Last Updated: 03/17/15
Dermatologists are physicians who have received specialized training in the diagnosis and treatment of a wide range of conditions and disorders involving the body’s largest organ, the skin. While practicing dermatology, you might also diagnose and treat conditions that affect the mouth, hair, nails and external genitalia. With additional specialized training you will be able to evaluate and treat melanomas, skin cancers, moles and tumors of the skin as well as dermatitis, allergic and non-allergic skin disorders and infectious diseases that manifest in the skin. There are several specialties in the realm of dermatology that you can choose to obtain additional training in, including:
Dermatopathology: The diagnosis and treatment of infectious, immunologic, and neoplastic diseases.
Pediatric dermatology: The diagnosis and treatment of specific skin diseases with emphasis on those that predominantly appear in babies, children and teenagers.
Procedural dermatology: The study, diagnosis and surgical treatment of diseases of the skin and adjacent mucous membranes, subcutaneous tissue, nails and hair.
Most dermatologists practice in clinics or private practices, either individually or with a group of other dermatologists with various specialties. Some dermatologists work in hospitals or universities doing research or as teaching faculty.
One of the attractive things about being a dermatologist is that you can generally work regular hours. There is little to no rounding required in dermatology, as there is in other specialized physicians who work in hospitals. There is also little need for being on-call. This might be one reason why dermatologists were ranked as being among the most content physicians in a recent Medscape survey. The 2012 survey reported that the average happiness rating for dermatologists was 4.06 on a scale from 1 to 5 (5 being the happiest). This free time also gives dermatologists more time to do what they love, and according to the same Medscape survey, one of these activities is volunteering. A significant 76% of respondents reported that they are involved in some form of volunteerism, this was one of the highest percentages of all physicians polled.
How to Become a Dermatologist
If you are interested in becoming a dermatologist, you will first need to complete a four year medical school program. You will then complete a residency training program in dermatology, which can be anywhere from three to four years. After completion of your residency you will then have to complete at least a year of broad-based clinical training. If you choose to practice a subspecialty of dermatology you will be required to complete one additional year of training in that specialty. Before you can begin to practice as a dermatologist you must pass the Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE) as well as the certification exam given by the American Board of Dermatology.
According to a 2010 Physician Compensation Survey published in Modern Healthcare, the annual salary for dermatologists ranges from $313,100–$480,088. Your salary will depend on what region you are practice in and what type of facility you practice in as well as what type of service makes up the majority of your work. One thing that makes dermatology a popular career choice is that these physicians also offer aesthetic treatments that are often not covered by insurance, so they can set their own price points and accept cash payments.
The outlook for opportunities to practice dermatology is good, but not great. This is because the field is very popular so it can be a competitive job market. However, these physicians are always in demand, whether it is for medical issues or concerns that are primarily cosmetic in nature, such as aesthetic procedures like botox or collagen injections or minor plastic surgery. Your best locations to find opportunities would be large cities and areas where the median income is significantly higher than the national average.