How to Become a Dermatologist in 5 Steps


Becoming a dermatologist requires dedication, hard work, and a passion for skincare. It’s a rewarding career path that involves diagnosing and treating various skin conditions, performing surgeries, and helping patients achieve healthy and beautiful skin. If you’re interested in pursuing a career as a dermatologist, here are the 5 steps you need to follow:

  • Obtain a bachelor’s degree in a relevant field to lay the foundation for your career in dermatology.
  • Attend medical school to gain the necessary knowledge and skills to become a dermatologist.
  • Complete a residency in dermatology to gain hands-on experience and further refine your skills.
  • Obtain a medical license to practice as a dermatologist.
  • Consider becoming board certified to enhance your credibility and expertise in the field.

By following these steps and continuously learning and improving your skills, you can build a successful career as a dermatologist, helping countless individuals with their skin concerns and contributing to their overall well-being. Remember, it’s important to stay up-to-date with the latest advancements in dermatology and be prepared to adapt to new technologies and techniques as they emerge.

Step 1: Obtain a Bachelor’s Degree

Before embarking on the journey to become a dermatologist, it is crucial to complete a bachelor’s degree in a related field. A strong foundation in science and pre-medical courses is essential for success in medical school and future dermatology practice.

While there is no specific undergraduate major required to become a dermatologist, it is recommended to choose a degree program that aligns with the field of medicine and biology. Majors such as biology, chemistry, or biochemistry can provide the necessary coursework and knowledge needed for medical school and beyond.

During your bachelor’s degree program, it is important to maintain a high GPA as medical school admissions are highly competitive. Admission committees often consider not only academic performance but also extracurricular activities, research experience, and letters of recommendation. Therefore, take advantage of research opportunities, volunteer work, and internships to enhance your application and demonstrate your commitment to the field of dermatology.

Recommended Undergraduate Majors Skills and Knowledge Gained
Biology Understanding of human anatomy, physiology, and cellular biology
Chemistry Knowledge of chemical reactions, organic chemistry, and laboratory techniques
Biochemistry Comprehensive understanding of the chemical processes in living organisms

Obtaining a bachelor’s degree is the first step towards becoming a dermatologist. Choose a major that aligns with the field of medicine and biology to gain the necessary knowledge and skills. A high GPA and involvement in extracurricular activities will strengthen your medical school application.

Completing a bachelor’s degree prepares you for the rigorous journey ahead and ensures you have a solid understanding of the foundational sciences necessary for success in medical school and beyond.

Step 2: Attend Medical School

After completing a bachelor’s degree, the next step towards becoming a dermatologist is attending medical school. Medical school provides the necessary education and training to become a licensed physician and specialize in dermatology. The duration of medical school typically ranges from four to five years.

During medical school, students undergo a rigorous curriculum that includes coursework in basic sciences, such as anatomy, physiology, and biochemistry. They also learn about clinical medicine, which involves diagnosing and treating various medical conditions. In addition, students participate in hands-on clinical rotations in different specialties, including dermatology.

dermatologist attending to a patient

Medical school is also where aspiring dermatologists must pass national board examinations, such as the United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE). These exams assess the medical knowledge and clinical skills of students, ensuring that they are competent to practice medicine.

Coursework during Medical School:

Course Description
Human Anatomy Study of the structure and organization of the human body
Physiology Understanding the normal functioning of the body’s systems
Pharmacology Learning about drugs and their effects on the body
Pathology Study of the nature and causes of diseases
Dermatology Introduction to the diagnosis and treatment of skin conditions

After completing medical school and passing the board exams, students proceed to the next step in their journey to become dermatologists: completing a residency in dermatology. This residency program typically lasts for three years and provides specialized training in diagnosing and treating various skin conditions. It offers valuable hands-on experience under the guidance of experienced dermatologists, allowing residents to develop their clinical skills and expertise.

By successfully completing medical school, aspiring dermatologists lay the foundation for their future career in dermatology. They gain the knowledge and skills needed to provide comprehensive care for patients with a wide range of skin conditions. The journey towards becoming a dermatologist requires dedication, perseverance, and a genuine passion for improving the health and well-being of others.

Step 3: Complete a Residency

Once medical school is completed, aspiring dermatologists must undertake a residency program in dermatology. This is a crucial step in their journey to becoming a qualified dermatologist. During the residency, dermatologists receive specialized training in diagnosing and treating a wide range of skin conditions. The duration of a dermatology residency typically spans three to four years.

Throughout the residency, dermatology residents gain valuable hands-on experience by working directly with patients under the guidance of experienced dermatologists. They learn to perform various procedures and treatments, including biopsies, surgical excisions, laser therapies, and cosmetic procedures. Residents also have the opportunity to develop their clinical and research skills, which are essential for success in the field of dermatology.

Residency Program Structure

The residency program typically consists of both clinical and academic components. Residents spend a significant amount of time in various clinical settings, including dermatology clinics, hospitals, and outpatient centers. They diagnose and treat patients with a wide range of skin conditions, including acne, psoriasis, eczema, skin cancer, and more.

In addition to the clinical exposure, residents also engage in academic pursuits such as attending lectures, seminars, and conferences. They are expected to conduct research and publish scientific papers to contribute to the advancement of dermatological knowledge. This combination of clinical and academic training ensures that dermatologists have a well-rounded skill set to provide the best possible care to their patients.

Residency Requirements and Certification

To successfully complete a dermatology residency, residents must fulfill specific requirements set by the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME). These requirements include completing a specific number of patient encounters, a minimum number of surgical procedures, and meeting specific educational objectives. Residents must also demonstrate competency in various clinical areas and pass regular assessments and examinations.

Upon successful completion of the residency program, dermatology residents become eligible to take the certification examination administered by the American Board of Dermatology. Board certification is an optional but highly recommended step for dermatologists. It signifies a high level of competence and expertise, which can enhance career opportunities and patient confidence.

In summary, completing a residency program is a crucial step in becoming a dermatologist. It provides aspiring dermatologists with the necessary skills, knowledge, and experience to diagnose and treat a wide range of skin conditions. The combination of clinical exposure and academic pursuits ensures that dermatologists are well-prepared to meet the challenges of this rewarding career.

Step 4: Obtain a License

In order to practice as a dermatologist, obtaining a medical license is a necessary step. This process ensures that dermatologists meet the required standards of knowledge and competency to provide quality patient care. To obtain a medical license, dermatologists must pass the United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE) or the Comprehensive Osteopathic Medical Licensing Examination (COMLEX). These exams assess the candidate’s understanding of medical concepts and their ability to apply them in clinical practice.

After passing the licensing exams, dermatologists must apply for a license through their state medical board. The application process typically includes submitting an application form, paying a fee, and providing supporting documentation, such as education transcripts and proof of completion of a residency program. It is important for dermatologists to maintain an active and valid medical license throughout their career to continue practicing legally.

dermatologist license

Step 5: Become Board Certified

While board certification is not mandatory, it is an important achievement for dermatologists seeking to enhance their professional credentials. Board certification demonstrates a dermatologist’s commitment to maintaining the highest standards of knowledge and expertise in their field. It is a mark of distinction that can open up new opportunities for career advancement, research, and professional collaboration.

To become board certified, dermatologists must first complete their residency training in dermatology. This typically takes three to four years and provides comprehensive hands-on experience in diagnosing and treating various skin conditions.

After completing their residency, dermatologists are eligible to take the board certification examination administered by the American Board of Dermatology (ABD). This rigorous exam assesses their knowledge and skills in dermatology and covers topics such as medical dermatology, dermatopathology, dermatologic surgery, and cosmetic dermatology.

Once a dermatologist passes the board exam, they are awarded the coveted title of “board-certified dermatologist.” This certification is valid for ten years, after which dermatologists must undergo a recertification process to maintain their board certification status.

Benefits of Board Certification
Enhanced professional credibility and reputation
Increased patient trust and confidence
Access to a wider network of colleagues and research opportunities
Eligibility for leadership positions in professional organizations

Board certification is a significant milestone in a dermatologist’s career, and it reflects their dedication to providing the highest quality care to their patients. It is an investment of time and effort that brings numerous rewards, both professionally and personally.


“Obtaining board certification was a pivotal moment in my career as a dermatologist. It not only solidified my expertise in the field but also opened doors to new research opportunities and professional collaborations. Being board certified has given me a sense of pride and confidence in providing the best care possible to my patients.”
– Dr. Emily Thompson, Board-Certified Dermatologist-

As you can see, becoming board certified as a dermatologist can greatly enhance your professional growth and opportunities. It is a testament to your dedication, knowledge, and skill in the field of dermatology. So if you are considering a career as a dermatologist, pursuing board certification is a step worth taking.

board certified dermatologist

Dermatology offers a range of subspecialties that allow dermatologists to focus on specific areas of interest or expertise. These subspecialties require additional fellowship training beyond the general dermatology residency. Let’s explore some of the most common subspecialties in dermatology:


Dermatopathology combines the fields of dermatology and pathology, focusing on the microscopic examination of skin tissue and diagnosing diseases of the skin. Dermatopathologists play a crucial role in providing accurate diagnoses for various skin conditions, including skin cancers, inflammatory disorders, and infectious diseases.

Mohs Micrographic Surgery and Dermatologic Oncology

Mohs micrographic surgery is a highly specialized technique used to treat certain types of skin cancer, particularly those in cosmetically or functionally sensitive areas. Dermatologic oncologists are experts in diagnosing and treating skin cancers, providing comprehensive care to patients, including surgical removal, radiation therapy, and immunotherapy.

Pediatric Dermatology

Pediatric dermatologists specialize in diagnosing and treating skin conditions in children, from birth through adolescence. They have in-depth knowledge of childhood skin diseases, such as eczema, birthmarks, acne, and genetic skin disorders. Pediatric dermatologists provide personalized care to young patients, ensuring their skin health and addressing any concerns or conditions they may have.

Cosmetic Dermatology

Cosmetic dermatology focuses on enhancing the appearance of the skin, hair, and nails. Cosmetic dermatologists offer various non-surgical and minimally invasive procedures to address concerns like wrinkles, age spots, uneven skin tone, and hair loss. They may perform treatments like Botox, fillers, chemical peels, laser therapy, and hair restoration techniques to help patients achieve their aesthetic goals.

These subspecialties in dermatology provide dermatologists with opportunities to delve deeper into specific areas of interest and expertise. Whether it’s diagnosing complex skin diseases, performing intricate surgeries, caring for children’s skin health, or enhancing patients’ appearance, subspecialties allow dermatologists to make a significant impact in their respective fields.

The Role of a Dermatologist

Dermatologists play a vital role in diagnosing and treating various skin conditions and performing surgeries, making it a rewarding career choice. They are highly trained medical professionals who specialize in the health of the skin, hair, and nails. With their extensive knowledge and expertise, dermatologists are equipped to address a wide range of skin concerns and help patients achieve healthier skin.

One of the primary responsibilities of a dermatologist is to diagnose and treat various skin conditions. They are skilled in identifying and addressing issues such as acne, rashes, discoloration, lesions, and infections. Dermatologists not only provide effective treatment options but also offer guidance on prevention and long-term management of these conditions.

In addition to their diagnostic and treatment skills, dermatologists are also trained to perform various surgeries on the skin. From minor procedures like mole removal to more complex surgeries like Mohs surgery for skin cancer, dermatologists have the expertise to perform these procedures safely and effectively. Their precision and attention to detail are crucial in ensuring successful surgical outcomes.

Choosing a career in dermatology offers numerous benefits. Not only is it a fulfilling profession that allows you to make a positive impact on people’s lives, but it also offers a high average salary and a positive job outlook. Dermatologists often experience high job satisfaction, as they have the opportunity to improve patients’ confidence and quality of life by addressing their skin concerns.


Q: How long does it take to become a dermatologist?

A: It takes approximately 12 years or longer to complete the education and training required to become a dermatologist.

Q: What are the steps to become a dermatologist?

A: The steps to become a dermatologist include obtaining a bachelor’s degree, attending medical school, completing a residency, obtaining a license, and becoming board certified.

Q: Is board certification necessary to become a dermatologist?

A: Board certification is optional but highly recommended for dermatologists.

Q: Are there any subspecialties within dermatology?

A: Yes, there are subspecialties within dermatology such as dermatopathology, Mohs micrographic surgery and dermatologic oncology, pediatric dermatology, and cosmetic dermatology.

Q: What do dermatologists diagnose and treat?

A: Dermatologists diagnose and treat a wide range of skin conditions, including acne, rashes, discoloration, lesions, skin cancer, hair loss, infections, and inflammatory skin conditions.

Q: Do dermatologists perform surgeries?

A: Yes, dermatologists may perform surgeries on the skin, ranging from minor procedures to advanced surgeries like Mohs surgery.

Q: Is a career in dermatology rewarding?

A: Yes, dermatology is a highly rewarding career path with high job satisfaction, a high average salary, and a positive job outlook.