What is a dermatologist?

A dermatologist is a doctor who specialises in diagnosing and providing treatment for conditions that affect the skin, hair, nails and sweat glands. Dermatologists treat conditions such as skin cancer, eczema, acne and psoriasis in patients of any age. Dermatologists can also identify skin symptoms that may be a sign of other underlying health conditions. For example, dry skin can indicate kidney problems.

Although dermatology is a medical speciality, many dermatologists are also skin surgeons due to the prevalence of skin cancer today. As a skin surgeon, you’ll likely work in an operating theatre at least once a week.

What does a dermatologist do?

  • Many of your patients will have conditions that significantly impact their lives so your work will be of huge importance. Typical duties of a dermatologist may include:
    • Examining patients and assessing their condition
    • Developing treatment and prevention plans
    • Performing surgical procedures such as biopsies and mole removals
    • Addressing cosmetic concerns- dermatologists can treat skin issues that affect your appearance including wrinkles, hair loss and blemishes, they are also trained to administer cosmetic treatments e.g fillers and chemical peels.
    • Referring patient to other advanced specialists if necessary

What skills are required to be a dermatologist?

Alongside the medical knowledge and skills you gain from your qualifications, to be a dermatologist you will also need:

  • Excellent communication skills to manage a wide range of relationships with colleagues, and patients and their families throughout the whole treatment process.
  • Emotional resilience and the ability to work well under pressure.  
  • Compassion and empathy towards patients. You’ll be approached by patients in pain or embarrassed about their skin so you must be understanding and compassionate.
  • Teamwork and the capacity to lead multidisciplinary teams. 
  • Problem-solving and diagnostic skills –  to come up with solutions for a wide range of skin conditions.
  • outstanding organisational ability and effective decision-making skills.  
  • Time and resource management as you’ll be working with a wide range of patients on different matters. You need to be able to coordinate treatment plans for multiple patients. 
  • Dexterity skills and attention to detail as you’ll be using tools to treat small skin abnormalities.

What qualifications are needed to become a dermatologist?

To become a dermatologist you first require a medical degree. Typically, you’ll need excellent GCSEs and three A or A* grades at the A level including chemistry to apply for a five-year undergraduate degree in medicine e.g MBChB or MBBS. If you already have a degree you can apply for a 4-year postgraduate degree.

You’ll then need to complete a foundation programme where you’ll work in six placement settings to gain hands-on experience.

Upon completion of your foundation programme, you can apply for speciality training to become a dermatologist, taking a minimum of six years.

A requirement of dermatology training is the Speciality Certificate Examination in Dermatology (SCE Derm). Once the 4 years of training are completed, you’ll be awarded a certificate of completion of training (CCT) which is used to gain entry to the GMC specialist register. Once on the GMC register, you can apply for dermatology jobs.

Steps to becoming a dermatologist

Step 1: Get your medical undergraduate degree:

You can begin your journey to dermatology by undertaking a medical undergraduate degree. This will give you the practical, theoretical and communication skills needed to become a doctor. This can include pre-med courses in biology, chemistry and physics. Most UK medical degrees are typically 4 – 6 years long. 

Step 2: Complete your Foundation Year Training:

You will then need to complete a two-year foundation programme plus one core training in one of the following courses: 

  • 2-3 years of internal medicine + MRCP
  • 3 years of Acute medicine + MRCP
  • 3 years Paediatrics + 1 year adult internal medicine + MRCPCH

Step 3: Complete your speciality training

To become a dermatologist you are then required to complete the Speciality Certificate Examination (SCE). This is a compulsory component of assessment for the Certificate of Completion of Training (CCT) for all UK trainees who want to specialise in Dermatology. The exam complements work-based assessments to ensure that trainees have sufficient knowledge to practice as consultant dermatologists. 

Once completed, you can gain entry to the GMC Specialist register and be recognised as a consultant dermatologist.

Step 4: Apply for Jobs:

Now that you have completed your specialist training, and are on the GMC specialist register, you can apply for permanent consultant jobs. From here you can choose to specialise in an area such as a cosmetic dermatologis

How long does it take to become a dermatologist?

Dermatology training in the UK currently is 4 years long, however, to start training, you must have a minimum of 4 years of postgraduate clinical experience as well as a relevant postgraduate qualification.

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How much does a dermatologist earn in the UK?

You’ll first earn a salary when you start your foundation training after medical school. The basic salary ranges from £29,384 to £34,012. Once you start your speciality training as a dermatologist employed by the NHS, you can expect to earn a salary of at least £40,257, which can increase to between £84,559 and £114,003 as a consultant.

Related Occupations

Occupations related to the role of a dermatologist include:

  1. Biomedical scientist
  2. Masseur
  3. Nurse
  4. Acupuncturist
  5. Yoga instructor
  6. Hospital doctor
  7. GP
  8. Dentist