Dermatology, the medical specialty dedicated to the health of our skin, involves diagnosing and treating a wide array of skin conditions. It takes a lot of time and effort to study the skin, given that it is the body’s largest organ. Thus, the journey to becoming a dermatologist encompasses rigorous education and training. This journey begins with your undergraduate major, which lays the foundation for acquiring the knowledge and skills essential for excelling in dermatology. From biology to psychology and health sciences, many undergraduate majors open doors for you in the field. 

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll explore the top dermatology majors, the typical courses of each major, and the dermatologist education requirements. Join us and discover how each major can help you prepare for a future in dermatology.  

What Is Dermatology? 

Dermatology is a medical discipline dedicated to diagnosing and treating diseases, conditions, and cancers of the skin, nails, membranes, and hair. Dermatologists also work on maintaining the overall health and well-being of patients’ skin, which serves as a protective barrier against the external environment. Furthermore, they play a multifaceted role in healthcare by providing primary care for common skin conditions and specialized care for autoimmune skin diseases and genetic skin disorders. Dermatologists also can perform surgical and cosmetic procedures to address skin concerns and improve skin appearance. 

The scope of practice within dermatology is broad and encompasses various areas of expertise, such as:

  • Medical Dermatology: Focuses on conditions such as psoriasis, dermatitis, skin infections, acne, rosacea, and disorders of pigmentation.
  • Surgical Dermatology: Deals with treating and removing skin lesions, including melanoma, non-melanoma skin cancer, and other non-cancerous lesions. 
  • Cosmetic Dermatology: Focuses on cosmetic treatments for skin, hair, and nail conditions, such as laser treatments, injectable fillers, botox, hair implants, and scar removal.
  • Pediatric Dermatology: Specializes in diagnosing and managing skin conditions that affect children from birth to adolescence.
  • Dermatopathology: Involves the microscopic examination and interpretation of skin tissue samples to diagnose skin diseases. 

What Should You Major in to Become a Dermatologist?

According to AAMC, among the 52,577 applicants to US medical schools during the 2023-2024 period, 57.1% had an undergraduate major focused on biological sciences. Among the matriculants, the most common majors were:

  • Biological Sciences — 13,050 total matriculants;
  • Humanities — 861;
  • Math and Statistics — 180;
  • Physical Sciences — 2,094; 
  • Social Sciences — 2,065;
  • Specialized Health Sciences — 964;
  • Other — 3,767.

This breakdown of the majors of matriculants shows that the emphasis on science and math aligns with the medical school prerequisite requirements.

Currently, there’s no set requirement for what you should major in to become a dermatologist. However, earning a degree in the majors we’ve listed below may facilitate your preparation for medical school and increase your chances of getting accepted. 

Biology

Biology is one of the best majors for a future in dermatology, as it provides you with foundational knowledge about the science behind living things, biological processes, and human anatomy. This foundation in the life sciences is essential for grasping the complexities of skin biology and pathology. Moreover, you’ll get to develop the investigative, analytical, and research skills necessary for working in a clinical setting. 

Typically, the courses you’ll take as a biology major include:

  • Biology I and II;
  • Anatomy;
  • Physiology;
  • Organic chemistry;
  • Evolutionary biology;
  • Calculus;
  • Biochemistry;
  • Biology labs;
  • Genetics.

Chemistry

Another popular degree choice for pre-medical studies is chemistry. A major in chemistry will provide you with insights into the composition, behavior, and structural changes of matter and chemical bonding. If you’re on track to becoming a dermatologist, a major in chemistry will also help you better understand the chemical processes in skincare products and treatments. Furthermore, you’ll learn to utilize analytical methods, such as spectroscopy and chromatography, to analyze skin vessels and characterize pharmaceutical compounds.

As a chemistry major, you’ll take courses such as:

  • Analytical Chemistry;
  • Organic Chemistry;
  • Physics;
  • Chemical Data Analysis;
  • Biochemistry.

Physiology

A major in physiology provides you with an in-depth understanding of the functioning of living organisms by blending multiple disciplines. For example, it uses biology to differentiate a healthy body from an unhealthy one and chemistry to examine how molecules interact in the human body. It also helps you understand the physiology of the skin, its role in thermoregulation, and protection against pathogens. Moreover, it helps gain insight into the effects of hormones on skin physiology, such as wound healing, collagen production, hair growth, and sebum production. 

As a physiology major, you’ll gain a broad introduction to biological sciences through courses such as:

  • Anatomy;
  • Human physiology;
  • Genetics;
  • Biochemistry;
  • Pharmacology;
  • Neuroscience;
  • Molecular biology;
  • Endocrinology.

Anatomy

Although anatomy is similar to physiology, in that it examines how the human body functions, it focuses more on the structure of the body. A major in anatomy will also contribute to developing a thorough comprehension of the structure of the skin and its related organs. This detailed anatomical knowledge is essential for providing precise diagnoses and effective treatment for various skin conditions. 

As an anatomy major, you’ll take courses in:

  • Biomedical science;
  • Embryology;
  • Molecular and cell biology;
  • Genetics;
  • Evolutionary biology;
  • Histology;
  • Gross anatomy;
  • Functional Morphology.

Health Science

Pursuing a major in health science will provide you with a multidisciplinary approach to understanding health and diseases. Moreover, it can provide a broad understanding of healthcare systems and patient care, which is crucial for a future career in dermatology. As some health sciences majors include coursework in research methods, you’ll also learn how to conduct clinical research and evaluate scientific literature. This way, you can make evidence-based advancements in dermatologic practice.

During your studies in a health sciences major, you’ll have to take courses such as:

  • Anatomy and physiology;
  • Foundations of health science;
  • Epidemiology;
  • Statistics;
  • Health care practices;
  • Chemistry;
  • Biology;
  • Public health;
  • Clinical research.

Psychology

Although psychology isn’t directly related to dermatology, a psychology major can be beneficial when preparing for a career in dermatology. Skin conditions like eczema, acne, and psoriasis can have a debilitating effect on a patient’s mental health. Thus, a degree in psychology will help you build rapport with patients and address their health needs and concerns. You’ll also gain insight into how psychological factors like stress and anxiety can influence skin condition and appearance. 

During your studies, some of the courses you’ll take include:

  • Statistics; 
  • Educational psychology;
  • Neuroscience; 
  • Fundamentals of research;
  • At least one laboratory course.

Physics

Although not immediately apparent, a major in physics can provide valuable insights into principles and techniques that have significant applications in dermatology. For example, a physics major can provide a foundation in light and radiation, which is relevant for dermatological procedures like laser treatments and photomedicine. 

As a physics major, some of the courses you’ll have to complete include:

  • Chemistry;
  • Calculus;
  • Quantum mechanics;
  • Thermal and statistical physics;
  • Foundations of biology: Energy, matter, and information.

English

While not a traditional pathway to dermatology, an English major’s emphasis on critical thinking and cultural understanding can complement medical training in many ways. An English major can help in the development and refinement of your communication skills, which are essential for effective interaction with patients. You’ll also become skilled in analyzing and interpreting written texts, which is valuable for staying up-to-date on the latest research findings in the field. Moreover, during your studies, you’ll get to take writing courses, which will help you write research papers. 

As an English major, you’ll have to complete courses such as:

  • Creative writing; 
  • Literary textual analysis;
  • English as a Second Language;
  • Composition. 

While you can pursue majors like biology and chemistry, there are alternative majors that can also provide you with a strong foundation for a career in dermatology. Some of them are:

  • Biochemistry: Provides you with a deep understanding of the molecular basis of life and problem-solving skills. 
  • Microbiology: You’ll gain knowledge of microorganisms and how they interact with the human body.
  • Cosmetic Dermatology: You’ll master the techniques and procedures associated with the aesthetic appearance of the skin, an important aspect of dermatology.
  • Kinesiology: Provides you with insights into the movements of the body and how they can affect various skin conditions like acne, eczema, or psoriasis. 
  • Calculus: Although it’s less directly related, a degree in calculus allows you to analyze drug concentration in body organs and chemical reactions over time.
  • Public Health: You’ll gain valuable insights into population-level health dynamics and interventions for addressing skin-related public health issues.

What Are the Dermatologist Education Requirements?

Becoming a dermatologist can take a minimum of 12 years after high school. So, how to become a dermatologist? The educational path to becoming one includes the following:

  • Earning a four-year bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution;
  • Enrolling and completing four years of medical school;
  • Completing a dermatology residency program, which can take three to four years.

Conclusion

One of the most important decisions you’ll have to make about your future includes choosing a major for your undergraduate studies. Choosing one that aligns with the field of dermatology will set you up for success in the field by equipping you with the knowledge and skills required to effectively navigate the complexities of skin health. 

So, take the first steps toward a career in dermatology, explore our M.D. program, and become highly skilled in this field.   

Frequently Asked Questions

Do you have to go to college to become a dermatologist?

Yes, a four-year undergraduate degree is a prerequisite for enrollment in medical school and becoming a dermatologist. 

What degree is required to become a dermatologist?

While there aren’t any restrictions on what you should study in your undergraduate studies, a degree in biology, chemistry, physics, health sciences, anatomy, or English can help you develop communication and critical thinking skills necessary in the field. 

What classes are required for dermatology?

When studying to be a dermatologist, you must complete prerequisite courses, including biology, chemistry, biochemistry, organic chemistry, physics, mathematics, and English.

Is dermatology a hard field to get into?

Yes, dermatology is one of the most challenging fields to get into. This is due to the competitive and demanding nature of dermatology residency programs.