$53,470$86,890Over $187,200
Lincoln$83,520Over $187,200Over $187,200

NEVADA
Median Salary: 
Over $187,200
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $57,600
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): Over $187,200

2014-2024 Job Growth: 26%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 70

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Las Vegas$52,710Over $187,200Over $187,200
Reno$69,870Over $187,200Over $187,200

NEW HAMPSHIRE
Median Salary: 
Over $187,200
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $158,000
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): Over $187,200

2014-2024 Job Growth: 17%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 90

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Manchester$158,400Over $187,200Over $187,200
NashuaOver $187,200Over $187,200Over $187,200

NEW JERSEY
Median Salary: 
Over $187,200
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $56,000
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): Over $187,200

2014-2024 Job Growth: 11%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 580

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Newark$54,470$178,330Over $187,200
Trenton$56,120$186,780Over $187,200

NEW MEXICO
Median Salary: 
Over $187,200
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $86,200
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): Over $187,200

2014-2024 Job Growth: 14%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 70

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Albuquerque$49,620Over $187,200Over $187,200
Las Cruces$28,800Over $187,200Over $187,200

NEW YORK
Median Salary: 
$170,300
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $60,400
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): Over $187,200

2014-2024 Job Growth: 13%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 1,880

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
New York City$59,850$161,480Over $187,200
Buffalo$46,140Over $187,200Over $187,200
Rochester$52,630$133,470Over $187,200
Albany$54,820$170,340Over $187,200

NORTH CAROLINA
Median Salary: 
Over $187,200
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $56,800
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): Over $187,200

2014-2024 Job Growth: 20%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 530

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Charlotte$113,770Over $187,200Over $187,200
Raleigh$149,440Over $187,200Over $187,200
Greensboro$185,510Over $187,200Over $187,200
Winston - Salem$92,590Over $187,200Over $187,200

NORTH DAKOTA
Median Salary: 
Over $187,200
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $92,800
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): Over $187,200

2014-2024 Job Growth: 16%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 20

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Fargo$151,250Over $187,200Over $187,200
Bismarck$186,030Over $187,200Over $187,200

OHIO
Median Salary: 
Over $187,200
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $54,700
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): Over $187,200

2014-2024 Job Growth: 15%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 710

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Cleveland$55,700Over $187,200Over $187,200
Columbus$59,120Over $187,200Over $187,200
Cincinnati$53,100$170,420Over $187,200
Dayton$50,780Over $187,200Over $187,200

OKLAHOMA
Median Salary: 
Over $187,200
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $48,900
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): Over $187,200

2014-2024 Job Growth: 9%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 240

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Oklahoma City$46,130Over $187,200Over $187,200
Tulsa$48,410Over $187,200Over $187,200

OREGON
Median Salary: 
Over $187,200
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $56,200
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): Over $187,200

2014-2024 Job Growth: 16%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 280

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Portland$55,270Over $187,200Over $187,200
Salem$125,120Over $187,200Over $187,200

PENNSYLVANIA
Median Salary: 
Over $187,200
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $55,400
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): Over $187,200

2014-2024 Job Growth: 10%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 610

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Philadelphia$53,700$165,090Over $187,200
Pittsburgh$54,250Over $187,200Over $187,200
Harrisburg$56,210$175,570Over $187,200
Allentown$81,180Over $187,200Over $187,200

RHODE ISLAND
Median Salary: 
$168,000
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $54,800
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): Over $187,200

2014-2024 Job Growth: 3%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 90

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Providence$55,280$170,620Over $187,200

SOUTH CAROLINA
Median Salary: 
Over $187,200
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $57,200
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): Over $187,200

2014-2024 Job Growth: 9%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 90

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Greenville$53,320$63,470Over $187,200
Columbia$69,390Over $187,200Over $187,200
Charleston$59,970Over $187,200Over $187,200

SOUTH DAKOTA
Median Salary: 
Over $187,200
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $175,500
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): Over $187,200

2014-2024 Job Growth: 4%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 10

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Sioux Falls$172,530Over $187,200Over $187,200
Rapid City$184,970Over $187,200Over $187,200

TENNESSEE
Median Salary: 
Over $187,200
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $130,100
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): Over $187,200

2014-2024 Job Growth: 24%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 340

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Nashville$124,530Over $187,200Over $187,200
Memphis$118,010Over $187,200Over $187,200
Knoxville$133,270Over $187,200Over $187,200
Chattanooga$113,250Over $187,200Over $187,200

TEXAS
Median Salary: 
Over $187,200
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $56,900
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): Over $187,200

2014-2024 Job Growth: 30%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 1,210

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Dallas - Ft. Worth$54,600Over $187,200Over $187,200
Houston$60,090$176,240Over $187,200
San Antonio$48,060$185,970Over $187,200
Austin$172,750Over $187,200Over $187,200

UTAH
Median Salary: 
Over $187,200
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $78,900
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): Over $187,200

2014-2024 Job Growth: 23%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 80

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Ogden$54,650Over $187,200Over $187,200

VERMONT
Median Salary: 
Over $187,200
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $62,900
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): Over $187,200

2014-2024 Job Growth: 11%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 20

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Burlington$56,160$157,280Over $187,200

VIRGINIA
Median Salary: 
Over $187,200
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $58,400
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): Over $187,200

2014-2024 Job Growth: 21%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 360

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Virginia Beach$56,320Over $187,200Over $187,200
Richmond$144,930Over $187,200Over $187,200

WASHINGTON
Median Salary: 
Over $187,200
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $120,000
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): Over $187,200

2014-2024 Job Growth: 15%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 240

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Seattle$108,630Over $187,200Over $187,200
Spokane$141,830Over $187,200Over $187,200

WEST VIRGINIA
Median Salary: 
Over $187,200
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $65,500
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): Over $187,200

2014-2024 Job Growth: 5%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 90

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Huntington$118,980Over $187,200Over $187,200
Charleston$54,170Over $187,200Over $187,200

WISCONSIN
Median Salary: 
Over $187,200
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $59,900
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): Over $187,200

2014-2024 Job Growth: 6%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 200

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Milwaukee$149,240Over $187,200Over $187,200
Madison$53,940Over $187,200Over $187,200

WYOMING
Median Salary: 
Over $187,200
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $166,400
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): Over $187,200

2014-2024 Job Growth: 16%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 20

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Cheyenne$168,640Over $187,200Over $187,200
CasperOver $187,200Over $187,200Over $187,200

Relative to the overall number of hours work, dermatology remains one of the highest paid medical specialties. For example, a 2016 Medscape poll reports that the average income for dermatologists in the United States is $381,000.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics states that the median salary for physicians is $187,200 or greater – a figure that includes all physicians, from internal medicine and pediatrics to much higher paying specialties such as radiology and dermatology.

In general, dermatologists who work in hospitals or academic settings earn less than those working in private practices. The highest paid dermatologists work in Western states such as California and Hawaii, while the lowest paid are those in the south central United States.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects job growth of 14% for all physicians and surgeons from 2014 to 2024, which exceeds average growth rates for other careers. This is partly due to the fact that the medical field is considered an essential service industry, resulting in a typically steady demand for physicians, even as careers in other sectors decline. As highly trained medical specialists who provide important quality-of-life services, dermatologists in particular are in constant, high demand and likely will remain so for the foreseeable future.

Compare Salaries by City

New York City NY Median Pay

$161480 Per Year

$77.63 Per Hour

Chicago IL Median Pay

$177170 Per Year

$85.17 Per Hour

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 fields, and requires many years of education and training. 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.

Show Me Schools »

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. 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. The 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 Moh’s 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. 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.

BACHELOR'S DEGREE

4 years

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

Show Me Schools »

Admission to medical school is competitive. 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 postbaccaulaureate program before medical school. These range from 1 to 3 years in length. Some grant master’s degrees upon completion. If the program is linked to a medical school, good performance may lead to a conditional acceptance.

MEDICAL SCHOOL

4 years

Next, let’s talk about medical school. 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. These 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 admissions process for medical school is rigorous. 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:

Anatomy

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

Biochemistry

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

Pharmacology

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

Pathology

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.

RESIDENCY

4 years

Then there’s residency. It’s 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 Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (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.

Stamina

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 re-take and pass the board examination every ten years.

Three organizations offer primary certification in dermatology. 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)
  • Dermopathology (ABMS, AOA)
  • Micrographic surgery (AOA)
  • Dermatologic oncology
  • Procedural dermatology
Andrew T. Colucci, MD

Andrew T. Colucci, MD is a senior radiology resident at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, MA, and a Clinical Instructor at Harvard Medical School. He is a member of the Alpha Omega Alpha medical honor society, and a graduate from Boston University School of Medicine and Boston College. His professional interests are quite varied and include clinical research, medical education, healthcare economics, and health policy.

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