How to Become a Dermatologist

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Dermatology is a branch of medicine that focuses on the skin and treating conditions and diseases. Dermatologists are specially trained doctors that specialize in dermatology and treat patients with a variety of skin conditions.


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What does a dermatologist do?

Dermatologists diagnose and treat conditions and diseases that are related to the skin, scalp, nails, and hair. They commonly work with conditions such as acne, skin cancer, fungal infections, eczema, birthmarks, psoriasis, and warts. They assess the affected area and take skin scrapings, tissue samples, or blood samples for further testing and examination. They often examine samples using a microscope or through biological and chemical testing. Once a diagnosis has been made, the dermatologist creates a treatment plan. There are a variety of methods such as medication, radiation therapy, phototherapy, cryosurgery, and topical therapy. Dermatologists also often perform cosmetic procedures such as scar removal using dermabrasion, Botox injections, and laser therapy.

What kind of training does a dermatologist need?

Like all doctors, dermatologists must complete a bachelor degree and attend medical school. They must complete a first-year residency program in family practice, internal medicine, pediatrics, general surgery, obstetrics and gynecology, or emergency medicine. They then must complete an additional 3 years of residency in an accredited dermatology program. Many aspiring dermatologists complete internships in dermatology practices to gain hands-on experience.

Once dermatologists complete their residency programs they can become board certified through the American Board of Dermatology. Requirements typically include practical experience and passing an examination. To maintain their certification, dermatologists must pass a re-certification exam every 10 years. Dermatologists must also stay up to date on the current medical and technical advancements in the field and often complete continuing education courses and attend seminars, conferences, and workshops throughout their careers.

What are the prospects for a career as a dermatologist?

Employment of all physicians (including dermatologists) is projected to grow faster than average for all professions, increasing 14% from 2006 to 2016 (1). The increased need for dermatology treatments among a variety of patients will drive job growth.

Job prospects should be very good especially for dermatologists with extensive experience and those with specializations. Job openings will also arise from the need to replace dermatologists that retire, transfer, or leave the field for other reasons.

How much do dermatologists make?

As of October 2009, the middle 50% of dermatologists earn annual salaries between $204,034 and $276,305. The top 10% earn annual salaries or more than $312,289 (2).

A career as a dermatologist is an excellent choice for individuals interested in treating a wide variety of skin conditions and diseases. Dermatologists must have great bedside manner, excellent communication and interpersonal skills, and be able to act quickly on their feet. They must be able to handle the stress and pressure of working with a variety of patients for long periods of time. They must also be able to work efficiently independently and as part of a team.

Joshua T Osborne

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