In the battle of life, our skin bravely leads the way against scratches, burns, bacteria, and injuries. As the body’s most expansive organ and its first line of defense, it’s only natural that a specialized healthcare professional, known as a dermatologist, is dedicated to its care. If you’re intrigued by this profession, read on to discover how to become a dermatologist and embark on a fulfilling career.

What Is a Dermatologist?

A dermatologist is a type of doctor who focuses on the diagnosis and treatment of various skin conditions as well as issues related to hair and nails. These skilled healthcare practitioners are trained to recognize and address a broad spectrum of dermatological problems, ranging from everyday concerns like acne and eczema to more complex conditions such as psoriasis and skin cancer. In addition to their diagnostic capabilities, dermatologists are skilled in performing various procedures, from minor interventions like mole removals and biopsies to more extensive surgeries for cyst removal. Moreover, many dermatologists are trained in cosmetic treatments, offering services like Botox injections, fillers, chemical peels, and more to enhance one’s appearance.

How To Become a Dermatologist

Becoming a dermatologist requires a dedicated and structured educational path that ensures you are well-trained and prepared to take on the responsibilities of a career in this field. Below, we’ll provide a step-by-step guide on how to become a dermatologist, including information on education requirements for dermatologists, dermatology license requirements, and much more.

Gain a bachelor’s degree

The first step toward becoming a dermatologist is to earn a bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution. Although specific majors aren’t always mandated, pursuing degrees in biology, chemistry, or some other related science is best since these programs will serve as precursors to medical school by providing the fundamental knowledge base necessary for the later stages of medical training. Another excellent path you can pursue at this stage is a BS/MD or BA/MD dual degree as a pre-med option.

Pass the MCAT

Next, after completing a bachelor’s program, aspiring dermatologists must successfully pass the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT). This test is a standardized multiple-choice examination crafted to evaluate the applicant’s problem-solving abilities, critical thinking skills, and grasp of fundamental concepts and principles in natural, behavioral, and social sciences, all of which are essential prerequisites for the pursuit of medicine. A majority of U.S. medical institutions and many Canadian schools mandate the submission of MCAT scores as part of their medical school requirements and prerequisites. It’s important to note that many institutions do not consider MCAT scores that exceed a three-year timeframe.

Attend medical school

With a competitive MCAT score and a degree under their belt, prospective dermatologists can enroll in a medical school accredited by a relevant accrediting body, such as the Liaison Committee on Medical Education (LCME). Medical school entails a comprehensive curriculum covering various medical disciplines, providing students with a broad understanding of human anatomy, physiology, pharmacology, and more. Medical school provides an extensive and comprehensive education in various medical disciplines, offering a deep understanding of human anatomy, physiology, pharmacology, and more. This foundational knowledge is essential for diagnosing and treating various dermatological conditions. Moreover, it offers hands-on clinical experiences and exposure to diverse patient cases, allowing students to develop the practical skills necessary for effective patient care.

Pass the first two parts of the USMLE

The United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE) is a three-part medical licensure examination system administered jointly by the Federation of State Medical Boards and the National Board of Medical Examiners. Upon completing medical school, aspiring dermatologists must pass the first and second parts of the USMLE. Step 1 evaluates your grasp and application of crucial scientific principles fundamental to medical practice. On the other hand, Step 2 considers your proficiency in applying medical knowledge and clinical skills necessary for a dermatologist career.

Complete your residency

After passing the initial phases of the USMLE and completing dermatologist schooling, the next step is to embark on a rigorous dermatology residency program. This specialized training, typically lasting three to four years, immerses residents in clinical dermatology practice, encompassing patient care, surgical procedures, and research. During this period, residents gain invaluable hands-on experience under the guidance of experienced dermatologists.

Pass the third part of the USMLE

After finishing their residency and meeting other dermatologist qualifications, candidates must face the third part of the USMLE. This exam evaluates prospective dermatologists’ ability to apply the medical knowledge and understanding of biomedical and clinical science gained during their training. It’s essential because it assesses their competency in real-world patient care scenarios, ensuring they’re ready to make informed clinical decisions and provide the best possible care.

Get a license

The next crucial step is obtaining a medical license. This license grants dermatologists the legal authorization to practice medicine in the state where they plan to establish their professional careers. It’s important to note that each state has its specific licensing requirements, which may include additional examinations or documentation. Therefore, it is best to check the requirements for your state and ensure that you meet the standards set by the respective state’s medical board, guaranteeing that you’re well-qualified and equipped to provide care to your patients.

Become board certified

Lastly, although it’s not mandatory, becoming certified by the American Board of Dermatology (ABD) is highly recommended. To be eligible, you must meet these dermatologist certification requirements:
  • Adhere to the Code of Ethics of the American Board of Physician Specialties (ABPS).
  • Hold a valid medical degree.
  • Possess an unrestricted license to practice medicine.
  • Complete an accredited residency in dermatology.
  • Provide two signed and dated letters of recommendation from certified medical professionals, along with a current chronological CV.

Essential Skills You Need To Become a Dermatologist

Becoming a dermatologist requires a blend of specialized knowledge and unique skills and traits. Some of these skills and abilities include:
  • Observational skills, including the ability to recognize subtle changes in skin texture, color, and overall appearance.
  • Understanding of human anatomy, physiology, and the intricate workings of the skin.
  • Effective communication skills when interacting with patients and colleagues alike.
  • Problem-solving skills.
  • Manual dexterity and precision, especially when performing procedures like biopsies, surgeries, or cosmetic treatment.
  • A commitment to continuous learning.
  • Ability to adapt to new technologies and techniques.

How Long Does It Take To Become a Dermatologist?

Embarking on a career as a dermatologist necessitates approximately 12 years of immersive education and rigorous training. Here’s a succinct breakdown:
  1. Undergraduate degree (4 years): A foundational four-year stint in undergraduate studies, preferably with an emphasis on the sciences, lays the essential groundwork for prospective dermatologists.
  2. Medical school (4 years): Subsequently, an intensive four-year medical school tenure is required, where in-depth knowledge about general medical practices and principles is acquired.
  3. Dermatology residency (3 to 4 years): Following medical school, candidates undergo a specialized residency in dermatology for three to four years. This phase is crucial as it offers hands-on experience in clinical dermatology, surgical procedures, and pertinent research in the field.
In addition to these educational milestones, future dermatologists must allocate substantial time for preparation and successful completion of crucial examinations, notably the MCAT (prior to medical school) and the three segments of the USMLE (during medical school). Securing a medical license from the respective state where the practice is intended is also imperative. These comprehensive steps are designed to guarantee that dermatologists possess the requisite knowledge and proficiency to adeptly diagnose and manage various skin disorders and conditions.

Residencies and Fellowships for Dermatologists

If you’re having trouble breaking into the field despite having the required degrees and are wondering how to get into dermatology, consider exploring residencies and fellowships. These programs provide specialized education and hands-on experience for medical professionals who have already earned medical degrees. Once dermatologists complete their primary medical education, they commonly engage in a general internship or residency, which is their fundamental training. This training helps them become skilled and self-assured in delivering top-notch care for dermatological concerns. After that, dermatologists typically opt to pursue a medical fellowship, a specialized program that enables them to concentrate further on specific subspecialties within dermatology. Some fellowship options include:
  • Dermatopathology: involves the microscopic study of skin diseases.
  • Pediatric dermatology: focuses on skin conditions in children.
  • Micrographic surgery: a precise technique used for skin cancer removal.
  • Dermatologic oncology: centers on the diagnosis and treatment of skin cancers.

Is Dermatology Right for You?

Dermatology can be a rewarding and fulfilling journey. However, it’s essential to be sure this specialized field aligns with your interests, strengths, and career goals. Consider asking yourself these questions so you can gain valuable insights into whether a career in dermatology aligns with your professional aspirations and make better-informed decisions:
  • Are you curious about the various skin conditions and their underlying causes?
  • Are you inclined to analyze and diagnose conditions, even when presented with complex cases?
  • Do you have a genuine desire to help individuals struggling with skin issues and concerns?
  • Are you meticulous when it comes to observing, documenting, and treating skin conditions?
  • Are you comfortable with the biological and physiological aspects of medicine, particularly related to the skin?
  • Are you drawn to the aesthetic side of dermatology, including procedures like Botox, fillers, and laser treatments?
  • Are you willing to keep up with the latest advancements and research in dermatology throughout your career?

The Bottom Line

Now equipped with a clear understanding of dermatologist requirements, we encourage you to take a moment to reflect on this career path and consider if it resonates with your aspirations. As a dermatologist, you could profoundly impact your patients’ lives since the skin, the body’s most visible organ, not only influences overall health but significantly shapes self-perception and self-esteem. Embark on a journey toward a rewarding career in dermatology, where the intricacies of science and art converge, empowering you to enhance the well-being and self-assuredness of countless individuals.


Is becoming a dermatologist worth it?

Becoming a dermatologist can be highly rewarding for individuals passionate about skin health and patient care. Additionally, the role offers the potential for high earnings, with an average total pay of $234,848 per year.

Is becoming a dermatologist hard?

Dermatology can be considered hard because it demands extensive education, training, and a commitment to continuous learning. However, the workload is much more manageable if you’re passionate about the field and helping others.

What is the difference between a dermatologist and a skin specialist?

Though the terms are often used interchangeably, they are different since dermatologists are medical doctors specializing in skin, hair, and nail conditions, while skin specialists can be any professional with expertise in skin care, even if they’re not medical doctors.

What is the best pre-med for dermatology?

Some common pre-med majors for aspiring dermatologists include biology, chemistry, or other related sciences.

What is the fastest way you can become a dermatologist?

The standard route usually spans a minimum of 12 years. However, if you opt for accelerated bachelor’s degree programs and swiftly fulfill other prerequisites like passing necessary examinations, you may potentially shorten the timeline.

✅ Request information on AUA's MD program TODAY!


  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.