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Become a Dermatologist's Assistant: Education and Career Roadmap

Learn how to become a dermatologist's assistant. Research the education requirements, training, licensure information and experience you will need to start a career assisting dermatologists.

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Do I Want to Be a Dermatologist's Assistant?

As a type of physician assistant, or PA, a dermatologist's assistant works under the supervision of a licensed dermatologist in a medical office setting. An assistant may examine patients with common skin conditions like acne, rosacea and eczema. They may also perform skin cancer screenings and assist with biopsies. Since patients also see dermatologists for cosmetic procedures in addition to skin problems, assistants might also work with dermatologists to perform chemical peels, tattoo removal and dermabrasion procedures.

Like other PAs, dermatologists' assistants must spend a good amount of time on their feet, and the job can be physically demanding. The position also takes much more education and training than that of a medical assistant. However, working in the medical field can be rewarding, and PAs in general face strong job prospects over the 2012-2022 decade, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Job Requirements

Dermatologists' assistants must complete a state-mandated degree program and obtain licensure. Continuing education, active practice and regular recertification are also required for the profession. Below are listed typical requirements for becoming a dermatologist's assistant:

Common Requirements
Degree Level Master's degree is required*
Degree Field Physician's assistant education programs*
Licensure Licensure is necessary in all states*
Experience No prior experience is necessary to enter the field, though many individuals have some health care experience*
Key Skills Must be compassionate, emotionally stable and detail oriented*
Computer Skills Medical recordkeeping, teleconferencing, word processing and spreadsheet software programs**
Additional Requirements Need to be able to spend a lot of time working on their feet*

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **O*Net OnLine

Step 1: Complete the Necessary Educational Requirements

As a specialized physician's assistant (PA), a dermatologist's assistant typically requires a master's degree in physician assistant studies. Students entering these programs already hold bachelor's degrees and may have some experience in health care areas. Studying to become a PA allows prospective dermatologists' assistants to learn rudimentary duties, such as examining and treating patients, ordering and interpreting laboratory tests, taking patient medical histories and making proper diagnoses.

Since dermatologists diagnose and treat conditions of the skin, it is important that those interested in becoming dermatologists' assistants receive training specific to the field. Some schools offer master's degree programs in PA studies with specialized electives in dermatology. Master-level curricula usually include clinical rotations or internship opportunities that allow PAs to train under the supervision of dermatologists in medical schools, universities or teaching hospitals. In additional to dermatology, students participate in clinical rotations in pediatrics, emergency medicine, surgery and many others areas of medicine. Students also complete classroom training in ethics, medical law and clinical decision making.

Success Tip:

  • Develop interpersonal skills. Dermatologists' assistants work with patients on a daily basis and must have strong communication and interpersonal skills in order to provide the best treatment. Assistants are typically drawn to the professional by their desire to help people and care for patients; they can use their time in clinical rotations to become more comfortable with patients so that they may better serve them.

Step 2: Obtain Licensure

All states require physician assistant practitioners to obtain licensure by passing the Physician Assistant National Certifying Examination administered by the National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants (NCCPA). Graduation from an accredited PA program is required in all states, though additional state regulations vary. The test covers areas in medical procedures, diagnostics testing, medications and patient care. Assistants can use the designations 'Physician Assistant-Certified' after successfully completing the examination.

Step 3: Maintain Licensure

Keeping one's license current is mandatory to stay employed in the field. Dermatologists' assistants must complete and track 100 continuing medical education hours every 2 years in order to maintain licensure. The NCCPA also requires retesting every 6 years to maintain the credential.

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