Dermatologists diagnose and treat conditions involving the skin, from minor rashes to skin cancers. Dermatology is a competitive practice of medicine: The high salary and easy hours compared to other medical practices make it an attractive field for many. Dermatologists must undergo approximately 12 years of training, including completing their undergraduate degree, medical school, a residency and a fellowship.

Undergraduate Training

Students who want to become dermatologists don't have to complete a particular undergraduate major. However, because most medical schools have extensive course requirements for admission, most students end up majoring in subjects such as biology or chemistry. Typical requirements for medical school include one year of general chemistry, one year of general biology, one year of organic chemistry, one year of physics, one course in biochemistry and one course in calculus or statistics, according to St. John's University. Most undergraduate degrees take four years to complete.

Medical School

All students who want to become doctors must graduate from medical school, which takes four years to complete. Students aren't able to choose a major in medical school and must complete the same standard course of study as their classmates. The first two years are spent completing coursework, while the last two years focus on clinical training. Students must rotate through departments, including pediatrics, oncology and dermatology. Those who know they wish to become dermatologists can apply to a medical school that has a faculty known for their work in dermatology. Then students can work with them in class or during their clinical rotation.


Most dermatology residency programs take three years to complete. A residency program is completed after medical school and can take place in a hospital, medical center, outpatient facility or private physician's office. A residency enables graduates to obtain hands-on clinical experience, declare their specialty and establish their place in their intended field of medicine. Dermatology residency programs can be competitive, so students need top grades in medical school and top scores on their medical board exams.


A fellowship is an optional training program that allows doctors to further their specialty training for additional career opportunities. A fellowship typically lasts one year and is a competitive program. Dermatology fellowships can allow for subspecialties such as cryosurgery or resurfacing techniques. By completing this optional fellowship, dermatologists may make themselves more marketable for job opportunities and may increase their earnings potential.