Laura Berlinsky-Schine 4 min read Career Path Breakdowns

How to Become a Dermatologist: Steps to Take from High School

Treating thousands of conditions related to the skin, nails, and hair, dermatologists are in-demand physicians with a high earning potential. Like most healthcare professionals, they undergo rigorous preparation, but once they complete their education, they can enjoy a rewarding career and specialize in a wide range of niches, from pediatric care to skin cancer.

 

In this post, we’ll outline what exactly dermatologists do, plus the steps you need to take to become one.

 

What Does a Dermatologist Do?

 

Dermatologists are mainly known as “skin doctors,” but they diagnose and treat conditions related to hair and nails as well. In addition to working with cosmetic disorders, they also treat diseases that extend beyond the surface. Just a handful of the many diseases, conditions, and disorders that fall under their repertoire are:

 

  • Acne
  • Allergies
  • Dandruff
  • Discoloration
  • Eczema
  • Hair loss
  • Lice
  • Moles
  • Nail conditions
  • Psoriasis
  • Rashes
  • Rosacea
  • Scars
  • Skin cancer
  • Skin infections
  • Skin lesions
  • Warts

 

Dermatologists perform topical, surgical, and other procedures to treat these and other conditions, working with ultraviolet light therapy, injections, chemical peels, micro-dermabrasion, oral medications, laser surgery, cryosurgery, and more.

 

Some dermatologists work in private practice, while others work in hospitals, clinics, and other healthcare facilities. 

 

How Much Do Dermatologists Make?

 

According to PayScale, dermatologists earn an average of $245,023 per year. This varies based on specialty, experience, setting, and other factors.

 

How to Become a Dermatologist: Steps to Take from High School

 

High School

 

Take plenty of science and math courses.

 

Dermatologists are medical doctors. While you won’t earn a bachelor’s degree in “pre-med” — this isn’t an actual major — you should show your interest in the field by taking plenty of upper-level science and math courses in high school, such as AP courses in biology, physics, chemistry, calculus, and statistics.

 

Intern, volunteer, or participate in other pre-med activities.

 

Participate in plenty of science and medicine-related activities as a teenager. For example, you might conduct independent research or volunteer at a local clinic. For more ideas, check out our post Extracurriculars for High Schoolers Interested in Studying Medicine.

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College

 

Earn a bachelor’s degree.

 

While there’s no pre-med major, most colleges have a pre-med track, in which you’ll be given a designated pre-med advisor in addition to a major advisor. This advisor will help you ensure you’re meeting the requirements for entry into medical school, which usually include coursework in:

 

  • Biology – 2 semesters with lab
  • Physics – 2 semesters with lab
  • General chemistry – 2 semesters with lab
  • Organic chemistry – 2 semesters with lab
  • Biochemistry – 1 semester
  • English – 2 semesters
  • Math – 2 semesters
  • Some schools also might require Psychology and Statistics

 

This varies by medical school, so be sure to look into the requirements at top medical schools while you’re an undergraduate.

 

You can choose any major, but many pre-meds focus on science-related disciplines to help them meet their medical school entry requirements.

 

Keep your GPA up.

 

Admission to medical school is highly competitive. In order to increase your likelihood of acceptance, you should work hard to keep your grades up. Med schools usually consider both a science GPA and general GPA (which takes into account all of your courses).

 

Participate in relevant extracurriculars.

 

Most medical schools will want to see plenty of medicine-related extracurriculars, especially ones that you’ve been doing for the majority of your undergraduate experience. Shadowing, volunteering, and gaining research experience are some of the most important activities for pre-meds.

 

Take the MCAT.

 

You’ll be required to take the Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT) for admission to medical school. This rigorous, 7.5-hour exam covers a wide range of topics, including biology, behavior, analysis and reasoning, and much more. You’ll need to prepare extensively for this exam. Check the average scores for admitted students at the medical schools to which you’re applying to set your target MCAT score.

 

See our post on navigating the pre-med track for more info on applying to medical school. 

 

Medical School

 

Earn an M.D.

 

Medical school usually consists of two years of classroom and lab coursework and another two years of clinical practice, in which you’ll work under the supervision of licensed physicians. This will be a very demanding period, as much a test of endurance as it is an evaluation of your medical skills.

 

During this time, you’ll need to take countless exams, including the United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE) Step 1 and Step 2.

 

Residency

 

Complete an internship.

 

A medical internship lasts one year, usually considered the first year of your residency. You can expect long and difficult hours, so you’ll need plenty of endurance to make it through your residency.

 

Complete a residency.

 

The rest of your residency lasts three years and consists of hands-on medical work under the supervision of a full-fledged doctor. You may also choose to complete a dermatology fellowship subsequently.

 

Become licensed.

 

All dermatologists must be licensed to practice. Check with your state about licensing requirements (these vary from state to state). Typically, you’ll need to have completed your residency and passed the U.S. Medical Licensing Exam, among other requirements.

 

Become Board-Certified.

 

Many dermatologists also become board-certified by organizations such as the American Board of Dermatology. This involves taking another exam testing your skills. While not necessary to practice, it will expand your opportunities and increase your earning potential. Both board certification and licensure require continuing education credits and further examinations.

 

Later career

 

Consider specializing.


Specializing can also expand your repertoire and increase your earning potential. Examples of specializations include:

 

  • Cosmetic dermatology
  • Dermatopathology
  • Pediatric dermatology
  • Surgical dermatology

 

If you’re thinking of becoming a physician, you probably know that your education will be demanding — and that you’ll need to be at the top of your game. And it all starts with an undergraduate college with a stellar pre-med track. Find out your real chances of admission to more than 500 colleges and universities with CollegeVine’s free Chancing Engine!

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Laura Berlinsky-Schine
Senior Blogger at CollegeVine
Short bio
Laura Berlinsky-Schine is a graduate of Johns Hopkins University, where she majored in Creative Writing and minored in History. She lives in Brooklyn, New York and works as a freelance writer specializing in education. She dreams of having a dog.