How To Become A Dermatologist In California

Last Updated on January 1, 2023 by Omoyeni Adeniyi

Those of you seeking what is a dermatologist and what do dermatologists do have come to the right place. Here are details on how to become a dermatologist in California. First, let’s get on the same page on some basic terminology. Dermatology is a specialty study on the skin, its diseases, and the factors that affect it. This requires not just medical knowledge but also laboratory skills, anatomic skills, surgical skills, immunologic methods for conducting pathologic studies on the skin, along with mastery of pharmacology.

Becoming a dermatologist is not an easy task because of what it takes to become one. For someone that just wants to be a dermatologist then they can go that route but you should realize that this isn’t an easy path. If this is your first time looking up information on how to become a dermatologist then you should look at the necessary steps you’ll need to undergo before you can even face medical school.

What Is A Dermatologist?

Dermatologists are medical doctors who specialize in diagnosing and treating diseases, disorders, injuries and other conditions of the skin. They also treat hair, nails and mucous membranes. Dermatologists can be board certified by the American Board of Dermatology or the American Osteopathic Board of Dermatology. Dermatologists work in conjunction with other medical providers to provide comprehensive care for their patients.

How Do I Become a Dermatologist?

To become a dermatologist, you must first complete your undergraduate studies. The minimum requirements for undergraduate study are four years of study, with at least 12 credit hours in biology and chemistry combined; at least 12 credit hours in mathematics; and at least 6 credit hours in physics. Some schools may require more than four years of undergraduate study.

After you have completed your undergraduate education, you will need to apply to medical school and take the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT). Once accepted into medical school, you will need to complete four years of medical training before being eligible for board certification exams.

How to Become a Dermatologist in California

Dermatologists are skin doctors who have been trained to treat various degrees of skin diseases. They are also experts in the treatment of diseases of the skin, hair, nails, and mucous membranes. Part of what they do is helping their patients improve on their complexion.

Furthermore, they are experts in handling and managing serious skin diseases like skin cancer. They improve people’s quality of life by relieving painful skin conditions. Also, they help people with disfiguring conditions feel more confident and accepted.

A dermatologist may specialize in a specific area of practice. A dermatologist may be a specialist in areas such as cosmetic dermatology, pediatric dermatology, or dermatopathology. Some other dermatologists may train to become proficient in a technique called Mohs surgery, which is usually used to treat skin cancer.

Step 1

Is becoming a dermatologist right for me?

The first step to choosing a career is to make sure you are actually willing to commit to pursuing the career. You don’t want to waste your time doing something you don’t want to do. 

Step 2

Bachelor’s Degree

Getting a bachelor’s degree from a four-year university is the first step to becoming a dermatologist. This can include pre-med courses in biology, organic chemistry, physics, and general chemistry. Some students must also complete math and biochemistry coursework depending on the medical school they wish to attend.

Step 3

Medical School

After completing a bachelor’s degree, aspiring dermatologists need to take and perform well on the Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT). They must then attend a four-year accredited medical school. A high undergraduate GPA is essential, as admission to medical school is extremely competitive.

Step 4


Following medical school, aspiring dermatologists must complete a dermatology residency. A residency in dermatology involves one year as an intern in either general surgery or internal medicine, followed by three years of clinical residency in dermatology

.Step 5


After the completion of residency, many dermatologists choose to pursue further training in sub-specialized fields such as cosmetic surgery, laser medicine, dermatopathology, phototherapy, immunodermatology, or Moh’s micrographic surgery. This is done through a one- or two-year fellowship.

Step 6


Dermatologists must obtain and keep a current license to practice. After successfully completing medical school and dermatology residency, they are eligible to sit for the Dermatology Board Examination (administered by the American Board of Dermatology (ABD)) and can finally be deemed “board-certified”.

Dermatologists who have completed a fellowship and passed the general board examination can get further certification and take the appropriate Subspecialty Board Examination through the ABD. To maintain board certification, a dermatologist must re-take and pass the board examination every ten years, and complete continuing medical education (CME) requirements throughout his or her career.

What Are the Best Dermatology Schools?

There are no best schools for dermatology anywhere. As a matter of fact, anyone who tells you there are dermatology medical schools is not telling you the truth. Dermatology is a medical specialty that requires you to have a medical degree first. One requirement of becoming a dermatologist is that you must first go to medical school to get your MD or DO or MBBCh or MBBS.

During your medical school, you will have a lot of specialities to choose from. Some may decide to delve into obstetrics, gynaecology, paediatrics, urology, neurology, surgery, preventive medicine, pathology. But you will need to opt-in for dermatology.

So you go to a medical school to become a doctor, then become a dermatologist by completing a multi-year residency. What you want to do is offer one of the best residency programs in dermatology.

However, below is a list of the best medical schools you may want to start with before your residency in dermatology.

List of best medical schools for dermatology

  • Harvard University, Harvard Medical School
  • University of California, San Francisco, School of Medicine
  • University of Washington, School of Medicine
  • Johns Hopkins University, School of Medicine
  • Stanford University School of Medicine

Johns Hopkins University, School of Medicine

Acceptance Rate: 3.9%

Graduation Rate: 93.1%

Johns Hopkins Medical School is the best medical school in the US. The school has been known for its outstanding contributions to the provision of astute medical research and interventions. Students at this school pursue various sub-specialties including dermatology.

Stanford University School of Medicine

Acceptance Rate: 2.3%

Graduation Rate: 94.6%

The Stanford University School of Medicine is another school topping the list among medical schools in the US. Students attending SU medical school find specialties such as oncology, pediatrics, obstetrics and gynecology including dermatology and more.

Harvard University, Harvard Medical School

Acceptance Rate: 5.4%

Graduation Rate: 97.5%

Harvard Medical School is one of the best medical schools in the US where you can pursue your medical degree. Medical students Harvard Medical School are on the front lines of medicine and science serving individuals and populations locally, nationally, and globally.

The school is committed to nurturing a diverse community of individuals dedicated to promoting excellence and leadership in medicine and science through education, research, clinical care and service.

University of California, San Francisco, School of Medicine

Acceptance Rate: 65%

Graduation Rate: 63%

The University of California, San Francisco, School of Medicine is one of the best medical schools in the United States. The school has been ranked among the best five for the past 10 years.

The University of Washington, School of Medicine

Acceptance Rate: 95%

Graduation Rate: 83.9%

The University of Washington School of Medicine ranked nationally as a top medical school for primary care and research by U.S. News. Students can pursue many medical specialties and options in this school including dermatology.

Necessary Skills and Qualities

Academic strength

Because dermatology is such a competitive field, successful dermatologists must possess both a strong academic track record and an intrinsic desire to succeed.


The ability to tolerate long working hours, a lack of sleep, and the stresses of medical training is also essential to becoming a dermatologist, as with any physician, due to the rigorous years of education and clinical experience through residencies and fellowships. Additionally, dermatologists who perform surgery require excellent and sustained fine motor skills and the ability to maintain focus during delicate procedures.

Excellent communication

Given that many dermatologic conditions manifest as signs of an underlying medical illness, a dermatologist must know how to interview patients and obtain a thorough medical history. This requires a firm command of verbal and interpersonal skills in order to communicate effectively with patients and their families and to obtain critically important clinical information.

Comfort with bodily functions

As an additional consideration, certain skin conditions can be unpleasant in appearance. A dermatologist must be comfortable with and able to tolerate discomfort regarding issues that relate to blood and bodily functions.

How Much Does a Dermatologist Make?

According to Medscape’s 2014 Dermatologist Compensation report, as seen on doctorly, the average salary for a U.S. dermatologist is $308,000, ranking in the top third highest paying physician specialties. The top earners come primarily from the Southwest and Northwest regions, with average salaries reaching up to $385,000.

Below is a breakdown of the various earnings of dermatologists in some notable regions of the USA. This report was gathered from

New York$177,330

Is Becoming a Dermatologist Hard?

The path that leads to being a dermatologist is the same path that leads to becoming a general medical practitioner. The path is usually very long and rigorous.

The program begins with a four-year bachelor’s program. This will be followed by another four years of medical school and then another four years of residency.

During these years, students will be exposed to a lot of medical courses like anatomy, pathology, pharmacology, etc.

At medical school, students spend the first two years in lab, lecture, and practicum courses. The curriculum usually covers:


Students will explore the visible anatomy of the human body through lectures, dissections, videos, and medical imaging.


Students will be exposed to biochemistry where they will learn the structure and behavior of the chemicals that make up the body, including proteins, amino acids, nucleic acids, and carbohydrates.


Students will study mechanisms of drug action, how drugs are processed by the body, and methods for administering drugs to patients.


Pathology will teach students about disease processes and how specific diseases impact organs and body systems.


Physiology will expose students to the various functions of the different systems of the body.

You can pursue your career in optometry in one of these schools

How Long Does a Dermatology Program Last?

Dermatology is one of the most highly competitive medical careers and as a result, requires many years of education and training for one to be competent in the practice.

Usually, if you want to pursue a career as a dermatologist, the first thing you will need to do is to enroll in an undergraduate degree program. This will last about four years.

Typically, the long pathway to becoming a dermatologist typically combines the following steps:

  • Bachelor’s (undergraduate) degree (4 years)
  • Medical school (4 years)
  • Dermatology residency (4 years)

Students may find accelerated programs in some schools. These accelerated programs compress bachelors and medical degrees into a single 6- or 7-year program instead of the usual 8 years.

How much it will cost to gain a dermatologist degree differs from school to school. The average annual cost of attending a dermatology school ranges between $35,218 to $59,339.

For a total of 8 years, an out-of-state student pursuing a career in dermatology may spend up to $400, 000. This largely depends on the school, anyway. An in-state- may pay up $281,704.

During residency training, residents are usually paid about $40,000 to $50,000 per year to help pay the bills. They are paid a minimum salary because medical residents are not fully licensed to practice medicine, and therefore residents do not independently bring in any revenue for a medical facility.

what is a dermatologist?

A dermatologist is a doctor who specializes in conditions involving the skin, hair, and nails. A dermatologist can identify and treat more than 3,000 conditions. These conditions include eczema, psoriasis, and skin cancer, among many others.

The skin is an incredible organ. It is your first line of defense against disease, protects your other organs, warms you up and cools you down, and sends messages about how healthy you are inside. Dermatologists are expert medical doctors and skin surgeons with the unique skills and experience to offer the best care for the organ that cares for you.

How Much Does It Cost To Become A Dermatologist?

Dermatologists have extensive training, going to school for 12 years or more to learn to diagnose and treat more than 3,000 diseases of the skin, hair, and nails as well as cosmetic concerns. Patients see dermatologists for issues that are much more than skin deep. Problems with their skin can harm patients’ sense of self-worth, create discomfort that can make everyday activities difficult, and, in some instances, threaten lives.

A dermatologist is a medical doctor who specializes in treating the skin, hair, and nails. Dermatologists care for people of all ages, from newborns to seniors.

what do dermatologists do?

Dermatologists provide life-changing medical diagnoses and treatments that restore health, prevent illness, improve quality of life, and bring relief for people who suffer from a variety of conditions that often cause severe mental and physical impairment. Dermatologists are physician specialists who diagnose and treat disorders of the skin, hair, nails, and mucous membranes in both adults and children. The extent of services provided is broad, ranging from acne, infections, genetic disorders, and skin cancer to cosmetic issues such as scars, hair loss, tattoo removal, and aging.

If you were to watch a dermatologist at work on any given day, you might see them:

  • Treat a baby’s prominent birthmark that threatens the child’s eyesight
  • Remove a mother’s deadly melanoma at its earliest, most treatable stage
  • Offer relief for a student whose chronic eczema makes sleep nearly impossible
  • Diagnose the life-threatening liver condition causing a grandfather’s unbearable itching
  • Treat the hair loss of a young woman, helping her gain the confidence to complete a job search
Dermatologist talking with patient

dermatology school requirements

To work as a dermatologist, you typically need to:

  • have a high school diploma or equivalent;
  • complete a bachelor’s degree;
  • graduate from medical school;
  • complete an internship;
  • pass a state licensing exam;
  • complete a residency program in dermatology; and
  • pass additional exams to become board certified.

Education after high school

To become a dermatologist, you must complete medical school. Medical schools grant a Doctor of Medicine (MD) degree. You spend the first two years of medical school in classrooms and labs. You study anatomy, biochemistry, and medicines. You also learn how to take a medical history, examine patients, and make a diagnosis. During the next two years, you work in hospitals and clinics under the supervision of physicians.

You need a bachelor’s degree to get into medical school. While you do not need to be a pre-medicine or science major, these programs are good preparation. If you earn a liberal arts degree, be sure to take courses in physics, biology, and chemistry.

Work experience

It takes 12 to 14 years to become a dermatologist. It’s a good idea to decide early if dermatology is the right specialty for you. Volunteer to work in a dermatology office while still in college. Take a paid position as a medical assistant in a dermatology practice. Talk to people in this field and find out what they like about it and what skills and qualities are necessary. A helpful dermatologist may allow you to shadow them for a day or a couple of weeks. This will help you determine if this specialty is right for you.

On-the-job training

While in medical school, you spend two years working as an intern in a hospital or clinic. As an intern, you rotate through internal medicine, family medicine, obstetrics, oncology, and other hospital departments.

After medical school, you complete a residency program in dermatology. Residency lasts up to five years. After your residency, you take additional exams to become board certified.

Military training

The military provides advanced training for doctors. However, it does not provide the initial training to become a doctor. Scholarships for advanced medical training are available in return for a required period of military service.

When you want to become a dermatologist in California, you need to start by getting your bachelor’s degree from an accredited university in the state. After that, you’ll need to complete a residency program at an accredited hospital or clinic, and then pass the National Board of Medical Examiners (NBME) exam.

Next, you’ll need to apply for a medical license from the California Medical Board (CMB). You can do this online or by mail by filling out their application form and submitting it along with your payment, which is $400 if you’re applying as an international physician. If you’re applying as a physician who graduated from medical school outside of California within the last three years, then it’s $300. Once your application has been approved by the CMB, they will send you an email with instructions on how to get fingerprinted and take photos (if necessary).

Finally, once all of this is done, you’ll be able to practice medicine as a dermatologist in California!


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