What Is a Dermatology Technician?

Explore the career requirements for dermatology physician assistants. Get the facts about job duties, licensure, education requirement and salary to determine if this is the right career for you. Schools offering Esthetics degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is a Dermatology Technician?

A dermatology technician is a physician assistant that works in the office of a dermatologist, which is a physician who specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of skin diseases and disorders. Physician assistants (PAs) work closely with dermatologists to provide patient care, and they are qualified to work independently to provide certain treatments and prescribe medications. Some PAs are also involved in technical dermatology research to advance the medical community's understanding of skin conditions and to improve treatment methods.

The table below outlines the general requirements for a career as a dermatology physician assistant.

Degree Required Master's degree
Education Field of Study Physician assistant studies
Key Responsibilities Treat skin conditions, provide preoperative and post-operative care, consult with patients who have had cosmetic procedures, assist in surgeries
Licensure Licensure required in all states and D.C.
Job Growth (2014-2024) 30% (for all physician assistants)*
Average Salary (2015) $99,820 (for all physician assistants)*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Do Dermatology Technicians Treat Skin Problems?

Some dermatology clinics use the job title 'dermatology technician' to refer to a specialized medical assistant; this is a support worker who has both clinical and administrative duties. If you have pets, you may have encountered a dermatology technician in your veterinarian's office, since this job title is also used by vet techs who chiefly assist with skin issues like mange or rashes. However, if you're interested in helping a dermatologist treat skin problems - in humans! - you might be looking for a dermatology physician assistant (PA) job.

What Responsibilities Would I Have as a Dermatology Physician Assistant?

A dermatology physician assistant performs many of the duties of dermatologists, allowing the physicians to focus on more complicated cases. As a dermatology PA, you'll treat skin conditions such as acne, psoriasis or eczema, and you'll provide preoperative and post-operative care for patients who have undergone surgery. You might consult with patients who have had cosmetic procedures such as chemical peeling, dermabrasion or laser resurfacing.

Other responsibilities will include assisting in surgeries, performing biopsies and excisions, writing prescriptions, freezing skin lesions, providing treatment for leg veins and removing tattoos. You could also perform laser hair removal, give lectures to students of PA dermatology, conduct dermatological research and screen patients for skin cancer. Administrative duties might include answering telephone calls and e-mails from patients.

What Type of Schooling Will I Need?

In order to become a dermatology PA, you study to become a physician assistant and then specialize in dermatology. Such training is available through colleges and universities, allied health schools and medical schools. Your educational program should be approved by the Accreditation Review Commission on Education for the Physician Assistant; completion of an accredited program is necessary for licensure.

Since many PA students already have prior medical experience and college degrees upon entering physician assistant programs, the majority of accredited programs offer master's degree programs for physician assistants. Typically, PA programs last just over two years. Ensure that yours offers clinical electives in your area of specialty - in this case, dermatology. You will also receive training from your supervising dermatologist, which might include participating in patient evaluations, attending grand rounds presentations, and reading related materials.

A master's-level program might include classes in diseases and health, patient evaluation, medical physiology, human anatomy, pharmacology, behavioral medicine and immunology. On the clinical side, you'll likely study clinical medicine, laboratory procedures, research and clinical epidemiology.

How Do I Become Licensed?

The National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants (NCCPA) grants the required credentialing, and you must successfully pass the Physician Assistant National Certifying Examination in order to practice as a PA-Certified. Re-certification tests must be taken every six years, and you'll need approximately 100 hours of continuing medical education within a 2-year time frame.

How Much Could I Earn?

As reported by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, physician assistants employed in the offices of physicians earned an average annual salary of $99,270 in 2015 (www.bls.gov). Those who were employed in surgical and medical hospitals earned about $100,920 per year. PayScale.com reported that physician assistants in the dermatology industry earned salaries ranging from $65,474 to $123,495 as of October 2016.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

If you are passionate about dermatology, you might want to become a dermatologist yourself, although it is important to realize that this would require you to complete a four-year M.D. program and a dermatology residency. As a physician assistant, you could also work as a generalist or alongside a different type of specialist, such as an oncologist or a pediatrician. Another high-level medical profession is a job as a nurse practitioner, a job that requires a master's degree in nursing and a license.

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