Cosmetic Dermatologist: Education Requirements and Career Information

Oct 20, 2021

Cosmetic dermatologists are dermatologists that specialize in addressing and treating aesthetic or cosmetic concerns of patients. They first pursue the education necessary to become a dermatologist, then gain further knowledge of cosmetic dermatology.

Essential Information

Cosmetic dermatologists are medical doctors who have sought additional training in dermatology in order to assess and treat skin conditions cosmetically. Their skill sets include such procedures as Botox, collagen injections, chemical peels, dermabrasion, laser surgery and liposuction. It typically takes about 11 years following high school in order to become a dermatologist. Depending on what procedures dermatologists desire to perform, they may or may not have to pursue additional training to become a 'cosmetic' dermatologist, specifically. Many of the cosmetic procedures can be learned during dermatology residency.

Required Education Prerequisite college courses (2-4 years)
Medical school (4 years)
Dermatology residency (3 years)
Licensure & Certification Board certification available and frequently required
State medical license required
Other Requirements Continuing Medical Education (CME) credit to maintain license and board certification after residency
Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) registration to prescribe controlled substances
Projected Job Growth (2019-2029) 4% (for all types of physicians and surgeons)*
Median Salary (2021) $253,788 (for physician/doctor, dermatologist )**

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **

Education Requirements

Medical students must complete extensive education and training to become board-certified dermatologists. Their journey begins by completing a bachelor's degree from an accredited university. Students interested in becoming medical professionals tend to major in a science, health or math-related field. It is strongly advised that college students seeking a path in the medical field take courses in the sciences and mathematics in preparation for the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) and medical school.

The MCAT is used to assess the student's comprehension of premedical studies and other skills necessary for a career as a doctor. The MCAT examination consists of a writing sample and multiple-choice questions in verbal reasoning, biological science and physical science, according to the Association of American Medical Colleges.

The great majority of medical schools require a successful MCAT exam score for admission, and students looking to improve their score have three chances to do so within a calendar year. Although the exam may be retaken, medical schools look at the student's last exam score. Students should be forewarned of this prior to retaking the MCAT.

In addition to acknowledging MCAT scores, many medical schools want students who have completed at least one year of biology, physics and English, and two years of organic chemistry.

Medical school requires four intense years of schooling, and students develop knowledge in clinical medicine and hands-on patient care. The first two years focus on basic science concepts and medical education. The last two years of medical school are generally spent working directly with patients.

The American Board of Dermatology (ABD) requires residency training to be at least three years, and individuals must spend at least 75% of their time taking care of actual patients. The other 25% of residency is devoted to study-related conferences, student lectures and seminars. Final-year residents may devote part of their year delving into dermatologic subspecialties, such as cosmetics.

After the residency has been completed, scholars must take and pass the board certification exam administered by the ADB to be deemed a board-certified dermatologist. To maintain their credential, dermatologists must successfully pass the recertification exam once every ten years.

Career Information

The beauty industry is booming, and cosmetic dermatology is growing right along with it. Many individuals are looking for ways to improve their appearance or reverse the signs of aging by way of cosmetic dermatologists.

Job prospects were very strong for physicians in general. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment of physicians and surgeons was expected to grow as fast as the average from 2019-2029, which is as fast as the average for all occupations. The BLS also reported that the average annual salary for all types of physicians and surgeons was $208,000 as of 2019. This is significantly lower than what dermatologists specifically can earn. According to, the annual salary for dermatologists ranged from $90,000 to $402,000 of 2021, and the more cosmetic procedures (which tend to be expensive) a dermatologist performs, the higher their earning potential.

Cosmetic dermatologists must have a bachelor's degree, have completed medical school and residency, and typically have further training in cosmetic dermatology. Licensure as a physician is required to practice medicine, and board certification is typically pursued. Cosmetic dermatologists can open their own practice or work within a practice with other doctors.

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