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The basics
Study abroad : Career Prospects

How to become a dermatologist?

Dermatology is a popular but sometimes misunderstood medical specialisation. We detail what it takes to qualify as a dermatologist and what you can expect.

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For many international students, a degree in medicine is a sought-after qualification. Medical degrees are often in the top five most popular programmes for students looking to study abroad. A degree in medicine opens many doors in the healthcare sector and provides the opportunity to work worldwide. There is also the option of pursuing a medical specialisation such as dermatology. Here, we investigate what the field of dermatology is, how you can become a dermatologist, and what the career prospects are.


What is dermatology?


First things first, let’s explore what dermatology is. Dermatology is a medical specialisation that deals specifically with the skin, hair, and nails. Dermatology aims to diagnose, treat, and manage diseases and conditions that affect the skin. There are over 3,000 known skin conditions, from the more common eczema to skin cancer.


Dermatology is a branch of medicine. Dermatologists are not only diagnosticians but also qualified surgeons. Dermatology is about being able to identify the presence of illness and the underlying causes and suitable treatments. The field of dermatology also involves a lot of collaboration with other medical specialisations, from oncologists to pathologists.


Find out what you can expect when studying medicine.


What degree do you need to study?


The path to becoming a dermatologist begins at the undergraduate level with a professional degree in medicine. To gain entry onto a bachelor’s programme in medicine in the UK, Australia, New Zealand, or Ireland, you need to have achieved at least a UK A-level grade of three A’s or A*. Subjects that you would need to have pursued include chemistry, physics, mathematics, and biology. These scores are equivalent to an SAT score of 1,350 and 700 in three subject tests.


Don’t forget that if you are looking to study medicine in the USA or Canada, you will have to complete a subject related undergraduate degree before applying to medical school. Degrees in medicine are only offered as a postgraduate qualification. Some of the major subjects you could choose include biology, pre-medicine, exercise science, physics, and chemistry. You’ll also need to keep your GPA above 3.0 for the duration of your undergraduate qualification. Remember to check the entry requirements with your prospective university.


In the USA, you will write what is called the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT). The result of this exam forms part of your medical school application. The MCAT tests your knowledge of biology, chemistry, physics, psychology, critical thinking, and reasoning.


Explore the best medical schools in the USA.


How long does it take to qualify as a dermatologist?


The length of time it will take you to qualify as a dermatologist depends on the country where you are studying and where you decide to practice. We’ll use the UK as the primary example. In the UK, your undergraduate medical qualification will take between four and six years to complete. Your degree may include pre-clinical training, which is followed by two years of foundation training in a clinical setting. The training is usually conducted at a teaching hospital or medical practice.


Much of the practical experience you undertake will be to gain the knowledge necessary for registration and accreditation as a medical professional. In the UK this means studying for the Membership of the Royal College of Physicians (MRCP) diploma. The diploma is also essential if you wish to become a specialist.


Next comes your specialist training, which is a combination of academic, practical and research components. You’ll work with other medical specialists in related fields to develop your skills as a dermatologist. This process usually takes about four to five years. The last step is to register as a specialist by taking the Speciality Certificate Examination. When you pass, you are then added to the Specialist Register of the General Medical Council and can practice as a consultant dermatologist. The whole process from the undergraduate study will take just over 12 years. 


In the USA and Canada, becoming a dermatologist will take a similar amount of time. You will have to be registered with the relevant state medical board and pass the exam certification process in the USA. In Canada, the Medical Council of Canada oversees the certification and registration of medical professionals.


Take a look at the best medical schools in Canada.


Are there any specialist areas in dermatology?


While it is possible to practice as a general or consultant dermatologist, there is also the option of specialising in a particular area. Throughout your degree, medical internship and training you may find an aspect of the field that appeals to you. Some of the specialist areas in dermatology include:


  • Surgical dermatology
  • Paediatric dermatology
  • Cosmetic dermatology
  • Dermatoimmunology
  • Oncological dermatology
  • Dermapathology


For each specialisation, it is necessary to study and train in that area to develop the required competency and skills. Specialising usually happens once you have already completed your medical degree or are in clinical practice.


Read more about medical specialisations.


What do dermatologists earn?


The employment prospects for dermatologists are good, and specialists in the field can expect to earn good salaries, depending on experience. In the USA, the average salary for a medical practitioner is around USD 200,000 per annum. If you’re working in the UK, you can expect to earn about GBP 60,000 per year as a trainee dermatologist, and if you become a consultant, this can rise to as much as GBP 160,000 per year.


Becoming a dermatologist can be a rewarding and interesting career. There is always a need for medical and healthcare professionals worldwide. If you want to continue your research, you can read about the top careers for STEM graduates,  careers that make a difference, and how to map your study and career path.


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