How Long Does It Take To Become A Dermatologist?


Dermatology is a specialized field of medicine that focuses on the diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of skin, hair, and nail conditions. Becoming a dermatologist requires a significant commitment to education and training.

Dermatology is a subfield of medicine concerned with the diagnosis and treatment of skin, hair and nail disorders or conditions. Broadly, it is a medical specialty with a number of sub-specialties (specializations) including dermatopathology, cosmetic dermatology, pediatric dermatology and procedural dermatology.

While dermatology may be considered a field on its own, cosmetic dermatology is a subfield where experts focus on improving skin appearance. Dermatopathology –another subfield –is one where specialists employ microscopes for examining samples in a bid to diagnose skin disorders or conditions.

Procedural dermatology is considered the surgical aspect of dermatology while pediatric dermatology is one where specialists concern themselves with the treatment of skin defects/conditions in children.


In this post, you’ll learn more about dermatology by finding out what dermatologists do, the duration it takes to become a dermatologist and the steps for becoming a dermatologist, among others.

Who Are Dermatologists?

Dermatologists can be described simply by what they do.

Generally, dermatologists are experts who engage in the diagnosis and treatment of various conditions/disorders affecting the skin, nail and hair. They are medical professionals whose services range across treatment of cosmetic defects (hair loss, scarring, etc.), skin cancer, genetic disorders (affecting the skin), skin infections, acne, and skin problems associated with aging.

Although depending on the areas of specialty, dermatologists go beyond the diagnosis and treatment of skin disorders by carrying out various types of surgical procedures. One of such is Moh’s surgery through which cancer can be excised from the face (or other sensitive parts) while still ensuring little or no risk of scarring or distortion.


Some dermatologists are also considered experts who carry out special operations such as skin grafting or vitiligo surgery. Finally, there are dermatologists who contribute to the advancement of dermatology by transmitting the knowledge of the medical specialty to students in classrooms. These individuals may be regarded as dermatology lecturers and can be found in medical schools.


What Is the Average Salary of a Dermatologist?

Although salaries vary across US states, the average salary of a dermatologist in the United States is estimated around $308,000. The just-provided income figure is as presented in Medscape’s 2014 Dermatologist Compensation report. With this estimated salary, dermatologists make up the list of top three highest-paid physician specialists in the United States.

Just as you should know, the state where you practice as a dermatologist can influence your income figure. While dermatologists in Florida earn an average of $219,010, their counterparts in New York earn an average of $177,330.


How Long Does It Take to Become a Dermatologist?

How to Become a Dermatologist
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Dermatology is a specialized field of medicine that focuses on diagnosing and treating skin, hair, nail, and mucous membrane disorders. Becoming a dermatologist is a lengthy and demanding journey that requires a significant commitment to education and training.

Becoming a dermatologist is a lengthy and demanding process that requires a minimum of 12 years of education and training beyond high school. This includes four years of undergraduate studies, four years of medical school, and three to four years of residency training. Optional fellowships and board certification can extend this timeline further. However, the commitment and dedication of dermatologists to improving the health and well-being of their patients make this journey worthwhile.

Undergraduate Education (4 years):

The journey to becoming a dermatologist typically begins with a bachelor’s degree. Most aspiring dermatologists complete a four-year undergraduate program in a relevant field such as biology, chemistry, or pre-medicine. During this time, students should maintain a high GPA, gain research experience, and participate in extracurricular activities that demonstrate their commitment to the medical field.

Medical School (4 years):

After completing their undergraduate degree, aspiring dermatologists must attend medical school. Medical school is a rigorous four-year program that provides a broad foundation in medical science and clinical practice. Students take courses in subjects like anatomy, physiology, pharmacology, and pathology. They also participate in clinical rotations to gain hands-on experience with patients.

Residency Training (3-4 years):

After earning a medical degree (M.D. or D.O.), graduates must undertake a residency program in dermatology. Dermatology residencies typically last three to four years, depending on the program and country. During this time, residents receive specialized training in dermatology, including the diagnosis and treatment of various skin conditions, dermatological surgery, and cosmetic dermatology.

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Fellowship (Optional, 1-2 years):

Some dermatologists choose to pursue further specialization by completing a fellowship program. Fellowships can last one to two years and focus on areas like dermatopathology (studying skin diseases under a microscope), pediatric dermatology, or Mohs surgery (a specialized technique for treating skin cancer).

Licensure and Certification:

Upon completing their residency and any optional fellowship, dermatologists must obtain a medical license to practice independently. They may also pursue board certification through organizations like the American Board of Dermatology (ABD) or their country’s equivalent. Board certification is not mandatory but is highly regarded as a mark of expertise and competence.

Dermatologists play a crucial role in diagnosing and treating a wide range of skin conditions, from acne to skin cancer, and their expertise is invaluable in helping patients maintain healthy skin throughout their lives. If you aspire to become a dermatologist, be prepared for a challenging but rewarding path that requires a passion for medicine and a commitment to lifelong learning.


The Four Steps Required for Becoming a Dermatologist


Obtaining a Bachelor’s Degree

Earning a bachelor’s degree in a relevant discipline is most certainly the first step towards a career in dermatology. Such a degree is expected to furnish you with foundational knowledge combining essential courses including chemistry, physics and biology. While still undergoing your bachelor’s program, you can begin processing your application to medical school. Doing the latter does prepare you for the next step towards becoming a dermatologist.


Enrolling in a Medical School

Enrolling in a medical school should be your next action after having completed your bachelor’s degree (undergraduate program). The essence of this enrolment is to equip you with some requisite medical knowledge. During your first year, you’ll take classes on crucial medical courses including pathology, psychology, biochemistry, pharmacology, histology and anatomy. It’s also in your prelim year at the medical school that you’ll be prepared for Objective Structured Clinical Exams.

The second year focuses on clinical aspect of medical education and it is in this period that students will be generously exposed to clinical training. For the penultimate and the final years, attention is shifted to mentorship such that students will be assigned clinical duties and shifts. The students will be supervised by senior medical personnel. Importantly, these last two years in medical school will avail students the opportunity to select from a broad range of medical specialties. Normally, the students will have been exposed to what these specialties are. As a student passionate about becoming a dermatologist, it is up to you to select dermatology as your specialty.


Undergoing a Residency Program

A three-year residency program in dermatology is your next step once you’ve completed your education at medical school. You’ll have to apply to a residency program in dermatology and hope that your application will be approved of.

Your residency program will span the minimum duration of 36 months (three years) during which you’ll have the opportunity to be in contact with patients. In addition, you’ll be furnished with the knowledge of skin and nail biopsies as parts of your surgical training while on the program. Normally, your residency program is expected to offer you the opportunity to learn the diagnosis and treatment of hair, nail and skin defects.

Residency training is a very crucial stage in the process of becoming a dermatologist. First of all, this is because the residency process mandates you to take a licensing exam in your preferred (U.S.) state of practice. Secondly, it is during this residency that you’ll earn the required certification for practicing as a dermatologist. This certification will be granted by the professional board of dermatologists.

Note that you’ll not be deemed fit for this certification except you have fulfilled the following conditions:

  • Holding an unrestricted license which allows for practicing as a dermatologist in a minimum of one state
  • Being a graduate from any of WHO-approved medical schools in the US, Canada, etc.
  • Taking and passing the ABOD examination for dermatology
  • Undergoing the training required for your dermatology specialty


Enrolling in a sub-Specialty Program

You can specialize in a particular aspect of dermatology and to do so, you’ll have to enroll in a program for your desired sub-specialty which could be procedural dermatology, pediatric dermatology or dermatopathology. There’ll be a subspecialty exam you’ll be required to take and pass.

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Understanding What Your Curriculum at Medical School Incorporates

As mentioned earlier, medical school education constitutes the steps for becoming a dermatologist. Although not intended to scare you, we must confirm that your curriculum at medical school might appear rigorous with lectures, lab sessions and practicum courses, usually in your first two years.

You should normally expect this since the pathway to becoming a dermatologist appears almost as rigorous as the route anyone will take before they can become a medical practitioner.

Here’s an overview of the medical courses you’ll take and what you should expect with each of them:


This medical course will expose you to the understanding of diseases, the processes involved in disease occurrence and the effects of specific diseases on bodily organs and the overall body system.


It is through biochemistry that you’ll be taught the body’s chemical composition as well as the structure and reactions of bodily chemicals such as nucleic acids, amino acids, carbohydrates and proteins.


Teaching materials –such as videos, medical imaging and dissections –will be used to help you study the internal structure of the human body. This study is referred to as anatomy and is considered a critical part of your education at medical school.


Physiology familiarizes you with the body’s various systems and most particularly, it teaches you the functions performed by these different systems.


Pharmacology will take you through the understanding of drug processing by the human body. Besides exposing you to the mechanisms behind drug action, this course will particularly teach you drug administration and its associated techniques. The bottom line here is that the course will make you understand how to administer drugs to patients.


Top 5 Medical Schools Where You Can Study Dermatology

Before reading through the information we have on the top five medical schools for dermatology, we consider it unnecessary to rank certain universities as the “best schools for studying dermatology”. This is because dermatology itself is a medical specialty and just like any other medical specialty, it (dermatology) requires you to enroll in a medical school and earn a medical degree. In other words, you’re required to obtain your DO, MD, MBBS or MBBCh as one of the conditions for becoming a dermatologist.

Basically, your curriculum at medical school will expose you to different medical specialties. It will be ultimately up to you to select dermatology as the area you’d like to specialize in.

Obtaining a medical degree remains a mandatory requirement for becoming a dermatologist just the same way you must graduate from a medical school before you can become a medical doctor. Having obtained that medical degree, you’ll proceed to enrolling in a three-year residency program in dermatology. Therefore, you may be interested in knowing some of the top schools where you can obtain a medical degree.


Harvard University, Harvard Medical School

Harvard Medical School is a reputable university with unstinting commitment to the sustenance of leadership and excellence in research, clinical care, education and science. In this vein, Harvard Medical School remains committed to the grooming of various individuals who would go ahead to sustain leadership and excellence in the aforementioned areas.

With Harvard Medical School being one of the best in the US, it’s unsurprising that a large number of its graduates can be found holding leadership positions in medical organizations within and outside the United States.

Although a very remarkable medical school, Harvard Medical School does maintain a rather competitive acceptance rate of 5.4%. But if you’re lucky to gain entry into the prestigious medical school, your chances of graduating are very high courtesy of a 97.5% graduation rate.


Stanford University School of Medicine

Stanford University, School of Medicine is clearly one of US’ top-rated medical schools. Besides providing medical students with excellent education, the university offers several specialties. Some of the medical specialties offered include obstetrics, dermatology, gynecology, pediatrics and oncology.

The acceptance rate at Stanford University School of Medicine appears competitive, as it stands at 2.3%, but there’s an impressive graduation rate of 94.6%. Sincerely, the low acceptance rate at Stanford University shouldn’t appear any surprising since medical schools are usually competitive in terms of admission.


The University of Washington, School of Medicine

The University of Washington, School of Medicine offers a good deal of medical specialties. Besides being a good medical school for dermatology, this university is less competitive in terms of admission. With a 95% acceptance rate, you’ve got an extremely high chance of gaining entry into this school compared to the other medical schools in this post.

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In terms of primary care and research, U.S. News was said to have rated this university as a top choice nationally among many other schools in the United States. With that said, there’s a favorable 89.3% graduation rate at University of Washington School of Medicine.


Johns Hopkins University, School of Medicine

Johns Hopkins Medical School is a US-based academic institution offering a good deal of medical specialties. Remarkably, it’s considered the best medical school in the United States. It is no surprise that Johns Hopkins Medical School holds this enviable position considering that the school has contributed immensely in providing tremendous medical interventions and in churning out excellent research.

With an acceptance rate of 3.9%, Johns Hopkins Medical School is obviously an institution with competitive admission chances. If you’re however fortunate to gain entry into the school, you can hope to successfully pick dermatology from its range of sub-specialties. Unlike the acceptance rate, the graduation rate at Johns Hopkins Medical School appears really fantastic as it stands at 93.1%.


University of California, San Francisco, School of Medicine

Over the past decade, this medical school has constantly appeared in the ranking of the best medical schools in the US. Not only is University of California, San Francisco, School of Medicine a great academic institution for different medical specialties, including dermatology, it’s also one of the medical schools with high acceptance rates.

With an acceptance rate of 65%, it’s undeniable that candidates’ entry chances into this medical school are pretty high. However, the school’s 63% graduation rate might not really seem encouraging to some people.


FAQS about Dermatologist/Dermatology


What Is the Duration for Becoming a Dermatologist?

The average duration for becoming a dermatologist is 12 years. This 12-year duration incorporates the prelim four years for your bachelor’s or undergrad program, another four years for your education at medical school and the final four years for your residency program in dermatology.

However, you may opt to enroll in one of the accelerated programs which let you integrate your bachelor’s program and your medical degree. This way, you’ll eventually have a single program (incorporating your BSc and your medical degree) which can be completed within six years.

Within the earlier-mentioned 12-year duration, you’re expected to receive thorough education and undergo exhaustive training –especially in the final four years –that will enable you to excel in the practice of dermatology.

What Is the Cost of Becoming a Dermatologist?

The overall cost for completing your dermatology degree tends to vary depending on your chosen school. But based on our findings, it costs between $35,218 and $59,339 annually to be a student of a dermatology school.

A student pursuing their dermatology career in their U.S state may expect to spend as much as $281,704 over the 8-year period that should cover medical school education and residency training in dermatology. However, students should find it pretty convenient to take care of this cost via the annual allowance –between $40,000 and $50,000 –usually paid to residents (students on residency programs).

What are the Best Courses Aspirants of Dermatology Should Major In?

Generally, students aspiring to become dermatologists are expected to offer science courses which (should) necessarily include anatomy, psychology and physiology. If you’re holding a BSc in chemistry or biology, you’ll likely have taken classes in the aforementioned courses.



We are convinced that this post has served your information need by walking you through all you wanted to know about dermatology. But if you still have questions despite the comprehensive information we’ve provided, you’re free to use the comment section below.

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