Pros and Cons of Being a Dermatologist

Updated March 10, 2023

Working in dermatology comes with many benefits, but there are also unique challenges to overcome. If you're interested in becoming a dermatologist, it can be helpful to learn about what the job entails and what type of person might enjoy the work. Understanding the benefits and drawbacks of this role can help you determine whether it's the right fit for you. In this article, we discuss what a dermatologist is, where they work and some pros and cons of being one.

What is a dermatologist?

Dermatologists are medical professionals who focus on treating skin conditions and some hair and skin issues. The work can vary based on the patient's needs, ranging from routine evaluations to surgical treatments. Dermatologists treat patients with common conditions, like acne or wrinkles, but they also can treat skin cancer and other chronic or painful skin diseases.

Dermatologists might perform tasks like examining patients, researching and educating patients on how to take care of their skin. They're typically knowledgeable about medications, ointments and hormonal agents, often prescribing topical and oral treatments to treat skin conditions. They also perform procedures like biopsies, laser treatments, peels and surgeries.

Related: How To Become a Dermatologist

Where do dermatologists work?

Many dermatologists work in private practice. However, they might also work in other care settings, like hospitals, outpatient clinics, medical schools or labs. These different settings may lead to different daily responsibilities. For example, a dermatologist who works in a hospital might join a surgeon in the emergency room to check on a patient's rash. A dermatologist who works in a lab might research and test new treatments.

Related: 8 Careers in Dermatology

Pros of being a dermatologist

Here are some benefits of being a dermatologist to consider:

Social interaction

Dermatologists work with people every day, and they can see the same patients repeatedly, allowing them to build long-lasting relationships. Skin and physical appearance can be personal topics for some people, so patients might appreciate doctors who are honest and are nice. If you're friendly and people feel comfortable around you, you might enjoy and excel at the job.

High salary

Becoming a dermatologist may earn you a high income. According to Indeed data, the national average salary for a dermatologist is $288,505 per year. As you gain more experience in the profession, your income may continue to grow. Other factors, such as where you work and the services you provide, can also affect your salary.

Read more: What Is the Average Salary for a Dermatologist? (By Location)

Regular hours

Some doctors can work long and unpredictable hours, but dermatologists typically work standard, flexible hours. Although individual work hours might vary from job to job, as a dermatologist, you might be able to work 40 hours per week. Because patients' skin concerns often aren't time-sensitive, dermatologists usually work a predictable schedule with regular hours. This can allow you to develop a healthy work-life balance and pursue hobbies and devote more time to your family or friends.

Low-stress environment

Dermatology appointments are often routine. Few skin conditions are life-threatening, and dermatologists rarely have to perform high-stakes procedures. This can lead to a more positive everyday work experience and lower stress levels than other medical professions.
Related: How To De-Stress at Work

Positive impact on patients

Dermatology gives you the opportunity to help people, which some might find fulfilling. Proper skin treatments can help prevent serious disease, address concerns like pain and irritation and lessen the visible impacts of aging. Your treatments may also improve your patients' happiness and self-esteem. For some, knowing your work benefits your patients' lives can bring a sense of satisfaction.

Opportunity to work with new technology

A career in dermatology might keep you informed of new inventions and let you use new tools to solve your patients' concerns. For example, digital imaging is becoming more popular, and it offers an easier way to diagnose skin problems. Improvements in telemedicine, robotics and artificial intelligence also improve the work dermatologists do and make diagnostics and treatment easier.

Cons of being a dermatologist

Here are some potential downsides to being a dermatologist:

Years of education

Dermatologists go through years of schooling before they can begin practicing, with many professionals studying for at least 10 years after high school. After completing their degrees, dermatologists also typically complete internships and residencies before being able to work independently. However, this thorough training can help you feel knowledgeable and prepared to start working with patients.

Cost of education

The required education to become a dermatologist can be expensive because you can spend at least a decade working toward the necessary degrees. Many professionals might leave school with student loan debt or other financial burdens. Consider looking into financial aid and applying for any grants you can to reduce the costs. Once you begin your career, the high salary you earn can help you pay off your debts and become financially stable more quickly.

Challenging conversations

Even though dermatologists' work can be more routine than other fields of medicine, you might still share bad news with patients. For example, a patient might see you to check on an unusual mole that you determine to be a malignant growth after running tests on it. If you're honest and empathetic with your patients, these conversations can be easier, and the patients might be more willing to follow your advice as they seek treatment. This can help you create stronger connections over time and make your work feel more fulfilling.

Sensitive conditions

Dermatologists sometimes treat unpleasant skin conditions because the job often requires working with warts, moles, rashes, scars and fungi. Like most medical professionals, dermatologists also handle blood. After all of your educational training and as you gain experience, you can become more comfortable working with these and increase your expertise on the subject, which can improve your diagnostics with these conditions.

Repetitive work

It's possible many of your appointments may focus on the same problems. Because conditions like acne and hair loss are common, you might make the same diagnoses and offer similar treatments to many of your patients. However, working with common conditions repeatedly might strengthen your expertise and allow you to work with different methods based on each patient's needs.

Competitive field

Like most medical fields, dermatology can be highly competitive. Because of the pros of the job, many people pursuing careers in medicine might try to enter dermatology. However, if you excel in school and gain enough experience, you always could start a private practice. If you focus on developing your skills and become an expert in the field, you can find success regardless of the competition.

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