How to Become a Dermatologist

How to Become a Dermatologist

1. Earn a Bachelor's Degree (4 Years)

To become a dermatologist you must first earn a bachelor's degree. You need to take a premed program course in college because you must go to medical school.

A course load for premed might look like the following:

Grade Level Example Courses
Freshman
  • General Chemistry I & Lab
  • General Chemistry II & Lab
  • Biology & Lab
  • Calculus I
  • Humanities Requirement
  • Physics I & Lab Physics II & Lab
Sophomore
  • Organic Chemistry I & Lab
  • Organic Chemistry II & Lab
  • Fundamentals of Microbiology & Lab
  • Genetics
  • Physiology
  • Humanities Requirements
  • Electives
Junior
  • Cell Structure & Function
  • General Virology & Lab
  • Microbial Genetics & Lab
  • Biochemistry I
  • Biochemistry II
  • Physics
  • Humanities Requirements
  • Electives
Senior
  • Upper Level Biology
  • Upper Level Chemistry
  • Upper Level Physics
  • Upper Level Psychology
  • Upper Level Kinesiology
  • Remaining Requirements & Electives

Be sure to keep your grades high, as medical school admissions are very competitive you will need at least a 3.0. You need to start prepping for the MCAT as well, because you need to take it to advance.

2. Take the Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT)

To be admitted into medical school, candidates must first take the MCAT, or Medical College Admission Test, a 7.5 hour, standardized, multiple choice exam used to assess the applicant's knowledge of science, reasoning, communication, and writing skills.

The MCAT is divided into four sections:

Section Section Breakdown
Biological & Biochemical Foundations of Living Systems
  • 59 multiple-choice questions
  • 95 minutes
  • Tests biology, organic chemistry, inorganic chemistry, and biochemistry
Chemical & Physical Foundations of Biological Systems
  • 59 multiple-choice questions
  • 95 minutes
  • Tests biochemistry, biology, general chemistry, organic chemistry, and physics
Psychological, Social, & Biological Foundations of Behavior
  • 59 multiple-choice questions
  • 95 minutes
  • Tests introductory psychology, sociology, and biology
Critical Analysis & Reasoning Skills
  • 52 multiple-choice questions
  • 90 minutes
  • Tess reading comprehension, humanities, and social sciences

You can find study materials, MCAT registration, and your test scores on the MCAT website. If you are unsatisfied with your score on any of the aforementioned exams, you are free to retake them.

Depending on the school, some will average your scores and others will simply take your most recent.

3. Earn a Medical Degree (4 Years)

You have two program choices in medical school to become a dermatologist: a Doctor of Medicine (MD) program or a Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (DO) program.

Each degree focuses on the same methods of treatment, but a DO degree also focuses on osteopathic manipulative medicine. Whichever path you choose, you are facing 4-5 years in medical school:

Year Example Courses
1st
  • Cells and Tissues
  • Molecular Foundations of Medicine
  • Applied Biochemistry
  • Genetics
  • Disease Mechanisms & Development
  • Cardiac Life Support
  • The Nervous System
  • Immunology
  • Gross Anatomy of Head & Neck
  • Microbiology
  • Pulmonary System
  • Microbiology
2nd
  • Renal/Genitourinary System
  • Gastrointestinal System
  • Skin/Endocrine Systems
  • Reproduction & Women's Health
  • Microbiology
  • Behavior & the Brain
  • Hematology
  • Systemic Diseases
  • Microbiology
  • Clinical Clerkship
3rd, 4th, 5th
  • Internal Medicine
  • Pediatrics
  • Surgery
  • Obstetrics & Gynecology
  • Family Medicine
  • Psychiatry
  • Neurology
  • Critical Care
  • Ambulatory Med
  • Research, Reflections, and Advances in Patient Care

You will also be taught to record medical histories, examine patients and diagnose illnesses and other necessary things for becoming a dermatologist.

4. Complete a Residency Program (4 Years)

After medical school, you have to complete an accredited dermatology residency program. The program is focused on giving students hands-on experience in a clinical setting.

It usually involves one year as an intern in general surgery or internal medicine, followed by three years of clinical residency in dermatology.

During this time, you will be supervised by other healthcare professionals and get hands on training to build upon your skills and confidence, to allow you independent practice.

During your residency, you can really hone in on your skills and build upon your knowledge. After the successful completion of residency, many dermatologists elect to pursue further training through a one- or two-year fellowship in subspecialized fields such as cosmetic surgery, laser medicine, dermatopathology, phototherapy, immunodermatology, or Moh's micrographic surgery.

5. Earn the Required License & Certification

After you complete your residency you have to apply for your Medical License, Board Certification and take the American Board of Dermatology exam. After you pass, you are board-certified.

Further certification is available for dermatologists who have completed a fellowship and passed the general board examination, and they may take the appropriate Subspecialty Board Examination through the ABD.

To maintain board certification, a dermatologist must complete continuing medical education (CME) requirements throughout his career, and must re-take and pass the board examination every ten years.

If you graduate from a MD program, you can take the U.S. Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE). If you graduate from a DO program, you can take the Comprehensive Osteopathic Medical Licensing Examination (COMLEX-USA).

Once you get your medical license, you can take the the Examination for Board Certification through the American Board of Dermatology.