As is true for many other specialties, competition for a position in a dermatology residency program is very high. However, with sufficient motivation, most students who really want to enter dermatology can achieve end up achieving their goal. Here are some steps things that one can take do to enhance this possibility.

Pick a mentor in our department just as soon as you realize that you would like to explore a career in dermatology. Names of faculty members who are willing to serve in this capacity can be obtained by emailing us at

You will need to take the dermatology clinical elective early in your fourth year. We give priority for this elective to students who are considering a career in dermatology. Here too, email Laurel Sorensen as early in your third year as possible. Where feasible, we also recommend it is also desirable that you take a second, different, dermatology elective, as well. That can be completed within our department or at a different medical school. Which other electives you take is not critically important. However, areas like plastic surgery, infectious diseases, rheumatology and allergy/immunology , will prove useful to you later in your career.

Get to know as many dermatology faculty members as you can during your elective(s). Since all applicants look similarly good “on paper”, students with engaging personalities and who are well known have a real edge.

Try to find one or more projects that can lead to publication. Keep in mind that several small, doable projects are usually better than one large project that might not be completed by the time of your application.

Because of the large number of applications received by every dermatology residency program, most programs use one or more items for screening purposes. Here are some of the items used: a score on USMLE Step 1 of 230 or higher, honors in at least four of six third year clerkships, AOA membership and several publications submitted, or accepted, for publication.  Additionally, 3-5 Letters of Recommendation are preferred.

If you fail to meet two or more of these screening criteria and still really want to do dermatology, consider extending for a fifth year to perform either clinical or basic research on a full time basis.

Finally, apply to at least 50 programs and accept as many interviews as you can. On average, those students who receive fewer than 5 interviews most often don’t match, whereas those who receive 10 or more, usually do match.