First- and second-year medical students

Overview of the field

  • What common variations exist in the length/content of residency programs for this career?

    • Traditional residency program: internship (internal medicine, surgery, pediatrics, or transitional year) + 3 clinical dermatology years. Unless you are strongly considering pediatric dermatology, internal medicine internship is looked upon most favorably (preliminary year in medicine is recommended over a transitional year).
    • 2+2 research program (offered by some, but not all, departments): internship + 2 years of clinical dermatology + 2 (or more) years of integrated research and clinical exposure. The research is almost always basic science, not clinical research, and these track positions are almost exclusively filled by individuals with advanced scientific degrees (masters, PhD).
    • Dermatology and Internal Medicine combined residency programs: 5 years total of combined training and board certification in both specialties (not offered at UCSF). Visit American Board of Internal Medicine's (ABIM) Internal Medicine / Dermatology Policies for a description of the combined program with participating institutions.
  • What common variations exist in this career after training

    There are four post-residency fellowship opportunities:

    1. Procedural dermatology: 1 year, specialized surgical training that includes advanced training in Mohs Micrographic surgery, reconstructive surgery, cosmetics (botulinum toxin, fillers, lasers, liposuction) procedures.
    2. Pediatric dermatology: 1 year, specialized training in treating skin disorders in children. Preference for fellowship selection is given to individuals who have done a pediatrics residency or a pediatrics internship.
    3. Dermatopathology: 1-2 years, specialized training in reading biopsies of skin malignancies and inflammatory disorders. Both dermatology and anatomic pathology residents are eligible for dermatopathology training.
    4. Medical dermatology: 1 year, specialized training in complex medical dermatology, including disorders of skin with significant systemic manifestations and the use of systemic immunosuppression. There are specific programs that focus on areas within medical dermatology, such as rheumatology/dermatology.
  • What common variations exist in this career after training?

    Depends on chosen subspecialty. The typical dermatologist will see 30-50 patients a day with a mix of procedures, cosmetics, medical dermatology visits. Almost all dermatologists do quite a bit of surgery: dermatologists do a number of surgical procedures (biopsies, cancer excisions) as well as cosmetic procedures (botulinum toxin, filler, chemical peels, lasers, liposuction, vein sclerotherapy). Most dermatologists have nights and weekends off though the high clinical volume requires a significant amount of pager call (i.e. answering phone calls). Since the specialty is primarily outpatient, the typical workday starts at 8am and ends at 6pm. Some dermatologists that are affiliated with large hospitals may be part of inpatient dermatology consult services (typically seen after the clinic day ends).

  • What is the culture of this career?

    • Dermatology is a very small field—many dermatologists know one another and the small size of our specialty and frequent meeting opportunities allows wonderful connections between dermatologists who live all over the world. Dermatologists are highly involved with their specialty with excellent participation in local organizations (such as San Francisco Dermatology, CalDerm and other state and national societies).
    • People who typically choose this field have a preference for: doing procedures, thinking about a broad spectrum of diseases (almost every disease has a cutaneous manifestation), highly academic people (requires a very large fund of knowledge, residency is reading-intensive), variety of ages seen (from children to the elderly), variety of conditions seen (mole checks to systemic lupus), variety of health status (from very healthy to very sick), doing cosmetic procedures, seeing high volume of patients during short visits (typical dermatologist sees 30-50 patients a day), dedicated to giving back to the specialty.
  • How compatible is this career with raising a family?

    • Most dermatologists enjoy excellent work-life balance due to a largely outpatient practice, no inpatient/ overnight call, and flexible days worked.
  • What are the most important qualities or character traits for a person in this field?

    • Self-motivated
    • Enjoys high clinical volume, lots of variety in their clinical practices
    • Enjoys and is adept at performing procedures
    • Ability to master clinical material across a broad spectrum of diseases and disorders
    • Prioritizes commitment to serving/giving back to the specialty, being part of the dermatology community
  • How competitive are the residency programs in this field?

    • This is a relatively competitive residency program process. The typical applicant applies to 60-80 programs, will be invited to 5-15 interviews. Each interview will entail 1-2 days visiting a program and having approximately 8-10 individual or panel interviews typically lasting ~10-20 minutes each during that visit.
    • Students at UCSF typically do very well with the residency match process. The key is to have good mentorship throughout the application process, including an individual or two (typically academic faculty) who will mentor you and advocate on your behalf through writing you a highly individualized letter of recommendation and calling programs to support your application.
    • The 2020 AAMC data for outcomes from the match for dermatology are:
  • How competitive is the job market after residency?

    Depends on the type of practice and geographic location. Job opportunities for dermatopathologists and dermatologic surgeons are rare in the big cities but there is a great need for these specialists in more suburban/rural locations. Pediatric and medical dermatologists are highly sought after, though some cities are saturated (NYC, LA, SF). There is a tremendous need for general dermatologists (individuals who do all types of dermatology) in rural areas.

    The average starting salary of a general dermatologist who works 4-5 days a week in an urban setting (2016) is approximately $400,000 - $450,000.

How to get involved as an F1 student

  • What can students do in the 1st and 2nd years to explore and/or prepare for this career?

    Since exposure to dermatology is rare during the 1st and 2nd years of medical school, the key is getting involved:

    • Join the Dermatology Interest Group (DIG): great way to find out about informational workshops/ meetings/ career panels, volunteer events, research opportunities. [contact:]
    • Get a mentor. There is an active mentoring program through the DIG, where DIG members are individually paired with a career mentor.
    • Consider doing a research project over the summer after 1st year: this is a project that could culminate in a research poster, a meeting abstract, or possibly a publication (the latter usually requires ongoing work during the academic year).
    • Explore the American Academy of Dermatology's online dermatology modules
    • Attend the bi-annual meetings of the San Francisco Dermatologic Society. This is a wonderful opportunity to hear dermatology experts speak about their clinical interests and research, see interesting case presentations, and interact with trainees and faculty of UCSF and Stanford, as well as dermatologists from the Bay Area.
  • What resources (websites, books, professional groups) would you recommend for interested students to learn more about this field?

    • AAMC
    • American Academy of Dermatology
    • Society for Pediatric Dermatology
    • American Society of Dermatopathology
    • American Society of Dermatologic Surgery, Mohs College Society
    • Medical Dermatology Society
    • Dermatology Foundation
    • National Psoriasis Foundation
    • San Francisco Dermatologic Society
    • National DIGA


  • DIG

    • Request to be added to the DIG emailing list to receive communications about great opportunities. Please email,, or with any questions!
    • Go to our event calendar tab for a summary and schedule of incredible student-run activities and times put on by board members!