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Difference Between Dermatologist & Dermatopathologist

Dermatologists and dermatopathologists both work with various skin conditions; however, they do so in different ways. Read on to discover the job duties, educational requirements, and job outlooks for each career.

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Comparing Dermatologists to Dermatopathologists

A dermatologist is a medical doctor who specializes in diagnosing skin conditions through physical examinations, while a dermatopathologist, also a physician, diagnoses conditions by studying skin samples. The key similarities and differences between these two careers are outlined below.

Job Title Education Requirements Median Salary Job Growth (2016-2026)**
Dermatologist Doctoral Degree $326,475 (2017)* 15% (Physicians & Surgeons)
Dermatopathologist Doctoral Degree $206,920 (2016; Pathologists)** 14% (Pathologists)

Sources: *Salary.com, **U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

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Responsibilities of Dermatologists vs. Dermatopathologists

Both of these professions involve improving patients' health. Careers as either a dermatologist or dermatopathologist require strong analytical and interpersonal skills. A dermatologist may treat issues like eczema or acne. In contrast, a dermatopathologist focuses on broader medical issues, such as immunologic, infectious, or pediatric conditions.

Dermatologist

Dermatologists perform physical examinations on patients to identify and treat various skin conditions or issues. They assist patients with chronic conditions like psoriasis by developing treatment plans that can include topical ointments or antibiotics. Dermatologists also help people with skin cancer by performing biopsies and educating patients on the importance of wearing sunscreen and performing skin self-examinations. They may operate their own practice or serve as part of a group. Dermatologists must complete a doctoral degree program followed by a residency in their chosen specialty. They must also pass the exam for their medical license, with the option to complete board certification from the American Board of Dermatology.

Job responsibilities of a dermatologist include:

  • Serving as a mentor to medical students
  • Diagnosing and treating pigmented lesions like Spitz nevi
  • Offering patients services like chemical peels to improve age spots
  • Conducting exams to ascertain if patients would benefit from cosmetic procedures like liposuction

Dermatopathologist

A dermatopathologist is a medical professional trained in the study of skin pathology, which is the analysis and description of the various components of skin disorders, and a subspecialty of both dermatology and pathology. Dermatopathologists collaborate with primary care providers to treat patients with skin conditions by utilizing microscopes to analyze skin samples. They carefully examine layers of the skin, including the epidermis, dermis, and fascia, to develop a diagnosis. Dermatopathologists typically work in a laboratory setting. They will need to complete a doctoral degree program and a fellowship and obtain their medical license. They may become board certified through the American Board of Dermatopathology.

Job responsibilities of a dermatopathologist include:

  • Utilizing assessments from primary care providers to better inform diagnoses
  • Preparing reports detailing their analysis and conclusions
  • Collaborating with fellow dermatopathologists to provide second opinions when needed
  • Overseeing residents or other dermatopathology staff

Related Careers

If the idea of becoming a dermatologist interests you, also consider a job as an optometrist, as both careers specialize in treating a specific area of the body. Individuals interested in a position as a dermatopathologist might be interested in a job as a medical scientist, since both jobs involve conducting research on health issues.

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