“Study hard and don’t give up! Make connections with dermatologists in your community, especially if they practice in an academic setting. Seek opportunities within the field whenever possible to gain experiences that will set you apart from other applicants and give you insight and a unique view of the field.”

Justine Park, MD, Dermatologist

Dermatologists are doctors who specialize in treating medical conditions related to skin, hair, and nails. Patients seek out dermatologists to get help with health conditions that raise cosmetic concerns such as a rash or treat diseases such as skin cancer. Since the skin is one of the largest vital organs of the human body, comprising a total area of about 22 square feet, being a dermatologist means playing a pivotal role in caring for the organ in charge preventing pathogens from entering the body, temperature regulation, and sensations of touch and temperature.

Along with other medical professions, dermatology is an in-demand medical specialty. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that physician and surgeon careers, a general title that includes dermatologists, are growing at an average rate of occupational growth and that between 2022 and 2032, 24,600 new positions are expected to be created nationally—a growth rate of three percent, which is lower than the national average (Bureau of Labor Statistics 2024).

Dermatologists can work in various healthcare settings such as group practices, healthcare organizations, hospitals, academia, or outpatient clinics. As with all medical careers, becoming a dermatologist requires many years of schooling, medical residencies, and licensure examinations.

Those who want to specialize in a specific area of dermatology can anticipate an additional year of fellowship or residency training. The final credential for any medical doctor is board certification; dermatology requires ongoing medical education and recertification every ten years.

Read on to learn more about becoming a dermatologist, including details about typical education, experience, and credentialing.

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Ask an Expert: Justine Park, MD

Dr. Justine Park is a board-certified dermatologist who has spent over 20 years practicing all aspects of dermatology. Dr. Park has a passion for beauty and medicine, and cosmetic dermatology is the quintessential expression of these two seemingly divergent ideas. 

Dr. Park has also served in the public eye as a consultant for Ortho-Neutrogena, NBC Universal, and as a spokesperson for the AllWell Beauty Skincare line. Her expertise in skincare product formulations also allows her to serve on special advisory boards, including that for her current employer, the Skin and Beauty Center, and their skincare line, PielMD.

Dr. Park received her bachelor of arts degree from the University of California Berkeley and her medical degree from the University of Southern California (USC), and completed her residency at the King-Drew Medical Center and USC. She has served on faculty as an assistant professor of clinical dermatology at USC and has also served as director of pediatric dermatology at the Children’s Hospital Los Angeles. What is something you wish the public understood about dermatologists?

Dr. Park: The public should know that dermatologists are physicians who have trained extensively on conditions affecting not only the skin but also hair and nails. Most dermatologists see patients of all ages and accept medical insurance. However, we are classified as specialists, and therefore coverage will be subject to the specialist category on your insurance plan. There are many services we offer that are not billable to insurance, therefore, always ask to see what treatments are medical and which are cosmetic. What advice would you give to aspiring dermatology students?

Dr. Park: Study hard and don’t give up! Make connections with dermatologists in your community, especially if they practice in an academic setting. Seek opportunities within the field whenever possible to gain experiences that will set you apart from other applicants and give you insight and a unique view of the field. You can also check out resources such as the American Academy of Dermatology and the National Psoriasis Foundation for ideas and opportunities in which you can get involved.

Dermatologist Specializations & Degree Types

All dermatologists are board-certified physicians who have earned doctoral degrees in medicine. After earning board certification through the American Board of Dermatology, some dermatologists opt to further their medical training and specialize in a specific area of the discipline. The top three specializations for dermatology are:

  • Dermatopathology: This specialization trains dermatologists to investigate biopsied skin tissues with a microscope to diagnose medical conditions, write up a written pathology report, determine the stage and severity of a condition, and make treatment recommendations.
  • Mohs surgery: A dermatologist trained in Mohs surgery treats patients with skin cancer. Mohs surgery focuses on removing cancerous tissues and a dermatologist trained as a Mohs surgeon can examine microscopic pieces of tissue under a microscope to ensure that cancerous tissues have been removed and healthy skin tissues remain.
  • Pediatric dermatology: Trained in diseases that affect skin, hair, or nails in children, a pediatric dermatologist may help children with skin disorders that affect their senses such as a birthmark that interferes with sight.

Admissions Requirements for Dermatologist Programs

Undergraduate admissions requirements for pre-med programs typically include a competitive high school GPA (3.0 or greater) SAT and/or ACT scores, letters of recommendation, and a personal statement.

Medical school admissions are highly competitive and undergraduate students are advised to major in the sciences, pre-med, or a related degree and keep their grades high. Earning a minor degree in the humanities or other disciplines unrelated to science is recommended, as is coursework in public health, healthcare economics, or business to help applicants show a diverse range of knowledge outside of the sciences.

To further stand out on medical school applications, applicants are encouraged to volunteer or partake in clinical internships to demonstrate an interest in the profession. MCAT scores are also required for admission to medical school. To help medical school-bound students to search and compare medical schools, the Association of American Medical Colleges provides an online database called the MSAR (Medical School Admissions Requirements).

For dermatology residency, admission requirements typically include a medical degree (MD) from an accredited university, a year of internship in dermatology, and for international applicants, TOEFL or IELTS test scores to demonstrate high levels of academic English proficiency.

Dermatologist Program Accreditation

When enrolling in any academic program, a school’s accreditation status is an important factor to research. Schools accredited at the national or programmatic level ensure students, future employers, and patients that a dermatologist’s education and training has met high peer-reviewed standards.

Undergraduate institutions are typically accredited nationally by a list of regional organizations listed on the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) website.

When researching medical schools, aspiring dermatologists can look to the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC): an organization that accredits 170 medical colleges in the United States and Canada, as well as 400 teaching hospitals and government health systems such as the Department of Veterans Affairs.

As for medical residencies, the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME) accredits medical residency training programs in the United States and Canada. In the 2022-2023 academic year, there were over 140 ACGME-accredited dermatology residency programs and more than 1,500 on-duty residents.

On-Campus Dermatologist Degree Programs

Boston University

The Boston University School of Medicine offers two full-time degrees in dermatology: a two-year master of science and a four-year doctorate of dermatology program. Students in this program are evaluated through exams, written assignments, and faculty evaluations.

During clinical rotations, students are directly supervised by a faculty member who is responsible for assessing students’ abilities in examination skills, dermatology knowledge and diagnosis, and written and verbal communication. Students in both programs must take the American Board of Dermatology (ABD) exam and an oral examination to test all aspects of dermatology. Four-year students must complete and defend a written thesis in the last two years.

As part of the curriculum, students will delve into topics such as clinical dermatology; diagnostic dermatopathology; clinical pathological correlation; cutaneous microbiology; structure and function of the skin; and dermatologic surgery and basic cosmetics.

  • Location: Boston, MA
  • Accreditation: New England Commission of Higher Education
  • Expected Time to Completion: Two to four years

Mayo Clinic

Medical school graduates looking for a dermatology fellowship in pediatrics can consider the one-year pediatric dermatology fellowship offered by the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. This program emphasizes the advanced care of infants and children with severe skin diseases.

In this program, fellows see patients four days per week and are responsible for a half-day rotation in a community clinic. Offering only one spot per year, fellows in this competitive program also take part in teaching and research opportunities and clinical practices. Upon successfully completing this program, fellows are eligible to take the American Board of Dermatology certification exam. Fellows earn a biweekly stipend and benefits.

  • Location: Rochester, MN
  • Accreditation: American Board of Dermatology; ACGME
  • Expected Time to Completion: One year

Washington University in St. Louis – School of Medicine

The dermatology residency at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis is one of the largest programs in the country. Each year they accept between six to seven new residents for this three-year program. Residents are expected to complete their residency year prior to entering this program. Clinical rotations for this residency are primarily at the BJH Center for Outpatient Health and Washington University West County Dermatology.

This program also offers a Physician Scientist Training Program (PSTP) that affords residents exceptional career development opportunities. This is a two-year program that is alongside the dermatology residency, and it comes with an additional stipend. Rather than spending time with patients in clinical rotations, residents in this program can spend up to 80 percent of their time in a lab.

  • Location: St. Louis, MO
  • Accreditation: Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME)
  • Expected Time to Completion: Three years

The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine

Residents in the dermatology program at The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine become experts in the evaluation, diagnosis, and treatment of the skin. This program offers residents various clinical rotations to broaden their skills. Some of the locations where residents will rotate through include Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center, Pediatric Dermatology division, Greenspring Station Cosmetic Center, and Dermatopathology.

During this program’s second and third years, residents are afforded a half-day a week exclusively for research. Alternatively, residents can complete a 2+2 program where the first two years are a typical dermatology residency and the second two years are dedicated to research. Residents who complete the research-centric program typically go on to work in laboratories rather than with patients.

  • Location: Baltimore, MD
  • Accreditation: Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME)
  • Expected Time to Completion: Three years

Stanford University – School of Medicine

The Stanford University School of Medicine dermatology residency affords residents a diverse training and educational experience. With over 15 clinics, hospitals, and labs for residents to rotate through and the most National Institute of Health funding in the nation, this residency exposes residents to cases, patient populations, and research they otherwise wouldn’t see.

In addition, residents will rotate through over fifteen subspecialties to gain a comprehensive understanding of dermatology and prepare them for a fellowship, should they choose to continue their education. Some of the specialty clinics where residents will rotate through include the Multidisciplinary Cutaneous Lymphoma Clinic, Blistering Disease Clinic, Laser and Aesthetic Dermatology Clinic, Pigmented Lesion and Melanoma Clinic, Autoimmune Skin Disease Clinic, Skin Cancer Genetics Clinic, High-Risk Non-Melanoma Skin Cancer Clinic, and Nail Disorders Clinic.

  • Location: Palo Alto, CA
  • Accreditation: Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME)
  • Expected Time to Completion: One year

University of Pittsburgh – School of Medicine

There are three fellowship options in dermatology at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. Fellowships are for physicians who have already completed an initial residency. Doctors can apply to complete a one-year fellowship in either cosmetic dermatology, Mohs micrographic and dermatology oncology, or dermatopathology. 

To be eligible for these fellowships, applicants must have completed a dermatology residency, except in the case of dermatopathology, where they have the option of having a dermatology or pathology residency. These programs are highly competitive with only one or two fellows accepted each year.

  • Location: Pittsburgh, PA
  • Accreditation: Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME)
  • Expected Time to Completion: One year

Online Dermatologist-Related Education Programs

There are no online dermatology medical school programs. However, online post-baccalaureate programs provide degree training for graduates with a bachelor’s degree who did not pursue a pre-med track. These programs typically take two years to complete and offer courses and academic advising to help students prepare for medical school coursework and clinical rotations.

Dermatologists with board certification have online options for continuing medical education (CME) credits. Two options are listed below.

Colorado State University

Colorado State University offers online pre-med courses in various general and specialty fields, including general medicine. Courses can be taken to fulfill admissions requirements for medical school or as additional courses for those wanting to learn more about a specialty such as pre-health genetics or gerontology. Students in this program can access campus services to support adult learners, veterans, and academic advising.

  • Location: Fort Collins, CO
  • Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission (HLC)
  • Expected Time to Completion: Timeline varies

Drexel University

Drexel University offers a part-time, two-year pre-medical certificate program for students with non-science undergraduate degrees who want to pursue a health professions career.

Designed with working students in mind, this program fulfills the prerequisite science courses required for admission by most medical schools, including dental, physician assistant, veterinary, or other health profession colleges. Taught by the Drexel College of Medicine faculty, this program also offers free MCAT preparation in the final semester.

  • Location: Philadelphia, PA
  • Accreditation: Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE)
  • Expected Time to Completion: Two years

American Academy of Dermatology Association (AAD)

Board-certified dermatologists can complete some of their continuing medical education (CME) credits online through the American Academy of Dermatology Association. Doctors can choose from various activities, including online quizzes, journal article reading, and case challenges that all earn CMEs.

In addition to these activities, doctors can listen to podcasts, attend live courses, and complete case challenges, all of which will count towards the required number of CMEs per year. The AAD tracks these activities for its members, making it easy to track how many CMEs have been earned.

  • Location: Rosemont, IL
  • Accreditation: Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education (ACCME)
  • Expected Time to Completion: Varies

American Society for Dermatologic Surgery (ASDS)

Dermatologists who perform surgery can join the American Society for Dermatologic Surgery (ASDS). As a member, doctors can access ASDS Learn digital education. Offerings include podcasts, quizzes, conference recordings, live seminars, and step-by-step procedural reviews. There is even a virtual professor program with live and pre-recorded lectures on the latest innovations in dermatology surgery. ASDS Learn tracks the activities completed and assigns the appropriate CME to each event.

  • Location: Rolling Meadows, IL
  • Accreditation: Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education (ACCME)
  • Expected Time to Completion: Varies

How Long Does it Take to Become a Dermatologist?

Before seeing any patients on their own, dermatologists receive nearly a decade of post-secondary education and training. Dermatologists can expect to spend at least four years earning a bachelor’s degree, four years in medical school, one year in an internship, and a minimum of three years in residency.

Dermatologists wanting to specialize in dermatopathology, Mohs surgery, or pediatric dermatology can expect to spend an additional year in a specialized residency program to gain experience. Additional time may be needed to study for medical licensing or board examinations.

Considering all the educational and professional requirements, students wanting to become a physician or a dermatology surgeon should expect to spend 12 to 14 years earning degrees and experience through required experiential learning programs.

How To Become a Dermatologist – Step-by-Step Guide

Step One: Earn a Bachelor’s Degree (Four Years)

Aspiring dermatologists must earn a bachelor’s degree in biology, chemistry, or a pre-med degree program. Students should take as many courses in science and calculus as possible, as well as psychology, anatomy, and physiology, and keep their grades high as admission into medical school can be competitive.

Step Two: Pass the Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT)

Before finishing a bachelor’s degree, most students study for the MCAT, which is required for admission into medical school. The MCAT is a 7.5-hour exam covering biology, chemistry, psychology, and critical analysis.

Step Three: Go to Medical School (Four Years)

Medical school applicants should look for schools accredited by the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC). Students complete the first two parts of the United States Medical Licensing Exam (USMLE) during medical school.

Step Four: Complete a Dermatology Internship (One Year)

Students are advised to seek internships and subsequent dermatology residency programs accredited by the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME).

Step Five: Complete a Dermatology Residency Program (Three to Four Years)

Those who want to pursue a specialty area such as dermatopathology, Mohs surgery, or pediatric dermatology can pursue additional fellowship training opportunities.

Step Six: Get a Medical License (Timeline Varies)

After residency and fellowships are complete, dermatologists are eligible to take the third and final exam of the USMLE to earn a medical license.

Step Seven: Earn Board Certification (Timeline Varies)

Dermatologists who have completed their educational, residency, fellowship, and licensure requirements can apply for board certification from the American Board of Dermatology or the American Osteopathic Board of Dermatology.

What Do Dermatologists Do?

Typical responsibilities of a dermatologist will vary due to specialization and location of practice as well as years of experience. Most dermatologists are responsible for:

  • Communicating diagnosis, treatment, and prescription information to patients
  • Keeping organized notes for patients and clinical staff
  • Visually assessing skin conditions
  • Using manual dexterity to collect biopsy samples
  • Examining tissues under a microscope
  • Problem-solving skills for treating recurrent issues with skin, hair, and nails

Dermatologist Certifications & Licensure

After graduating from medical school, physicians must apply for a medical license if they wish to practice. The U.S. Medical Licensing Exam (USMLE) measures knowledge, concepts, and patient-centered skills for safe and effective medical care. After passing this three-step exam, applicants may apply for an unrestricted medical license in the United States.

Once a medical license is earned, dermatologists can earn board certification from the American Board of Dermatology or the American Osteopathic Board of Dermatology. Board certification ensures that a dermatologist receives rigorous and high-quality educational training and clinical experiences. Board-certified dermatologists have the letters FAAD after their name, which stands for Fellow of the American Academy of Dermatology.

How Much Do Dermatologists Make?

Dermatologist salaries vary widely based on cost-of-living in a specific location, years of experience, and areas of specialization. Dermatologists earn average annual salaries that are higher than the national average for all occupations, which is currently $65,470 (BLS May 2023).

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS May 2023) reports that the average annual salary for the 12,040 dermatologists is $342,860. Here were the salary percentiles:

  • 10th percentile: $103,000
  • 25th percentile: $180,750
  • 50th percentile (median): >$239,200
  • 75th percentile: >$239,200
  • 90th percentile: >$239,200

Please note that the BLS typically does not give specific figures for salaries that exceed $239,200.

However, salary data from (April 2024), a website of self-reported aggregated salary data, states that 25 dermatologists listed their salaries which average out to $252,701.

Dermatologist Career Alternatives

Here are some alternatives to a career as a dermatologist.

Become a Neurologist

Neurologists are skilled physicians who can treat neurological disorders, injuries, birth defects, and diseases. Some neurologists perform surgery while others work in a clinical setting. Conditions they can treat include head trauma, Alzheimer’s, epilepsy, sleep disorders, headaches, and muscular dystrophy.

  • Typical Education: Doctor of medicine or doctor of osteopathy
  • Licensing or Certifying Organization: American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology (ABPN)

Become a Pediatrician

Caring for infants, children, and teens takes specialized training. Pediatricians have completed a medical residency that has trained them on how to care for the tiniest of people. Some pediatricians work in clinics providing primary care, while others specialize in surgery, neurology, pathology, oncology, or development.

  • Typical Education: Doctor of medicine or doctor of osteopathy
  • Licensing or Certifying Organization: American Board of Pediatrics (ABP)

Become a Gynecologist (OBGYN)

Gynecologists are board-certified physicians who specialize in caring for women. They can provide primary care from adolescence all the way through menopause and beyond. Gynecologists can also receive additional training in obstetrics to care for women pre-pregnancy, during pregnancy and delivery, and postpartum.

  • Typical Education: Doctor of medicine or doctor of osteopathy
  • Licensing or Certifying Organization: American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology (ABOG)
Kimmy Gustafson

Kimmy Gustafson


At, Kimmy Gustafson has delivered in-depth and insightful articles since 2019, aiding prospective students to navigate the complexities of choosing the right healthcare degree. Her recent work includes topics such as the ethics of gene editing and physician assistant’s fight for autonomy.

Kimmy has been a freelance writer for more than a decade, writing hundreds of articles on a wide variety of topics such as startups, nonprofits, healthcare, kiteboarding, the outdoors, and higher education. She is passionate about seeing the world and has traveled to over 27 countries. She holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Oregon. When not working, she can be found outdoors, parenting, kiteboarding, or cooking.

Rachel Drummond, MEd

Rachel Drummond, MEd


Rachel Drummond has written about integrating contemplative movement practices such as yoga into healthcare professions since 2019, promoting the idea that mental and physical well-being are critical components of effective patient care and self-care in the high-stress world of healthcare.

Rachel is a writer, educator, and coach from Oregon. She has a master’s degree in education (MEd) and has over 15 years of experience teaching English, public speaking, and mindfulness to international audiences in the United States, Japan, and Spain. She writes about the mind-body benefits of contemplative movement practices like yoga on her blog, inviting people to prioritize their unique version of well-being and empowering everyone to live healthier and more balanced lives.

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