How to Become a Cosmetic Dermatologist

Last Updated on August 24, 2022 by Smile Ese

The prospective Cosmetic Dermatologist will face many challenges and obstacles throughout the years of education and training. From becoming familiar with the newest treatment techniques to staying in touch with the latest technology, a Cosmetic Dermatologist must have a vast knowledge of the field.

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How to Become a Cosmetic Dermatologist.

The cosmetic dermatology field is a booming industry, and it’s not hard to see why. People are getting older, and they want to look their best as they age. Whether you’re considering a career in cosmetic dermatology or just want to know more about this growing industry, here are some things you should know:

  1. Cosmetic dermatology is the branch of medicine that deals with skin conditions and cosmetic procedures like Botox injections, laser hair removal, and injectable fillers.
  2. If you become a cosmetic dermatologist, your main goal will be to help people look younger and feel better about themselves through cosmetic surgery, skin care products and procedures, as well as by educating them about proper skin care practices so that they can take care of themselves at home as well.
  3. You can get started by earning at least an undergraduate degree in biology or chemistry from an accredited university or college; these programs will help you develop skills necessary for becoming a doctor like critical thinking skills as well as communication skills such as how to speak clearly in front of large crowds (i.e., patients).

Cosmectic Dermatologist Education Requirements

Medical students must complete extensive education and training to become board-certified dermatologists. Their journey begins by completing a bachelor’s degree from an accredited university. Students interested in becoming medical professionals tend to major in a science, health or math-related field. It is strongly advised that college students seeking a path in the medical field take courses in the sciences and mathematics in preparation for the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) and medical school.

The MCAT is used to assess the student’s comprehension of premedical studies and other skills necessary for a career as a doctor. The MCAT examination consists of a writing sample and multiple-choice questions in verbal reasoning, biological science and physical science, according to the Association of American Medical Colleges.

The great majority of medical schools require a successful MCAT exam score for admission, and students looking to improve their score have three chances to do so within a calendar year. Although the exam may be retaken, medical schools look at the student’s last exam score. Students should be forewarned of this prior to retaking the MCAT.

In addition to acknowledging MCAT scores, many medical schools want students who have completed at least one year of biology, physics and English, and two years of organic chemistry.

Medical school requires four intense years of schooling, and students develop knowledge in clinical medicine and hands-on patient care. The first two years focus on basic science concepts and medical education. The last two years of medical school are generally spent working directly with patients.

The American Board of Dermatology (ABD) requires residency training to be at least three years, and individuals must spend at least 75% of their time taking care of actual patients. The other 25% of residency is devoted to study-related conferences, student lectures and seminars. Final-year residents may devote part of their year delving into dermatologic subspecialties, such as cosmetics.

After the residency has been completed, scholars must take and pass the board certification exam administered by the ADB to be deemed a board-certified dermatologist. To maintain their credential, dermatologists must successfully pass the recertification exam once every ten years.

How to Become a Dermatologist - An Easy Guide

how to become a dermatologist

Are you interested in helping people maintain healthy skin? If this sounds like you, then a career in dermatology might be the perfect choice. Working as a dermatologist, you will diagnose and treat skin conditions while also helping your patients to look and feel their best.

Read on to find out more about what a dermatologist does, how you can become one, and whether a career in dermatology is right for you.

What is a dermatologist?

A dermatologist is a medical doctor who specializes in the prevention and treatment of more than 3,000 hair, skin, nail, and mucous membrane conditions. There are around 44 million visits to dermatologists each year in the United States. Dermatologists provide care to people of all ages, for such conditions as:

  •     Acne: Based on the severity of the acne, a dermatologist will treat it with topical applications, chemical peels, the removal of large cysts, or light therapies such as lasers
  •     Dermatitis: Dermatitis includes skin conditions that cause irritation and inflammation, such as cradle cap, eczema, and allergic reactions
  •     Hair loss: A dermatologist will determine the underlying cause of hair loss and treat if possible
  •     Infections: A dermatologist can diagnose the cause of infections and prescribe an appropriate treatment
  •     Nail problems: Common nail issues treated by dermatologists are spots, nail separation, and discoloration
  •     Skin cancer: A dermatologist can remove cancer cells and monitor the patient to ensure it doesn’t return

Internal medicine doctors and general practitioners can diagnose and treat these conditions. However, a dermatologist has a deeper understanding and greater experience in these types of conditions. Primary care doctors will frequently refer patients to a dermatologist for specialized care.

Besides these cosmetic and medical skin-related issues, dermatologists can also recognize the symptoms of other serious underlying health issues. The skin is the body’s largest organ and the first line of defense against injury and pathogens. It can often be a good indicator of overall health. For instance, diabetes can impact the skin’s appearance, and a dermatologist can be the first healthcare provider to recognize the signs.

What does a dermatologist do?

Like most medical doctors, the day-to-day duties of a dermatologist are as varied as the patients they care for. They provide life-changing diagnoses and treatments to restore health, prevent illness, and improve life for both children and adults. Dermatologists also provide their patients with education and preventative care for skin and other related health issues. For example, they may perform skin surveys to find precancerous lesions among patients with a high risk of skin cancer. This can help to alleviate pain and vastly improve the lives of patients living with debilitating skin conditions. As part of their day-to-day responsibilities, a dermatologist will:

  •     Meet with patients: A dermatologist will record the patient’s medical history, perform patient examinations, spot any irregularities, and discuss a diagnosis.
  •     Develop treatment plans: Dermatologists may prescribe medications, remove the abnormality, perform surgery or take biopsies for further research.
  •     Address cosmetic concerns: A dermatologist uses tools such as lasers to treat birthmarks, Botox to tackle wrinkles, and skin grafting for patients with severe scarring.
  •     Perform follow-up examinations or treatments: Dermatology treatments often need numerous sessions to resolve the issue and for the dermatologist to track patient progress.

Dermatology procedures

Dermatologists also carry out a variety of procedures, such as:

  • Biopsies: Dermatologists perform different biopsy procedures to diagnose or rule out conditions, such as skin cancer.
  • Chemical peels: This treatment removes damaged skin, rejuvenates new skin and reduces the signs of aging.
  • Cosmetic injections: Dermatologists use cosmetic injections such as fillers or Botox injections to help reduce the appearance of sagging skin and wrinkles
  • Cryotherapy: A treatment for certain skin conditions such as certain tumors, warts, and skin tags.
  •     Dermabrasion: A dermatologist uses this exfoliating procedure to reduce the appearance of age spots, fine lines, precancerous skin patches, and acne scars.
  • Laser therapy: Laser therapy can be used to remove moles, warts, tattoos, sun spots, blemishes, acne scars, unwanted hair, or wrinkles.
  • Mohs surgery: Dermatologists use this type of skin cancer surgery to remove thin layers of tissue around a tumor while looking for signs of other cancer cells.
  • Sclerotherapy: Dermatologists use sclerotherapy to treat varicose veins by injecting chemicals into damaged veins.
  • Surgical excision: A dermatologist performs a surgical excision to remove growths like lesions, moles, and skin tags.
  •     Tumescent liposuction: The removal of unwanted fat from certain areas of the patient’s body.

How to become a dermatologist?

To become a dermatologist in the United States, you will need to have an up-to-date license. While requirements will slightly vary depending on the state, most require dermatologists to hold a degree from an accredited medical school, undertake a residency program, and pass the US Medical Licensing Exam.

Therefore, to become a dermatologist, you will need to:

  •     Gain a bachelor’s degree
  •     Pass the MCAT
  •     Attend medical school
  •     Pass the first two parts of the USMLE
  •     Complete your residency
  •     Pass the third part of the USMLE
  •     Get a license
  •     Become board certified

How long does it take to become a dermatologist?

It can take up to 13 years to become a dermatologist. This includes time spent as an undergraduate, in medical school, and residency.

Residencies and fellowships for dermatologists

After completing medical school and one year of approved postgraduate training, dermatologists will spend the next three years training in an ACGME accredited dermatology residency training program. There are 150 accredited dermatology programs in the United States.

Following certification by the American Board of Dermatology (ABD), a dermatologist can choose to pursue further specialized training in dermatopathology, micrographic surgery, pediatric dermatology, and dermatologic oncology. This involves one year of training in an approved fellowship training program.

How much do dermatologists make?

The average dermatologist salary in the United States is $300,000 per year, equivalent to $154 per hour. Entry-level dermatology positions typically start at around $78,000 a year, while more experienced dermatologists can expect to make up to $450,000 a year.

Salary ranges vary considerably depending on your education, certifications, additional experience, and the amount of experience. Your geographical location can also impact how much you will make as a dermatologist.

The table below shows the average salaries of dermatologists across some US regions:

RegionAnnual Average Salary
Florida$102,545
California$270,000
New York$350,000
Massachusetts$300,000
Pennsylvania$400,000
Washington$350,000
South Dakota$500,000
Ohio$100,000
Indiana$146,250

Is dermatology right for you?

To be a successful dermatologist, you need to take a thorough and disciplined approach to your work and have strong observational skills. You also need a strong interest in medical science, as new technologies are constantly transforming how dermatologists assess, diagnose and treat.

But dermatology isn’t all about hard work. It is one of the key medical and healthcare specialties that provide a high standard of job satisfaction and work-life balance.

There are several reasons to choose to become a dermatologist, for example:

  •     Offers standard full-time working hours of 9am to 5pm
  •     Access to a wide variety of clinical cases
  •     Opportunity work remotely
  •     Great work/life balance
  •     Huge job satisfaction

However, as with most professions, dermatology also has its challenges:

  •     A large amount of telephone-based appointments
  •     Outpatient-based specialty
  •     Highly competitive field
  •     Big jump in clinical responsibility from medical training

Skills to be a dermatologist

You should consider pursuing a career in dermatology if you have the following skills:

  •     Attention to detail: Dermatologists need to have excellent attention to detail to identify and track minor changes in a patient’s skin condition.
  •     Communication skills: Dermatologists must communicate diagnoses and treatment information to patients. They must speak and write clearly and be able to listen carefully.
  •     Organization skills: Working with hundreds of patients every month requires a dermatologist to have excellent organizational and record-keeping skills.
  •     Problem-solving skills: Dermatologists need strong problem-solving skills to identify effective treatments when assessing skin conditions.
  •     Excellent memory: Dermatologists must have an encyclopedic memory to recall the thousands of health problems that can manifest on hair, nails, and the skin and recognize the symptoms of these conditions.
  •     Enjoy making people look good: The cosmetic side of dermatology requires a dermatologist to feel good about making their patients look good.

Cosmectic Dermatologist Career Information

The beauty industry is booming, and cosmetic dermatology is growing right along with it. Many individuals are looking for ways to improve their appearance or reverse the signs of aging by way of cosmetic dermatologists.

Job prospects were very strong for physicians in general. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment of physicians and surgeons was expected to grow faster than average from 2018-2028, which is much faster than the average for all occupations. The BLS also reported that the average annual salary for all types of physicians and surgeons was $200,890 as of 2018. This is significantly lower than what dermatologists specifically can earn. According to PayScale.com, the annual salary for dermatologists ranged from $94.000t to $398,000 of 2019, and the more cosmetic procedures (which tend to be expensive) a dermatologist performs, the higher their earning potential.

Cosmetic dermatologists must have a bachelor’s degree, have completed medical school and residency, and typically have further training in cosmetic dermatology. Licensure as a physician is required to practice medicine, and board certification is typically pursued. Cosmetic dermatologists can open their own practice or work within a practice with other doctors.

Skincare is having a major moment right now. Whether you’re poking around YouTube or scrolling Instagram, there’s a 1,000 percent chance you’ll encounter an ad for a magical new serum or an influencer’s review of a potentially suss face mask. If you’re completely fascinated by all things skin, then a career in dermatology could be the move for you.

But right off the bat, it’s important to understand the difference between so-called “skin experts” and actual certified dermatologists. “There’s a rise in people becoming what we call ‘providers,’ which is like this bundled, ambiguous group of people who see patients,” warns board-certified dermatologist Dr. Rachel Nazarian. “This includes nurse practitioners, physician assistants, and people that used to be called mid-levels that now also sometimes get called dermatologists and are not dermatologists.”

If you’re interested in entering the official field of dermatology, Dr. Nazarian and board-certified derm Dr. Terri P. Morris are here to share knowledge based on their own careers. Below, what you need to know before becoming a dermatologist.

You don’t need to major in a specific subject to become a dermatologist.

And in fact, Dr. Nazarian actually recommends that you spend time in undergrad studying subjects beyond biology or chemistry. “This is the time to study things other than medicine,” says Dr. Nazarian. “If you’re interested in dermatology, it helps to know psychology, anthropology—even a little bit of art helps if you’re going into cosmetic dermatology.” Whatever you choose to major in, keep in mind that you will need to take certain prerequisite classes in order to apply to medical school.

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Even once you’re in medical school, you don’t have to declare your interest in dermatology immediately.

Dr. Morris pretty much stumbled into dermatology by accident. Originally, she was focusing on multiple sclerosis research and neurology, after majoring in microbiology in undergrad. “I did my first neurology rotation at the very beginning of my last year of medical school and found it so depressing,” remembers Dr. Morris. “I did two more neurology rotations thinking somewhere else, things would be better, but it was just a very depressing specialty, and I didn’t think I would be able to do that as a career. Because of my background in research, I did a rotation with a dermatologist, and he suggested I go into dermatology because it’s a fun specialty. I found that in derm, I could do a lot of different things and still use my research background while working with patients.”

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Having a background in research will make you a better physician.

Dr. Morris really values the time she spent in research. “It helped me get into derm in the first place, because it set me apart while I was applying. But it’s also helped me in my approach to patients, and it influenced my approach to figuring out the cause of rashes and the best way to control them, instead of just giving a cream or a shot to make them feel better as a temporary solution.”

Plan accordingly: It takes over a decade to become a derm.

Like any medical professional, becoming a dermatologist requires *years* of schooling. Aside from earning your bachelor’s degree, you must attend an additional four years of medical school. After passing several major exams, you then apply to a residency, which takes another four years to complete. Some people choose to focus on sub-specialties within the field, such as cosmetic or surgical dermatology, and in that case, it takes another year or two to complete a fellowship. All in all, expect a bare minimum of 12 years of schooling before becoming a certified dermatologist. This content is imported from {embed-name}. You may be able to find the same content in another format, or you may be able to find more information, at their web site.

A lot of people want to be in this field, so you need to stand out.

Dermatology is a great specialty for several reasons. You work pretty normal hours (Dr. Morris works 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., Monday through Friday), your patients generally aren’t dying all the time like they are in oncology, and people are usually pretty happy because you’re making them look and feel better. “It’s a lifestyle you can’t really beat, so it’s a very competitive residency to get,” says Dr. Morris.

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Patients’ requests aren’t as extreme as you might expect.

Not everyone out there is trying to look like a Kardashian. “We thought we would have a lot of people coming in wanting Kylie Jenner lips, but most people that we see—if they mention her at all—specifically say that they don’t want their lips to end up like Kylie Jenner’s,” says Dr. Morris. Related Story How the Kardashians Impact Plastic Surgery Trends

You will feel pressure to have perfect skin throughout your career.

“I really feel that in cosmetics dermatology, I have to try to look the best I can. Because if I don’t, how are patients going to believe that I can make them look better?” says Dr. Morris. “I can use any prescription or nonprescription creams that I want. Pretty much everyone who works here gets something, whether it’s Botox or laser treatment. We always need test patients for new products or techniques, so we do Botox or fillers on the staff. And most of the time, we don’t pay at all.” Wow, not a bad perk.

Your patients in cosmetic dermatology will be young…er than you’d think.

According to Dr. Morris, she has a few patients in their 20s who come in for Botox. “The biggest thing with people in their 30s is preventing wrinkles, instead of getting rid of them. You can’t stop yourself from frowning or wrinkling your forehead—it’s a habit people can’t turn off. So they start getting Botox preventatively, and it works. I have a few that come in in their 20s because they never want to have a wrinkle, so they start early.”

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People will ask you to look at their skin problems—outside of work.

“I don’t mind my family and friends asking, but I do mind when I see my patients out in public and they ask me to look at lesions,” says Dr. Morris. “One of the worst experiences I’ve had was at a Mother’s Day buffet at a country club. This woman brought her daughter over and rolled up her sleeves and asked me to look at a mole. I was with my mother, my mother-in-law, and all my friends. I also had a guy in a bank pull up his shirt to show me a mole. That kind of stuff really bugs me. When that happens, I tell them they need to make an appointment, that I really need to look in better lighting and use a little scope that lets me see pigment. I would never give an opinion without documenting what I see.”

Dermatology encompasses way more than dealing with acne.

Dermatology is not an easy specialty. “You get patients with melanomas with poor survival rates. If patients have a blistering disorder for years or they’re having recurrent rashes, taking the time to figure out the cause and try to help them get their life under control makes it more difficult and, for me, more interesting,” says Dr. Morris.

No matter how long you’re in this specialty, there will still be things that shock you.

Dermatology is a very visual specialty. Dr. Morris remembers one patient in particular, a little boy who was born as a collodion baby. “When they’re born, they almost look like they’re wrapped in plastic wrap, and the skin on his face was so tight and inflamed that it pulled his lower eyelids down. His skin is red and it just peels off, and he flakes all the time. As an infant, there were some mistakes made in the hospital and he lost his hand. But you can’t ever let your ‘oh my god’ reaction to patients that are dripping and oozing stuff show. You just can’t.”

Sadly, you will often have to deliver awful, life-changing news.

“A patient recently came in for us to take a cyst off his scalp, and as soon as I saw it, I thought, This isn’t a cyst. So we took a piece of it, and it came back as metastatic cancer from colon cancer,” explains Dr. Morris. “Even though the majority of skin cancer patients are older, we see patients in their 20s and 30s with melanoma or basal cell cancers—those are probably the two most common that we see in younger patients. I never give those diagnoses over the phone. I always want to have more time with the patients and have [next steps] lined up for them.”

It’s better to be honest with patients if you know you can’t help them.

Your job, as a derm, is to assure patients that you will be there to help them manage their disease or condition along the way. Psoriasis, which is super common, is often referred to as a “heartbreak,” because for most people, it doesn’t get better. “Being there to let them know you’re on their side and that you’re going to do whatever you can to make it better is the best thing you can do,” advises Dr. Morris.

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Just because a skin condition might not be life-threatening doesn’t mean your work can’t change lives.

Dr. Morris remembers a patient with one of the worst cases of psoriasis she had ever seen. “She had it since she was maybe 8 or 10 years old, her entire body is covered, and it really affects everything about her life. She had decided to never have children because she didn’t want a kid to go through what she had been through.”

When she came into Dr. Morris’ office, she was in a bad place, and none of the drugs seemed to be working for her. “I called [other experts] and talked to them about different treatment options for her, and finally—finally—we have her on a drug and she’s clear. She came in two weeks ago, and she’s a different person.” That’s a really great feeling.

Your patients’ problems are more than skin-deep.

It’s important to remember that the skin itself reflects what’s happening on the inside. “I don’t think I realized how much psych there was in dermatology,” says Dr. Nazarian. “Often you see a lot of psychiatric diseases manifesting in dermatology, whether it be picking out of anxiety, or malnourishment because of depression or drug abuse.” As a dermatologist, you need to know how to interpret how physical or mental ailments may affect the skin. “Skin itself is an extension of everything else,” explains Dr. Nazarian. “It goes so much deeper than what you see on the outside.”

What Is a Cosmetic Dermatologist?

A cosmetic dermatologist is a medical professional who specializes in skin procedures which are usually undertaken for cosmetic reasons. This includes liposuction, botox and collagen injections, along with anti-aging and acne treatments. Like other medical professionals, cosmetic dermatologists must take a patient’s medical history and needs into account before recommending a personalized plan of treatment. They may also be required to counsel patients on the treatment they are undertaking and ensure that the patient is making the right decision for them.

Some cosmetic dermatologists perform other procedures within the wider dermatology field. For example, they may also treat diseases in the skin, hair and nails or diagnose and administer preventative treatments to patients who are at risk of disease.

cosmetic dermatology salary

Cosmetic dermatologists earned a median salary of $251,327 per year, according to PayScale.com. This role is often full-time and travel between workplaces may be required in order to care for and meet all patients. A cosmetic dermatologist may work independently or alongside other medical professionals, usually in a clinical setting.

What Education Do I Need?

This role is a specialism which requires several different qualifications and levels of education. Potential dermatologists first need a bachelor’s degree. Although this can be achieved in a range of subjects, most pre-medical students will study a field linked to medicine, for example biology, biomedical science, chemistry, physics or social sciences.

Once the applicant has a bachelor’s degree, they can apply for medical school. This is usually a four-year program which results in an M.D. (Doctor of Medicine). The first two years are usually spent in the classroom or laboratory to develop an academic understanding of the field. During the last two years, students apply this knowledge through a rotation of placements in a range of medical specialties, such as pediatrics and surgery.

After gaining their M.D, medical students will begin to specialize in the field of dermatology during their residency. Residencies usually last between 3-7 years and, depending on what is available, some dermatologists can begin to specialize in cosmetics at this stage. Some dermatologists may then complete a fellowship in cosmetic dermatology and earn board certification as a cosmetic dermatologist.

What Personal Qualities Do I Need?

Cosmetic dermatology is a sensitive role which requires working closely with patients. A range of personal qualities is required to ensure that patients are comfortable and supported throughout the procedure. Compassion and empathy are important skills for the role. As with all medical professions, understanding that a patient may feel nervous or uncomfortable and being able to ease those feelings is something which will make the whole process easier for both the patient and the medical professional involved.

Cosmetic dermatologists are required to assess and administer appropriate treatments to help a wide range of patients feel their best, so problem-solving skills are essential in this role. Once the assessment process has taken place, a cosmetic dermatologist will also need good written and verbal communication skills to inform the patient, and possibly colleagues, of their assessment findings.

Attention to detail is also key as the role requires analyzing and diagnosing different conditions. A cosmetic dermatologist will be required to record and keep track of details relating to patient care.

Cosmetic dermatologists are dermatologists that specialize in addressing and treating aesthetic or cosmetic concerns of patients. They first pursue the education necessary to become a dermatologist, then gain further knowledge of cosmetic dermatology

Cosmetic dermatologists are medical doctors who have sought additional training in dermatology in order to assess and treat skin conditions cosmetically. Their skill sets include such procedures as Botox, collagen injections, chemical peels, dermabrasion, laser surgery and liposuction. It typically takes about 11 years following high school in order to become a dermatologist. Depending on what procedures dermatologists desire to perform, they may or may not have to pursue additional training to become a ‘cosmetic’ dermatologist, specifically. Many of the cosmetic procedures can be learned during dermatology residency.

Required EducationPrerequisite college courses (2-4 years)
Medical school (4 years)
Dermatology residency (3 years)
Licensure & CertificationBoard certification available and frequently required
State medical license required
Other RequirementsContinuing Medical Education (CME) credit to maintain license and board certification after residency
Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) registration to prescribe controlled substances
Projected Job Growth (2018-2028)7% (for all types of physicians and surgeons)*
Median Salary (2019)$251,282 (for physician/doctor, dermatologist )**

Cosmetic dermatology is a field that is growing at an incredible rate, and there are many ways to enter this exciting field.

For those who want to practice cosmetic dermatology in the future, it’s important to find a mentor or role model to help guide you through the process. It can also help to take some classes outside of your major that deal with the human body and its health. These classes will give you a better understanding of how things work on an anatomical level.

If you’re looking for a job right out of school, then you should consider doing volunteer work at a local hospital or clinic where you can learn about the industry firsthand. This will give you hands-on experience working with patients who have skin conditions or even acne problems like yours did when you were younger!

If you’re interested in becoming a cosmetic dermatologist but aren’t sure what career path to take yet, then consider checking out our article on “How Do You Become A Cosmetic Dermatologist?” It has all sorts of useful information that will help guide you through this exciting process!

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