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Requirements to Become a Cosmetic Dermatologist

Updated March 23, 2017

Giving patients flawless, smooth skin with the assistance of a chemical peel, vanquishing unsightly wrinkles by administering injections and wielding high-powered lasers to make spots disappear are just a few daily tasks of a cosmetic dermatologist. However, becoming a registered and licensed dermatologist requires years of schooling, copious exams and accreditation.

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An aspiring cosmetic dermatologist must obtain a bachelor's degree, ideally in the subject of biology, biochemistry, chemistry, anatomy or physiology. Gaining admittance to medical school in the United States requires submitting an application and earning a high score on the Medical College Admissions Test. Medical school is a four-year process filled with taking coursework on a variety of disciplines including dermatology.


According to the American Board of Dermatology, gaining accreditation and licensing to practice cosmetic dermatology requires four years of training. The first year of experience can be gained from a number of fields including general surgery, obstetrics, paediatrics and other unrelated disciplines. However, the rest of the three years' worth of necessary experience must derive from a dermatology residence program. All of the residency programs must have accreditation by the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education. At the end of the four years, a training director signs a form verifying that the resident's work was performed at a satisfactory level and within a timely manner.


The accreditation exam administered by the American Board of Dermatology is an eight-hour, three-section examination. The first section requires the candidate to correctly identify 36 images on a histopathological slide. The next section consists of 132 questions. These questions are multiple choice or written and cover many fields of dermatology. Potential topics include entomology, paediatric dermatology and sexually transmitted diseases. The third section consists of 160 images which must be identified correctly in a multiple-choice format. Some of the images might relate to cosmetic dermatology, including liposuction and chemical peels. The candidate receives the test results in a pass/fail format.

Ancillary Traits

Most cosmetic dermatologists are self-employed and run their own practice. As such, dermatologists should be proficient in business functions including accounting, staffing and finances. Additionally, unlike doctors in many other fields of medicine, cosmetic dermatologists are allowed to advertise the price and availability of their services. Thus, this type of doctor should possess strong sales and marketing skills. The book, "Physicians: Careers in Focus" explains cosmetic dermatologists should expect to perform a wide variety of tasks on any given day, from laser treatments to liposuction.

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About the Author

Catherine Capozzi

Since 2008 Catherine Capozzi has been writing business, finance and economics-related articles from her home in the sunny state of Arizona. She is pursuing a Bachelor of Science in economics from the W.P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University, which has given her a love of spreadsheets and corporate life.

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