Difference Between Dermatologist & Cosmetologist

Dermatologists and cosmetologists largely focus on the outward appearance of individuals, but the jobs are quite different. Dermatologists are physicians who treat illness and disease. Cosmetologists work to improve client aesthetics.

Comparing Dermatologists to Cosmetologists

The fields of dermatology and cosmetology are quite different. Dermatology is a medical field that requires many years of extensive education. Cosmetology requires a trade school education that may take less than one year. Both dermatologists and cosmetologists can help people improve their outer appearance.

Job Title Education Requirements Median Salary (2016)* Job Growth (2014-2024)*
Dermatologist Doctoral or Professional Degree $206,920 14% (for all physicians and surgeons)
Cosmetologist State Cosmetology License $24,300 (for barbers, hairdressers, and cosmetologists) 10% (for barbers, hairdressers, and cosmetologists)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Responsibilities of Dermatologists vs. Cosmetologists

Dermatologists are physicians who specialize in treating skin, hair, nails, and mucus membranes. Cosmetologists are not physicians. They specialize in haircutting, hair styling, and other beauty services.


Dermatologists are primarily known for being physicians who treat the skin and other parts of the outer body. They may work in offices, clinics and hospitals and could own their own medical practices, as well. Some diseases that are treated by dermatologists include skin cancer, eczema, acne, psoriasis, and nail infections. To become a dermatologist, one must first earn a bachelor's degree. After obtaining a bachelor's degree, those wishing to become dermatologists enter medical school to earn a medical doctor (MD) or doctor of osteopathic medicine (DO) degree. After completing medical school, a 1-year internship and a minimum 3-year residency must be completed, and there are additional exams required to become a Board Certified dermatologist.

Job responsibilities of a dermatologist include:

  • Taking and recording health histories of patients
  • Examining patients for signs of diseases
  • Diagnosing cancer and other diseases
  • Diminishing outward signs of aging
  • Improving the appearance of skin
  • Advising patients in preventive care of skin


Cosmetologists can perform a range of duties, while some focus on certain specialties. Many cosmetologists focus on haircutting, styling, and coloring. They also sometimes are responsible for booking appointments and collecting payments. Clients may discuss what type of hair style they would like with a cosmetologist. Some cosmetologists focus on caring for nails and may perform manicures and pedicures. Cosmetologists work in salons, hotels, spas and resorts, while some own their own businesses and perform various managerial duties, as well.

Job responsibilities of a cosmetologist include:

  • Providing scalp and facial treatments
  • Providing makeup analysis
  • Recommending hair care products
  • Changing the texture of hair
  • Disinfecting and cleaning tools
  • Keeping client records of services provided and products used

Related Careers

If you are interested in the job of a dermatologist, you might be interested in becoming a plastic surgeon, who also works with skin and patient appearance. Those considering cosmetology might also think about becoming a make-up artist to focus on that aspect of improving or changing an individual's appearance.

Plastic Surgeon: Career Profile and Educational Requirements

Make Up Artist: Education Requirements & Career Summary

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