Dermatologist: Job Info & Career Requirements

Oct 22, 2019

Dermatologists are a type of medical doctor who focus on the health of the skin. Find out more about how to become a dermatologist and whether or not this career is right for you.

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Dermatologist Job Description

Dermatologists are medical doctors who diagnose and treat ailments of the largest organ of the human body and advise patients on achieving healthy and attractive skin. During patient visits, dermatologists take medical histories and use a dermoscope, or magnifying or illuminated device, to detect abnormalities or malignancies. They might use diagnostic techniques, such as biopsies, to identify diseases and determine appropriate therapies. Areas of specialization include cosmetic dermatology, pediatric dermatology, and dermatopathology (also known as the study of skin diseases).

Degree Level Doctor of Medicine (M.D.)
Degree Field(s) Biological sciences (for bachelor's degree) then medical school
Licensure/Certification Licensure required in all states; board certification voluntary
Experience 1-year internship, 3-year residency
Key Skills Compassionate and patient; good communication, organizational, and problem-solving skills; detail-oriented and manually dexterous
Job Outlook (2018-2028)* 7% growth (for physicians and surgeons in general)
Median Annual Salary (2019)** $251,327

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

How to Become a Dermatologist

Required Education

Prospective dermatologists must first obtain a bachelor's degree, taking courses in English, math, inorganic and organic chemistry, physics, and biology. Then they must complete medical school, where they'll spend the first two years studying human anatomy and physiology, microbiology, pathology, and medical ethics, among other subjects.

During the last two years, they'll work with hospital patients under the supervision of staff doctors. Graduation from medical school is followed by a one-year year internship, three years of on-the-job training as a medical resident, a state-licensing exam, as well as a certification by the American Board of Dermatology (ABD) for those who qualify.

Skills Required

Dermatologists must be emotionally stable, motivated to serve others, able to work long hours, and willing to engage in lifelong learning. Compassion for patients and good communication, organization, and problem-solving skills are key. Dermatologists should also be detail oriented, manually dexterous, and patient when dealing with individuals or young children who are anxious about treatments.

Dermatologist Career and Salary Outlook

Career opportunities for physicians and surgeons in general were predicted to grow by 7% nationwide from 2018 to 2028, which was faster than the average for all occupations, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). According to, dermatologists earned a median annual salary of $251,327 as of September 2019.

Students who aren't sure if dermatology is the right career for them might be interested in learning more about the related careers of chiropractor and dentist.

Alternate Career Options


Chiropractors work with patients who are suffering from neuromusculoskeletal pain, including that which may be associated with the bones, muscles, and nerves. Treatments used to alleviate back and neck discomfort include physical manipulations and spinal adjustments. A Doctor of Chiropractic (D.C.) and a state license are required in order to work in the field. Some classes in a chiropractic degree program can be taken online.

According to the BLS, employment opportunities for chiropractors were expected to increase by 7% nationwide between 2018 and 2028. As of May 2018, chiropractors earned a median annual salary of $71,410, according to the BLS


Dentists examine and treat patients having issues with their gums, teeth, or other related features. They also work proactively to prevent oral and tooth-related conditions and diseases by providing patients with information about nutrition and oral hygiene. Graduates who have completed a four-year undergraduate degree program, especially one that includes courses in biology, chemistry, and other sciences, can apply to accredited dental schools and start fulfilling the requirements for state licensure.

Between 2018 and 2028, the BLS projected 7% growth in jobs nationwide for dentists. Dentists earned median annual salaries of $151,850 based on the BLS figures from May 2018.

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