The specific process for getting a degree in dermatology varies slightly from university to university, but almost always requires a medical degree and significant experience in dermatology practice. Only a handful of schools offer dedicated dermatology degree programs, and most are designed for doctors primarily educated or situated abroad. Dermatologists are in demand around the world, but the training and depth of educational requirements is stronger in some places than in others. The most popular — and competitive — dermatology degree programs are based in universities in the US and UK. Admission usually requires strong application credentials, recommendations, and exam scores, among other things.
In the United States, Canada, and most of Europe, doctors can become dermatologists by pursuing a dermatology residency after completing medical school. Residencies do not usually result in degrees. They are more like advanced schooling opportunities, where doctors study under expert dermatology practitioners to learn new medical trends and to perfect their knowledge of skin disease treatment. A typical residency program lasts for at least three years and culminates with regional or national dermatologist board exams.
Doctors in other countries may not have the opportunity for such in-depth dermatology training. Many seek this training abroad, either as a means of preparing to work in a different country or as a way of bringing a sharpened expertise back to their home communities. Degree programs often mirror the intensity of a residency, but do not replace it: local students who do not win seats in residency programs cannot typically use degree programs to circumvent the process.
For many doctors, getting accepted into a degree in dermatology program is more challenging than actually completing the requirements. Not many programs exist, and those that do are usually very small. Competition for places is accordingly steep.
Successful completion of a medical degree, or MD, program is always a core requirement for a degree in dermatology. Doctors with dermatology experience in their home countries are usually the strongest candidates. Applicants must also usually supply the results of any standardized or specialization exams, along with a battery of personal essays, letters of recommendation, and other supporting documents.
Once in a dermatology program, students must usually design and execute an intensive research project in addition to participating in labs and clinical rotations. In this way, doctors not only hone their skills in skin care and practical dermatology but also develop their expertise in a certain area of their choosing. Research often centers around skin or scalp diseases, and treatment techniques for specific skin, hair, and nail ailments. Students must typically present their research in the form of a defensible thesis in order to earn the degree in dermatology.