HOW TO BECOME A DERMATOLOGIST
Prospective dermatologists must first obtain a bachelor’s degree, taking courses in English, math, inorganic and organic chemistry, physics, and biology. Then they must complete medical school, where they’ll spend the first two years studying human anatomy and physiology, microbiology, pathology, and medical ethics, among other subjects.
During the last two years, they’ll work with hospital patients under the supervision of staff doctors. Graduation from medical school is followed by a one-year year internship, three years of on-the-job training as a medical resident, a state-licensing exam, as well as a certification by the American Board of Dermatology (ABD) for those who qualify.
Dermatologists must be emotionally stable, motivated to serve others, able to work long hours, and willing to engage in lifelong learning. Compassion for patients and good communication, organization, and problem-solving skills are key. Dermatologists should also be detail oriented, manually dexterous, and patient when dealing with individuals or young children who are anxious about treatments.
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.
REWARDS OF BEING A DERMATOLOGIST
Dermatologists treat skin, hair and nail disorders, and some beautify a person’s appearance. Enter the field of dermatology and you’ll reap the rewards, from a bank account that can see a huge deposit of money each payday to a work week that doesn’t see you chained to the desk for hours on end. But those benefits aren’t easy to come by — dermatology is a highly competitive field to get into.
If you enjoy the sight of Benjamin Franklin’s face on money, you’ll love being a dermatologist. Physicians in general earn boatloads of money, but dermatologists really rake in the greenbacks, to the tune of an average of $283,000 in 2011, according to Medscape’s 2012 Physician Compensation Report compiled from survey results. That number hides an important statistic: women dermatologists earned significantly less than men. Women earned an average annual salary of $252,000, while men pulled in 24 percent more at $313,000. The average annual salary for all physicians in 2012 was $184,820, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Reasonable Work Week
Putting in long hours at work often translates to more stress. That’s not as much of a concern for a dermatologist. According to Medscape’s 2012 Physician Compensation Report, 52 percent of dermatologists reported spending between 30 and 40 hours per week in direct patient care. Only 30 percent of all physicians surveyed said they worked similar hours — most worked more. Working fewer hours each week than you would in another specialty gives you plenty of free time to spend with your family, your dog, yourself or with hundreds of other people at the mall, spending a chunk of that massive paycheck.
Perform Surgeries and Variety of Patients
Many physicians don’t have the option of treating their patients’ conditions non-surgically and surgically. It’s usually one or the other. Think of your family doctor: if you need your wrist operated on, a kidney stone taken out or anything that requires a surgical approach, he’s not going to be the one who does it. Dermatologists are trained in surgical and non-surgical procedures, injecting some variety into their career and making their work week a little less routine. Speaking of variety, become a dermatologist and you’ll treat patients from all walks of life, from little rascals who have a bad case of acne to adults who want their wrinkly skin to be a thing of the past.
In most communities, dermatologists are some seriously sought-after docs. Skin conditions are prevalent in most age groups. Teens often go through bouts of acne, older men and women aren’t awfully excited about losing their hair, people want treatment for their varicose veins, and skin cancer, thanks largely to tanning beds, is rearing its ugly head more and more. Beyond medical conditions that need to be treated, cosmetic fixer-uppers are also often requested, especially when the economy is trucking along and people have more disposable income.
PROS AND CONS OF CHOOSING DERMATOLOGY
This article is for you if you’re in the throes of med school. You’re probably in survival mode, subsisting on caffeine and adrenaline – but you are probably also giving some thought, when you can, to what comes next. Where do you want your professional career to take you? Perhaps – dermatology?
Of course, as a specialty, the years of schooling – and associated cost – are something to consider thoroughly before taking on dermatology as your chosen path. Many agree that dermatology is a specialty that requires some of the highest performances, academically, to enter.
But the eventual salaries can make up for that, with averages among the highest in any specialty, and growing. It’s possible that future compensation could fall, as managed care continues to evolve and affect the practice of medicine. But, for now, dermatologists ranked among the highest on job satisfaction overall.
Job growth is projected to be very promising, as it’s a small community. While dermatology saw a rise in burnout rates over the last few years, the rate is comparatively very low, according to a recent study. There can be lower feelings of stress, possibly because the profession is so well compensated and because most cases are not time-critical (unlike, for instance, those of an emergency medicine specialist).
However, some say that dermatology can have little respect in the overall physician community. This may be because some see dermatology as one of the “lighter” specialties, with a focus on wrinkles and other lifestyle, rather than foundational, health concerns.
DERMATOLOGISTS – PREPARATION
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.
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.
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.