What is a Dermatologist?

A dermatologist is a doctor who specializes in conditions of the skin as well as the hair and nails. Dermatologists generally make a high salary and can specialize in a number of different areas. They may deal primarily with patients who have skin cancer, focus on cosmetic procedures or specialize in skin pathology among other specialties. Dermatologists may also perform skin allergy tests.


Dermatologists are highly educated. Like any other medical doctor, they must attend medical school. Following that, they must have an internship and residency, and this generally lasts a minimum of three years. A dermatologist does not have to be board-certified to practice, but it is generally recommended that patients see a board-certified dermatologist even for minor cosmetic procedures. This certification may give patients more confidence that the dermatologist will be able to manage any complications that may arise.

Cosmetic Dermatology

The demand for cosmetic procedures that dermatologists can provide is booming. In 2016, the New York Times reported that TV has made many of these procedures seem mainstream. Cosmetic dermatologists may reduce the appearance of wrinkles and acne, improve the appearance of scars, address issues such as thinning hair and might even do liposuction.

Hair and Nails

Although most people associate dermatology with the skin, dermatologists also deal with the health of hair and nails. These are often where the first signs of many illnesses and disorders that originate in other parts of the body turn up. The American Academy of Dermatology lists a number of tips from dermatologists on how to best care for nails and hair as well as for skin.


This specialty combines the fields of dermatology and pathology. Most practitioners come from the field of dermatology although a few may be primarily pathologists, which is essentially a field that specializes in diseases. Dermapathologists may be certified by the American Board of Pathology instead of or in addition to the American Board of Dermatology. Dermapathologists may deal with various types of skin cancer as well as other skin conditions such as impetigo, vitiglio and more.

Other Specialties

In addition to working as a generalist, a dermatologist may specialize in a large number of other areas. For example, a dermatologist’s specialty might be on a specific part of the body such as the foot. There are pediatric dermatologists and dermatologists who specialize in skin diseases related to the immune system. The field of epidemiology and dermatology combine to create dermatoepidemiology, which examines skin disease at the population level. There are a number of other areas of specialty as well.

Work Environments

Many dermatologists work in medical offices, but they may also work in hospitals. Some dermatologists may work in research and education, so they may spend most of their time in laboratories and university classrooms. A cosmetic dermatologist may even work at a spa or another establishment that offers various types of skin and facial therapy.

Related Resource: Top 5 Highest Paying Careers in Healthcare for Non-Medical Professionals

Dermatology is a growing and lucrative profession. As a practice, it may offer less stressful conditions than some other medical specialties. However, a dermatologist has the opportunity to improve the lives of many people whether that is through making them more comfortable with their appearance or diagnosing and curing their skin cancer.