How To Become A Dermatologist

The decision to become a dermatologist is an admirable one. As a dermatologist, your career consists of preventing, diagnosing, and treating skin disorders and diseases. Your patients will come to you to ease their concerns regarding issues with your skin. On any given day, your job may require helping a teenage patient with severe acne, diagnosing skin cancer in a woman who spent too much time in the tanning bed over the years, or simply helping a patient learn to appropriately care for his aging skin. Anyone interested in becoming a dermatologist needs to know how to become a dermatologist.

Education Requirements

The education requirements to become a dermatologist are strict. Years of medical training and a college degree are an absolute must. The first step to beginning a career in dermatology is graduating from high school or obtaining your GED. Once you do that, you must attend college and graduate with a Bachelor’s Degree in science or medicine.

Once you graduate with a Bachelor’s Degree, your education is not over. You will need to take the Medical College Admissions Test, referred to commonly as the MCAT. A passing grade is required on the MCAT to receive acceptance into medical school, which is required for a career in dermatology. Depending on the specialization you want to pursue, your four-year medical degree will consist of various coursework. Upon graduation from medical school, approximately eight years after beginning college, you will then need to complete the training process.

Training Requirements

Following your medical school graduation, aspiring dermatologists will spend one year completing the required internship. This general medical internship is designed to help future dermatologists prepare for the fast-paced world of medicine. Following the completion of your one-year internship, you will then apply for a residency program. For three years, you will complete training as a dermatology resident learning the ins and outs of dermatology from a seasoned professional.

During your residency you will observe medical procedures, assist in diagnosing patients, and you will learn how to treat patients with specific skincare problems. After completing your three-year residency program, you will write a letter to your State Board of Examinations before you become a certified dermatologist.

Fellowship Requirements

Not all dermatologists end their medical education following the completion of residency. Some dermatologists apply for a fellowship that allows them to become specialized in either cosmetic dermatology or procedural dermatology.

If you choose to apply for a fellowship in procedural or cosmetic dermatology, you will spend one year learning additional dermatological skills such as surgery, specialized skin cancer treatments, reconstructive surgery, the ability to perform injections, hair transplantations, and laser surgeries. This fellowship provides you with the necessary training and ability to perform aesthetic procedures such as Botox and other facial injections.

Life as a Dermatologist

Unlike other medical professions, it’s not common for dermatologists to receive calls in the middle of the night because a patient has an acne emergency. This is one of the reasons that dermatology is such a lucrative and popular career choice for those entering the medical field. With fairly regular office hours, dermatologists are able to spend evenings and weekends at home, plan vacation time, and spend nights uninterrupted.

As a dermatologist, you will more than likely work from a medical office rather than a hospital. Because dermatology is a highly specialized medical profession, almost all of the procedures you perform on patients are considered out-patient procedures, meaning you can perform them in your medical office. You have the option of working in a practice with several other dermatologists or on your own by opening your own office.

The income of a dermatologist is another plus. Since dermatology is a specialty, the vast majority of your patients are well-insured, meaning you will receive payment on those procedures. Additionally, dermatology also allows you the freedom to accept cash for the procedures you perform, which allows you to receive payment much faster than you would waiting on insurance companies. The average salary for a dermatologist in the United States is approximately $301,000 annually.

Downfalls of Dermatology

Fortunately, a career in dermatology does not come with many downfalls. However, because it is a highly specialized area of medicine, it is highly competitive. In order to be accepted into medical school as a dermatologist, you must have exceptional grades, pass the MCAT with high scores, and be able to provide compelling and powerful letters of recommendations.

Additionally, hospitals are not as keen on sponsoring private practices as dermatology patients are not typically admitted into hospitals. Furthermore, a slow economy can be a bad omen for a dermatologist. When jobs are lost and insurance coverage is terminated, many people stop going to the doctor for anything other than an emergency. This means cash-strapped patients are no longer looking to use your services for skincare and acne resolutions. Botox simply isn’t as important to patients who are no longer gainfully employed.

Becoming a dermatologist is a highly specialized career choice. When you make the decision early, you can begin your career as a dermatologist sooner. Assuming you take a full class schedule throughout your educational years, the time in which you will dedicate to your dermatology education is 12 to 13 years. Four years are spent acquiring your undergraduate degree, four years are spent in medical school, one year is spent interning, three years are spent in residency, and should you choose to apply for a fellowship you will spend an additional year obtaining that training.

Once your medical training is over and you become a board certified dermatologist, you will reap the benefits of so many years of medical training. A competitive and comfortable income, a flexible schedule, and easy office hours make 12 years of schooling worth it to dermatologists who enjoy spending time with their families and traveling. Choosing to become a medical professional is admirable, but understanding how to become a dermatologist is important. Anyone looking to obtain an MD and still have a little freedom should consider dermatology as a medical career choice.