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Dermatologist: Career and Salary Facts

Explore the career requirements for dermatologists. Get the facts about training requirements, licensure, job outlook and salary to determine if this is the right career for you.

What Is a Dermatologist?

A dermatologist focuses on researching, diagnosing and treating skin disorders and diseases. They do patient examinations and may perform minor skin surgeries. Job duties also entail prescribing topical medication for skin problems. Many dermatologists have their own private practices and must be aware of business operations. Dermatologists must complete medical school and a residency and gain a license.

The table below provides key points of what this career entails.

Education Required Bachelor's and doctoral degree
Training RequiredResidency in dermatology
Education Field of Study Medicine
Key Skills Communication, patience, problem-solving, compassion, organization, physical dexterity
Licensure and Certification All physicians must be licensed to practice medicine; certification in dermatology is optional
Job Growth (2018-2028)* 7% for all physicians and surgeons
Median Annual Salary (2019) ** $251,074

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

What Does a Dermatologist Do?

A dermatologist is a medical doctor who, besides treating conditions of the skin, also diagnoses and treats conditions of the mucous membranes, hair and nails. As a dermatologist, you may care for adult and pediatric patients and can choose to work in various medical settings, including private practices, hospitals or clinics.

Conditions you may diagnose include some sexually transmitted diseases, warts, cancer, acne and dermatitis. You may offer cosmetic treatments, such as therapies that reduce age spots and wrinkles. Other forms of treatment include medications, injections, surgical procedures and laser procedures. Treatments can take place in the office or in an operating room.

What Requirements Must I Meet?

To become a dermatologist you must first earn a medical degree from an accredited school. Following this, you'll need to complete a dermatology residency program, which usually lasts about three years. Residency programs can include lectures and seminars, clinical work in a medical setting and research projects.

To practice, you must hold a medical license according to state regulations. All states require the passing of the United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE) or Comprehensive Osteopathic Medical Licensing Examination (COMLEX) in order to practice as a physician.

You may also wish to become board certified by passing the examination offered by the American Board of Dermatology; to qualify for certification, you must complete education and residency requirements set by the board.

What Are My Potential Earnings and Job Prospects?

According to PayScale.com, as of November 2019, dermatologists had a median salary of $251,074. Job growth for surgeons and physicians, including dermatologists, has been projected to increase 7% between 2018 and 2028, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (www.bls.gov).

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Dermatologists may further concentrate their specialty in pediatric or cosmetic dermatology. An alternative career that does not require medical school is a dermatology advanced registered nurse practitioner, who works with patients to oversee and treat dermatologic conditions.