Dermatology specialist?- see a board-certified dermatologist

A dermatology specialist is an expert in the field of medicine which deals with the care of skin, hair and nails. A variety of professionals may offer this service, board-certified dermatologists are the most expert professionals in this area. As there is a shortage of board-certified dermatologists nationally, and there can be unethical marketing in more competitive markets, professionals without the same training sometimes attempt to present themselves as equivalent to a trained specialist. This is why it’s important that the medical consumer be knowledgeable about the education and training of different types of professionals they may encounter when they are online searching for a “derm office near me,” “ skin doctors near me,” and “skin specialists near by me.” Here is an explanation of many of the issues that confuse patients:


American Board of Dermatology logo
The gold standard in Dermatology


Board-certified dermatologist v. dermatologist

Really any doctor can practice in any field. Only doctors who have completed an accredited residency training program, who have passed the specialty board examination, and who maintain their licensing are able to say they are board certified. To be a board-certified dermatologist, first one has to complete 4 years of medical school, complete an accredited internship program for 1 full year, then complete an accredited three-year, residency program in dermatology which one is trained and supervised by board-certified dermatologists who are providing a specific curriculum making sure one develops a large fund of knowledge in the specialty and achieves certain clinical competencies. A board-certified dermatologist has at least 10,000 hours of supervised training before they work independently. They must also participate in at least 25 hours of continuing education annually to maintain their credentials.

Doctor with stethescope
Stethescope not dermatoscope? Perhaps a doctor but not a board-certified dermatologist

In contrast, a doctor, for example a radiologist, could also open a dermatology practice. It would be legal to even be a dermatologist as long as they don’t use the term board-certified dermatologist. They may state, however, that they are board-certified or say they are a “board-certified physician,” which would be true. The certification, however, is in radiology, not dermatology the field in which they now practice. It’s technically legal but a little misleading to the public. They can, however, legally practice dermatology without any of the formal training of a board-certified dermatologist. It’s up to the public to understand.

Dermatology specialist who is not a doctor

It is increasingly common to find dermatology clinics that don’t have doctors on staff. Many are run by physician assistants and nurse practitioners. These types of professionals, although valuable to the team, were not intended to work independently of doctors. Their background is in primary care. They have significantly less professional education, often just 2 years in contract to the 4 years for doctors. There is no required residency training to work in a particular field or board-certification. Beware if someone who is not a doctor markets themselves as “board-certified.”. Although nurse practitioners tend to have to commit to a specialty, physician assistants can freely switch between specialties. That is because they are supposed to be working closely with the doctor. Beware of someone who is not a doctor who states they are “board-certified” in dermatology as there is no such thing. And some states are making it illegal for anyone who is not a physician to refer to themselves as an -ologist of any kind. This is all done to mislead patients that they are not seeing a board-certified physician.

Patients should know, also, that in contrast to standards for doctors, which are mostly uniform nationally, the scope of practice for physician extenders varies from state-to-state. The standard for supervision, also, can be vague. It can be up to the supervising doctor. Standards may vary.

Doctors who are not physicians

Not all doctors are qualified to work in a medical setting. A PhD is a credential that carries the title “doctor,” however, they may not use the title “Doctor” in a patient setting. Even lawyers are doctors. The degree J.D. stands for juris doctor, but they are not allowed to refer to themselves as doctor.
The reason the use of the term doctor in a medical setting is reserved for physicians is for patient protection. In the patient care setting it’s important for patients to know that their “doctor” is physician who has a doctorate in patient care and is qualified to treat them medically and not instead someone, like an attorney, or even a chemistry professor, who is not.

Recently it has become popular for physician extenders, who are licensed to treat patients, to get doctorates that don’t qualify them as physicians. They may even present themselves to patients as “doctors” in the clinical setting. These doctorates are often in health administration and do not represent clinical specialty training. Again, these kinds of doctorates are not the types that make it legal to present oneself as a doctor to patients in clinical care. In dermatology this is

Cosmetology versus dermatology

Dermatologists are doctors.  Some offer aesthetic and cosmetic services like chemical peels, facial treatments and laser.  Some of these treatments are also offered by non-medical professionals such as aestheticians who fall under the field of cosmetology.  Cosmetology is the art of beautifying the skin, hair and nails.  Hairdressers and nail technicians are also cosmetologists.  It’s important, however, to understand the difference.  Doctors and cosmetologists may both be allowed to do chemical peels– but peels have different strengths.  Only doctors can apply the stronger peels.  Although, for example, using Botox is a way to beautify the skin, Botox is a drug that only people with healthcare licenses can administer.  Cosmetologists are not licensed to use Botox.

Dermatology specialist- conclusion

The bottom line for the public is that they should know that when they see a doctor, particularly a specialist, who is board-certified in their field of practice, that they are highly educated, formally-trained, and specifically regulated in the services they offer. Not all people who present themselves as dermatology consultants are experienced in that way.

What does this mean for someone on the market for a “dermatology specialist near me?” It means see a board-certified dermatologist, like Dr. Strachan at Aglow Dermatology, when you want the best available dermatological care. Schedule a consultation here.


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