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What degree do I need to become a Dermatologist?

wellness-285590_640A dermatologist is basically just a beautician, right? Make people’s faces pretty, maybe cut off a weird-looking mole sometimes, give them some beauty tips? Do dermatologists do facials?

Nope. Dermatologists save lives by diagnosing and removing skin cancers. They improve people’s quality of life by relieving painful skin conditions. They help people with disfiguring conditions feel more confident and accepted.

And it’s a big commitment.


Make no mistake, you are in for the long haul. To become a Dermatologist it is going to take approximately 12 years of schooling and 2 degrees. Yes, they make a substantial income, but you need to be prepared for the amount of work you will need to do in order to get to that point.

Like other physicians, hopeful Dermatologists begin with a bachelor’s degree in Pre-Med. This program typically is a a major designed to get you into medical school. The coursework includes:

  • advanced mathematics such as calculus or statistics
  • organic chemistry
  • biology
  • written communications

After your undergraduate program you will need to pass an exam called the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT). Then on to the 4-year doctoral program at a medical or osteopathic college. More classes, with a marked focus on pharmacology, the doctor-patient connection and medical ethics and laws. A hands-on experience is also recommended at this time.

Newly graduated M.D.’s (medical doctors) or D.O.’s (doctors of osteopathy) must still complete their residency, which is a 1 year general internship plus a 3 year dermatological residency. If you finish ALL that, congratulations, you can now move on to practice Dermatology independently! Some may pursue a fellowship first and specialize in some aspect of dermatology for their first job.

Licenses and Certifications

All doctors must be licensed in order to practice legally here in the United States. If you graduated from an accredited medical school and passed the U.S. medical Licensing Exam (USMLE), then you will have met that requirement. Dermatologist must ask be certified by the American Board of Medical Specialists (ABMS) or by the American Osteopathic Association (AOA).

Job Expectation

Day-to-day duties vary depending on the patients you see. Sometimes you’ll be diagnosing skin infections, other times you will be performing black light exams. Some dermatologist perform surgical treatments, some solely do cosmetic work.

Dermatologists are educators and frequently discuss preventative skin care. They examine patients; take medical histories; prescribe medications; and often times order further testing. Skin cancer treatment is frequently performed as it is on the rise in many people over age 40.

Dermatologist work in a variety of places; outpatient clinics, private offices, hospitals and even research and academic settings.


We all know doctors make bank, but Dermatology is one of the highest paying out of all the medical specialties. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that physicians fields will grow 18% between 2012 and 2022.

Okay, now for what you’ve been waiting for: just how much does a Dermatologist make? A 2014 Medscape poll reports that the median income for dermatologists in the United States is $308k a year! The highest paid are on the West Coast (California and Hawaii). So future Dermatologist, definitely expect to make over six-figures!


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