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Dermatologist School Requirements

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Dermatologists are medical professionals who specialize in the treatment of conditions that affect the hair, skin and nails. Dermatologists work in private practice, clinics and at hospitals. Similar to physicians, dermatologists must first complete their medical training at a nationally accredited program and enroll into a residency program. Areas of specialization in the field of dermatology include dermatopathology, pediatric dermatology and cosmetic dermatology.

Medical School

Dermatologists must attend a four-year medical program after completing their bachelor’s degree. Prospective students should take courses like physics, calculus, organic chemistry and anatomy and physiology during their undergraduate education. In their junior or senior years, undergraduate students must prepare for their Medical College Admission Test or MCAT. Students who pass their MCAT can enroll into an accredited medical program. Medical school is comprised of classroom instruction and clinical practice. Students take courses like pathology, immunology, psychiatry and epidemiology.

Residency Training

Medical students must pass their qualifying exams before applying to a residency program. Residency training includes participation in teaching centers and clinical rotations at an affiliate research university. Dermatology residents work under the supervision of licensed faculty and perform various medical procedures, conduct patient exams and case studies. Residents work at general dermatology and sub-specialty clinics. Areas of clinical practice for dermatology residents include cosmetic dermatology, surgery, allergy, pigment cell disorders and rheumatic skin disease.

Certification and Licensure

Like other physicians, dermatologists must be state-licensed by passing the United States Medical Licensing Exam or USMLE. The American Board of Dermatology certifies eligible candidates in general dermatology and sub-specialty fields. To qualify for certification, candidates must have completed their medical training and residency at an institution that is accredited by the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education. Dermatologists who specialize in surgical or cosmetic dermatology also qualify for certification. Certification candidates must also hold a valid license.


Dermatologists must be up-to-date on the latest developments in their field by taking continuing-education and professional-development courses. Certified general dermatologists have to take periodic self-assessment tests to maintain their credentials. They must then provide proof of successful completion of their self-assessment training to the American Board of Dermatologists. Self-assessment tests can be either computer-based or written exams. The American Board of Dermatology also certifies dermatologists with sub-specialities in dermatopathology and pediatric dermatology. Candidates seeking certification in sub-specialty fields must meet additional training requirements. In addition to their medical training, dermatologists should have critical and analytical thinking skills.


Selam Nuri has been writing academic articles and working across the curriculum since 2001. She has been published online at various websites and earned her Ph.D. in cultural anthropology in 2006 from the City University of New York.