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Careers in Dermatology

Dermatologists care for patients of all ages and specialize in treating diseases of the skin, hair, nails, sweat and sebaceous glands, and mucous membranes. Most residency programs offer a broad range of experiences in outpatient clinics, surgical clinics, specialty clinics, and inpatient/consult services. Sub-specialty clinics include those for pediatrics and cutaneous T-cell Lymphoma and other complex dermatologic disease. As a dermatology resident, you will be trained to provide both medical and surgical therapies. Clinicopathological correlation is strongly emphasized in this field and dermatopathology is typically reviewed each week.

Programs provide training in a variety of subspecialties within the field including Dermatopathology, Mohs surgery, Phototherapy, Allergy and Immunology, Pediatric Dermatology, Laser surgery, and Cosmetic Dermatologic Surgery. Some programs require or highly recommend independent resident research, case report publication, papers, and presentations at local and national conferences. Most programs have a broad range of didactic sessions (lectures, text review, dermatopathology review, unknown slide conference, journal club, grand rounds).

Training Timeline

  • Typical dermatology residency program: 4 years (Preliminary Year (PGY-1)/Transitional Year + 3 Advanced Years in Dermatology)
    1. Most applicants complete a preliminary year in Internal Medicine (preferred!)
    2. Other preliminary year specialties are also acceptable: Pediatrics, Family Medicine, General Surgery
    3. In contrast to preliminary year programs, Transitional Year Programs offer one year of rotations through multiple specialties (Medicine, Surgery, etc)
    4. In most cases, the application process to your Preliminary/Transitional year is completely separate from your Dermatology applications. There are only about 6 programs which have a “linked” preliminary year -- in other words, if you match at that program, you will be going to that institution for your preliminary medicine year as well.
  • Med-Derm: 5 years (2 years of Internal Medicine + 3 years of Dermatology/Medicine)
    1. Only 5 programs in the country
  • Research Track: varies, typically 4-5 years
  • Fellowships (each 1 year): Residents may choose to pursue further training in Mohs Surgery, Dermatopathology, Cosmetic Dermatologic Surgery, and Pediatric dermatology


You must be a competitive candidate. Competitive clinical grades, a good step 1 score, and research are all important aspects of your application. Talk with Dr. Parker, Dr. Martinez, Dr. Lamos, or your advisor. Dr. Hornyak, the new Chairman of the Department of Dermatology, is an important person to talk to. E-mail Dr. Hornyak and set up a meeting as soon as you decide Dermatology might be a good fit for you. Dr. Driscoll the Residency Program Director, is also very friendly and helpful to meet with. The Maryland Dermatology residents are also a great source of information.

All dermatology programs now participate in ERAS. It is also important to check the program’s website as well as their information on ERAS because a number of programs require essays in addition to what you submit to ERAS.

Dermatology continues to be one of the most competitive residencies to obtain. There are, however, various opportunities to strengthen your application and demonstrate an interest in dermatology: 

    1. Dermatology elective at Maryland: Schedule this rotation early third fourth year. The sooner you are able to decide if you would like to pursue the field, the easier it is to put together a competitive application and perform research, attend conferences, get to know your home department, and apply for away electives.
    2. Away electives:Consider doing 2 or 3 away electives. Choose programs you might be interested in going to as you will likely receive interviews from them. Some places even interview you while you are on your away elective in late summer/early fall so you do not need to travel back during interview season.
      1. Apply early to these away electives through VSLO as they fill up fast! Immunization forms are required for all away electives and most have their own unique form. These can take a couple of weeks to complete so get them done early. Try to get this taken care of Early January if possible as these electives fill up very fast!
      2. Non-VSLO away electives are also available; if you do not see an institution listed on VSLO, check their website or contact their residency coordinator or administrative assistant to inquire about the availability of away electives.
      3. Email program coordinators of programs that you are most interested in for away rotations in January of your 3rd year to show early interest and let them know that you will be applying for an away rotation through VSLO when it opens.
      4. Study the AAD modules for medical students to be prepared for common diseases you will see in dermatology clinic. This will make your experience more fulfilling and allow you to show your interest in dermatology. Furthermore, most rotations have a cumulative test at the end that these modules are excellent for.
    3. Research: 
      1. Case Reports: While on your home or away dermatology rotations, ask your residents if they have any interesting cases waiting to be written up. With their help, you can submit these to a journal in less than one month.
      2. Formal Research: It is a good idea to do dermatology research in addition to your home and away electives. Ask a resident or your faculty mentor about opportunities to become involved in dermatology research. There are a number of local and national conferences that are good to attend.
      3. Research Year: It is becoming more and more common to pursue a research year in dermatology. More than one half of applicants typically participate in a research year between 3rd and 4th year to make their application more competitive. This is usually some sort of clinical research. If you are interested in this, applications to research years should be submitted by December or January of third year to maximize the chance of securing a position. Many research years are unpaid which can be difficult so give yourself time to look into research grants. Some research opportunities will be paid however highly sought after so an early application is crucial.

A research year is by no means necessary to match dermatology but it will certainly make your application more competitive and help you stand out. If you are able to participate in research during third year it is not necessary to take a year off to do it.

  1. Presentations: 
    1. Maryland Dermatologic Society: This society typically has two academic meetings (Spring, Fall) during which interesting cases are briefly presented. This offers an excellent opportunity for students to research a specific topic and gain experience in giving an oral presentation to local dermatologists. Let your residents know that you are interested in participating, and confirm the dates with the residency coordinator, Betsy Satosky.
    2. Away Rotations: most institutions ask visiting students to give a presentation at the end of the month. This can range from a case presentation to a lesson on a specific topic. Pick something that is interesting to you and confirm with a resident or attending before deciding on a topic.
  2. Letters of Recommendation: 
    1. Obtain LORs from at least two dermatologists. You may want to obtain an additional letter during an away rotation. This does not necessarily have to be the Chair of the Department. Consider choosing an attending that worked with you throughout the month and can write about your specific qualities. You have the opportunity to strengthen your application by obtaining letters of recommendation from attendings at other institutions by participating in away rotations.
    2. Most programs request 3-4 LORs. Try to make at least one of these be from an attending who is NOT a dermatologist. A research PI or medicine attending are good choices.


Interviews range from November (rare) to early February, although most programs interview during December and January. Dermatology programs typically send out invitations to interview much later than most specialties. You may receive your first invitation to interview as late as December. Schedule your interviews as soon as you hear from a program since the interview spots tend to fill up quickly! Most dermatology interviews occur in January.

Interview at as many places as you can due to the competitiveness of the specialty. Be prepared to describe your interest in Dermatology, your future career goals, and any clinical or research interests at your interview. Ask about where recent graduates are practicing! This simple question will provide some clarity as to whether the program supports careers in both academia and private practice or whether one is heavily favored.

The Match

Dermatology participates in the regular Match. This enables you to apply to more than one type of residency program in case you do not match for Dermatology. In past years, about 1/3 of those who applied did not match, so consider having a backup plan (research fellowship versus another specialty)! You may also choose to complete a preliminary year and re-apply for an advanced position during the next Match cycle.

2016 NRMP Match Statistics

  • Total number of applicants: 614
  • Number of US Senior applicants: 467
  • Number of positions in the main match: 440
  • Number of positions filled by US Seniors: 352
  • Mean USMLE Step I Score: 249
  • Mean USMLE Step II Score: 257
  • Percentage AOA: 52.8%
  • Mean # of Abstracts, Presentations, Publications: 11.7
  • Mean# volunteer experiences: 10.1

Charting Outcomes - 2016 

Further Reading

Alikhan, Ali; Sivamani, Raja K; Mutizwa, Misha M; & Aldabagh, Bishr. (2009). Advice for medical students interested in dermatology: Perspectives from fourth-year students who matched. Dermatology Online Journal, 15(7). Advice for medical students interested in dermatology

AAD Modules for Medical Students 

For more information please contact:
Shweta Shuta 

Last Revision: April 25, 2018