A minimum of twelve years of training and education is typically required in order to become a dermatologist in the United States and other western countries. This includes an undergraduate pre-medical degree, general medical training, internship and dermatology specialization training.
A dermatologist is primarily responsible for the diagnosis and management of diseases and conditions that affect the skin, hair, nails, genitalia and mucus membranes. This may include a wide variety of cases, from a mild skin rash to a terminal skin cancer. The education and training of a dermatologist is of upmost important to ensure that they have an adequate understanding of dermatological conditions and the appropriate treatment techniques.
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Education: Undergraduate Pre-Medical Degree (3 years)
A pre-medical undergraduate degree is a prerequisite to be accepted into a medical college. This is usually a Bachelor of Science degree with foundation courses in sciences such as physics, biology, chemistry, calculus and statistics. Depending on the undergraduate degree, this may also include courses in medical terminology, human anatomy and other elective topics.
Education: Medical Doctor M.D. (4 years)
An individual must graduate with a doctoral degree in medicine or osteopathic medicine in order to become registered as a doctor in the United States. This program takes a minimum of four years, including theoretical classes and observation or training in clinical rotations. This helps to set the foundational knowledge for practice as a doctor.
Following graduation from an M.D. program, the candidate must complete an internship in general medical practice. This helps the graduates to acquire the practical skills and experience that are needed as general practitioners.
Training: Internship and Residency (1 + 3 years)
Only a registered doctor who has completed a pre-medical degree and an M.D. program can commence further training to specialize in the field of dermatology. However, there is a series of modules created by the American Academy of Dermatology, which can help to give medical students who are considering becoming dermatologists a taste of the discipline.
A three-year residency in a dermatology practice is the next step on the path to become a dermatologist. This is essential for the candidates to learn how to put their knowledge and education to use in a practical setting. It is in this phase that the health professional experiences real patient cases and is responsible for the diagnosis and treatment decisions of dermatologic conditions, under the supervision of other experienced practitioners.
Throughout the dermatology residency program, the physicians will undertake both theoretical coursework and practical residency training in the field of dermatology. Upon completion of the residency program, the physician is eligible to sit the board examination to become certified as a dermatologist.
Dermatologists may also choose to undertake further study and complete a subspecialization. For example, they may choose to do additional learning about dermatopathology or pediatric dermatology.
Reviewed by Liji Thomas, MD.