How To Become a Dermatopathologist

August 23, 2023


Reviewed by:

Jonathan Preminger

Former Admissions Committee Member, Hofstra-Northwell School of Medicine

Reviewed: 03/03/23

If you’d like to pursue a career that involves the study and treatment of skin disease, read on to learn more about how to become a dermatopathologist. 

There are currently over 1,500 skin disorders that affect the skin, hair, and nails. Considering how diverse these diseases are, dermatopathologists play a vital role in their diagnosis and treatment. 

These specialists study these disorders and figure out their effects on the body to not only increase the available knowledge on them but to create the most effective treatment plans for patients. 

If this type of medical subspecialty interests you, this guide will go over how to become a dermatopathologist, what their daily duties are, and more!

image of dots background

Steps to Becoming a Dermatopathologist

Before deciding if this is the right career path for you, it’s essential to note it will take several years to join this profession. As dermatopathologists are physicians, they are required to go through the extensive process of completing medical school, a residency, and a fellowship.  

Here is a breakdown of the exact steps required to become a dermatopathologist:

Step One: Obtain an Undergraduate Degree

The first prerequisite you’ll need to join a medical school is an undergraduate degree from an accredited university. Depending on the medical school you want to join, there will be several science and math-based courses you’ll have to take prior to enrollment.

Many students opt to pursue Biomedical Sciences, Biology, or Chemistry as their major to best prepare themselves for medical school.

Regardless, you should aim to maintain a high GPA to keep as many doors open as possible when it comes to your potential medical school choices. The higher your GPA, the more competitive your application will be.

Step Two: Write the MCAT

The MCAT is generally considered to be the most difficult part of medical school applications. This score can truly make or break your application, and thus requires adequate preparation and effort.

Figure out what your target MCAT score is and create a solid study plan to reach this score. Set strict deadlines for yourself to stay motivated and to ensure you stick to your schedule!

Step Three: Go To Medical School

After completing your undergrad and getting into your desired medical school, you’ll spend the next four years learning the fundamentals of medicine and basic sciences and gaining valuable clinical experience to prepare you for residency.

Again, it’s crucial you maintain high grades during medical school to increase your chances of matching with a top residency. You should also form close connections with your professors and mentors so you can submit strong letters of recommendation to your residency programs.  

Step Four: Pass the USMLE Exams

During and after medical school, you’ll be required to pass several licensing exams. The majority of students write the first and second step of the USMLE while they’re still completing their MD. The final step can only be written after graduation. 

Passing these exams is not only necessary to move on to the next steps of the process of becoming a dermatopathologist, but necessary for you to practice any form of medicine independently. 

Step Five: Join a Residency

To gain adequate clinical experience in this specialty, you will have to join a dermatologist residency or pathology residency. Many physicians complete both to develop an advanced understanding of these fields.

Dermatology residencies typically take at least three years to complete, while anatomical pathology residencies typically take four.

Step Six: Join a Dermatopathology Fellowship

The final required step to become a dermatopathologist is to join a fellowship. Dermatopathology fellowships can usually be completed in a year and provide physicians with highly specialized training.

These fellowships are revered and notoriously challenging to get into. There are often very few spots available in these programs each year but hundreds of applicants. 

Step Seven: Obtain Certification in Dermatopathology

This final step is optional but may boost your qualifications and make you a more attractive employee. Many dermatopathologists gain board certification with the American Board of Dermatologists or the American Board of Pathologists, as well as a subspecialty certification in Dermatopathology.

What Does a Dermatopathologist Do?

Aside from wondering how long it’ll take to become a dermatopathologist, you may be asking, “what is a dermatopathologist exactly?”

While dermatopathologists are critical parts of a patient’s care team, they spend the majority of time in laboratories with little direct patient interaction. Using tools such as microscopes, they analyse skin samples to help diagnose or confirm disease.

Dermatopathologists also perform certain specialized testing to properly assess these samples. These tests include:

  • Immunochemistry: studying the components and functions of the immune system such as antibodies
  • Electron microscopy: obtaining high-resolution images of specimens
  • Immunofluorescence: using fluorescent dyes to determine the presence of certain molecules
  • Molecular analysis: studying cells, fluids, and tissues at a molecular level

These professionals typically work in hospital, academic, or private laboratories.

FAQs: Becoming a Dermatopathologist 

For any remaining questions about how to become a dermatopathologist, read on to find your answers. 

1. Can a Dermatopathologist See Patients?

Dermatopathologists are trained to interact with and treat patients but do not typically see them or provide a diagnosis to them. Instead, dermatopathologists share the results of their analysis with dermatologists who see the patients. 

2. What Is the Difference Between a Dermatologist and Dermatopathologist? 

While both of these medical professionals can diagnose skin disease, dermatologists are only able to do so with their naked eye. Dermatopathologists, on the other hand, specialize in diagnosing disease by studying it at the molecular or microscopic level. 

3. Is Dermatopathology Hard?

Yes, dermatopathology is difficult. Not only will there be fierce competition throughout your training, but the field itself will present various challenges. As researchers learn more about skin disease, dermatopathologists must keep up-to-date with advancements to provide patients with the most accurate diagnoses. 

They must also have a keen eye and be careful not to make any errors as doing so would cause patients to be given inaccurate diagnoses and unnecessary treatment!

4. How Competitive Is Dermatopathology?

Dermatopathology is extremely competitive, and is even considered to be the most esteemed subspecialty of pathology. There are very few dermatopathology fellowships available for students to join, and each of these programs accepts a very limited number of applicants.

5. How Long Will It Take to Become a Dermatopathologists?

It will take at least 12 to 13 years to join this profession: four years for your undergrad, four years for your MD, at least three or four years for your residency, and one year for your fellowship.

This timeline assumes you’ll complete each step in succession of the last, without taking breaks. But, considering how extensive the process to join this profession is, it’s likely you will take at least one break between these steps, so you can expect this timeline to increase.

Final Thoughts

Dermatopathology is a challenging yet highly rewarding subspecialty to pursue. These professionals are directly responsible for diagnosing and studying skin disease to create the most effective treatment plans for their patients. Students must be eager, dedicated, and focused to be successful in this career!

Subscribe to Our Newsletter

Schedule A Free Consultation

Plan Smart. Execute Strong. Get Into Your Dream School.
Get Free Consultation
image of dots background

You May Also Like