What Is a Dermatology Residency?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: A. Joseph
  • Last Modified Date: 06 January 2020
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A dermatology residency is a training program for a doctor who plans to focus on the care of patients who have skin, hair, nail and scalp conditions. The residency provides dermatology training to the doctor so that he or she can practice as a fully qualified dermatologist. Successful completion of the training also allows a doctor to apply for board certification in this specialty, through an accrediting organization that regulates the practice of dermatology. Residency is a very important part of medical education.

A typical dermatology residency lasts three years. The exact contents of the residency can depend on the program and the standards set by a national regulatory agency. Doctors usually start the program with more general clinical education and then narrow their focus to dermatology. By their third year of residency, they might be focusing on a specific aspect of dermatology, such as the management of skin cancers or the treatment of allergic skin reactions.

During a dermatology residency, doctors meet regularly with each other and their supervisors. They exchange information about cases, discuss approaches to treatment and retroactively discuss remarkable or distinctive cases. This can provide useful learning experiences for physicians, especially when something goes wrong, and doctors can use the experience to develop better preventative care. Doctors might also attend workshops and training courses, such as a section on dermatopathology or fungal skin infections.


While in a dermatology residency, doctors receive pay and other benefits. After graduation, they can choose to pursue fellowships for advanced training opportunities. In a fellowship, a doctor has an opportunity to work with dermatologists who focus on specific aspects of the practice of dermatology rather than running general practices. Doctors who want to specialize in skin cancers, for instance, probably would pursue a fellowship to get advanced training in prevention and treatment of such conditions.

Doctors who are in the process of applying for residency should seek out accredited dermatology residency programs. These programs meet standards set by professional organizations for working conditions, including protections to limit hours of clinical practice and regulations that stipulate access to appropriate equipment for diagnosis and treatment. If a residency does not have accreditation, residents might not be eligible for some forms of financial assistance, such as loan forgiveness, and might not qualify for professional certification. Prospective residents who are not sure about the accreditation status of a program can ask to see evidence of accreditation or can check with an accrediting organization for a list of approved programs.


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