How Do You Become a Dermatologist?

DermatologistTo become a dermatologist, students must plan on completing a long road that includes two college degrees, an internship and several years of residency. Dermatologists offer treatments for issues involving the skin, nails and hair, as well as the mucous membranes that form the inner lining of the eyelids, nose and mouth. They help patients of all ages address diseases like skin cancer, psoriasis, eczema, dermatitis and acne. Dermatologists may also offer a variety of cosmetic treatments using tools like lasers and fillers to help make scars and wrinkles less noticeable, eliminate excess hair and generally improve a patient’s appearance.

What Undergraduate Education is Necessary to Become a Dermatologist?

According to the American Academy of Dermatology, the first step in the journey to becoming a dermatologist involves spending four years earning a bachelor’s degree. Ideally, students should contact their desired medical school for information about what types of degrees are favored. Most medical schools prefer Bachelor of Science degrees that incorporate coursework in areas like chemistry, physics, biology, calculus and statistics.

What Graduate Education is Required to Become a Dermatologist?

After graduating with their bachelor’s degrees, students must gain acceptance to a medical school to begin the work of completing a doctorate in either medicine or osteopathic medicine. Generally requiring four years of study, these degree programs incorporate classes in advanced biology, organic chemistry, physiology, anatomy, pharmacology, ethics and medical law with experiential learning opportunities such as clinical rotations. Students hoping to specialize in dermatology should choose electives and rotations related to the field whenever possible. They can also take advantage of modules for independent learning offered by the American Academy of Dermatology that discuss dermatology basics.

What Type of Internship is Right for an Aspiring Dermatologist?

After completing their doctorates, new doctors must begin their hands-on medical training with a year’s internship. There is no dermatology internship program. Instead, aspiring dermatologists should intern in fields like general surgery, internal medicine, general practice, pediatrics or emergency medicine.

What Does a Dermatology Residency Involve?

After successfully wrapping up their internships, doctors can finally start their formal dermatological training. They must apply for an extremely competitive three-year residency program. If admitted, these residents will work under the watchful eyes of experienced dermatologists as they learn to see patients, diagnose and then properly treat the multitude of diseases that dermatologists see, and train in the many surgical procedures that dermatologists routinely perform. After their residencies are completed, these student doctors can sit for the American Board of Dermatology board certification exam. Once they pass, many launch their professional careers and begin to practice as full-fledged dermatologists. Others choose to continue their training with specialized fellowships that focus intently on one area of dermatology like pediatric dermatology, cosmetic dermatology or dermatopathology.

What is it Like to Work as a Dermatologist?

Dermatologists generally work out of medical offices rather than hospitals. They can choose to work alone as solo practitioners or join a group practice. Since dermatology issues are not medical emergencies, these doctors enjoy a more settled schedule than physicians active in other fields do. They also are among the best-paid specialists. In a survey of some 2200 doctors by Medscape, dermatologists were the eighth-highest paid specialty with a mean annual income of more than $300,000.

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Before anyone can begin a career as a dermatologist, they must complete more than a decade of rigorous education and specialized training. While it is difficult to become a dermatologist, the profession offers doctors the opportunity to earn significant compensation as they help patients struggling with a variety of health issues.