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What is the average day in the life of a dermatologist?

I am a sophomore in high school still trying to figure out what sort of career path to take. I like to take care of others, enjoy all types of science, and enjoy drawing. Dermatology is a career choice I am interested in because I care very much about my skin and my overall well-being and also enjoy helping others. medicine career science doctor hospital-and-health-care dermatologist skin

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Rachel’s Answer

Most dermatologists work 9 am-5 pm in clinic. They see patients with a wide variety of skin lesions from benign rashes to skin cancer.
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Joseph’s Answer

Hi Kaitlyn,

My wife is a student doctor and looked into dermatology as a potential specialty. A dermatologist will spend most of their time seeing patients with skin issues. You'd listen to their concerns, give them a diagnosis, and then provide a treatment or solution. Examples of patient concerns you'd hear: "This rash won't go away and it's spreading." "My acne came back and it's worse than ever." "My primary care doctor told me to see a dermatologist about this mole. Is it cancerous?" Dermatology makes for an amazing career because its extremely lucrative while also offering a great work-life balance.

You can easily work 3-4 days a week, working 9-5 or less, take multiple extended vacations a year on top of that and still pull in $350,000. No one is gonna die if you wait to look at their rash until next week! :) If you practiced in a big city in California and saw a lot of patients you could make over $500,000 a year and still go on vacation semi-frequently. However, this makes it desirable for med students so it's a very competitive specialty. You need to get great grades, great test results, and have great interview skills. You can do it if you put your mind to it! Another thing to keep in mind is that you'll be seeing a lot of the same stuff over and over again. So if you need variety it might not be for you.

If you want a really detailed day in the life, a typical day would look like this: you arrive at your clinic and check in with your front office worker who would tell you how many patient visits you have scheduled today. You'd be in the back of the clinic while your first patient was in the examination room with a nurse. Your nurse would get all of the basic stuff out of the way for you. Medical history, pulse, the patient's primary concern, how long they've been experiencing it, etc. Then the nurse would come back to you and tell you the important bits of what they just learned. "Stacy has a rash on her arm that's been there for two weeks and hasn't responded to over the counter cream. She doesn't have a prior history of this and no one in her family has had it that she knows of." Then you come in and ask them about their concern. "So I hear you got a rash on your arm two weeks ago that won't go away?" Your patient will re-explain their concern and you'll give your diagnosis. "You said you just moved here. Well what you have is called hives and its due to the stress of moving to a new place and taking on a ton of responsibility at your new job. It's fairly common and responds well to antihistamines. I'll write you a prescription. Do yourself a favor and take some time to relax to reduce your stress!" Then you talk to another nurse about what their patient has and do the same thing. Next patient, same routine, until your day is done. There are other things you'd do but your bread and butter would be seeing patients with rashes and telling them what to do.

Hope that helps! Let me know if you have any follow-up questions.

Joseph recommends the following next steps:

Study for the MCAT
Apply to medical schools
Get good grades in medical school
Do well on your Boards exams
Match into a dermatology specialty
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Patrick’s Answer

Dermatologist is a specialist, so they often set their own hours (if they have their own practice). There is also the option to work for a hospital or medical system which might require a less traditional working schedule, including weekends and holidays. The VA would be another choice. Like any physician, you would most likely work more hours in the beginning of your career including on-call shifts.