Dermatologists are medical doctors who specialise in the diagnosis and treatment of diseases of the hair, skin and nails.

They see patients, act as consultants to other specialists, and may be involved in teaching and clinical or other research. They must be familiar with other specialties because skin diseases are often associated with internal conditions.

They conduct complete skin examinations, record patients' health histories, diagnose and treat skin conditions such as skin cancer, warts, athlete's foot, fungal infections, eczema, acne, dermatitis and a disease called psoriasis. They recommend diagnostic tests based on patients' histories and physical examination findings. They counsel patients on the need for annual dermatologic screenings, sun protection, skin cancer awareness, or skin and lymph node self-examinations. 

They perform incisional biopsies to diagnose melanoma and perform skin surgery in many situations, for example, to provide early control over diseases such as skin cancer, to improve the skin’s appearance by removing growths, discolourations or damage caused by aging, sunlight or disease. These delicate operations for medical or cosmetic purposes, involve the use of modern equipment such as laser machines, e.g. to treat varicose veins and wrinkles.

They may prescribe hormonal agents or topical treatments such as contraceptives, oral corticosteroids, retinoids and antibiotics.  Dermabrasion or laser abrasion can be used to treat scars or other skin conditions.  Therapies such as steroids, chemical peels and comodo removal to treat age spots, sun damage, rough or discoloured skin, may be used. They conduct or order diagnostic tests such as chest x-rays, microbiologic tests and endocrinologic tests.  Patients will be evaluated to determine their eligibility for cosmetic procedures such as lipsuction, laser resurfacing and microdermabrasion.  As well as conducting clinical or basic research, they need to instruct interns or residents in diagnosis and treatment of dermatological diseases and provide consultation to other health professionals.

This field of medicine is constantly changing and dermatologists must keep abreast of new developments.  They need to read current literature, talk with colleagues, and participate in professional organisations or conferences to keep abreast of developments.  New drugs may cause unusual side-effects, pesticides, industrial compounds and cosmetics often pose new dermatological problems.

Personal Requirements

  • above average intellectual ability
  • concern for the health and well-being of people
  • empathetic, tactful and understanding
  • responsible
  • willing to study to keep up with medical advances
  • good eye-hand coordination and manual dexterity
  • good vision

How to Enter

Schooling & School Subjects

Compulsory Subjects: Mathematics, Physical Science 
Recommended subjects: Life Sciences

  • Pass matric with a Bachelor's pass
  • Meet the admission requirements (APS) set by the university
  • All applications for admission to MBChB and Medical degrees are subject to selection.
  • Due to the limited number of spaces available, only a small percentage of applicants are admitted.

What to Study

Degree: MBChB degree - UKZN, UCT, UFS, UL, UP, US, WSU, Wits.

  • Theoretical training: 5 years
  • Student internship: 1 year
  • Practical work at a hospital: 1 year (also known as the house doctor year)
  • Post-graduate study: 4 years specialisation: MMed or FCP (SA)
Before commencing post-graduate study for specialisation as a dermatologist the candidate must: have held a MBChB degree for 2 years and have been registered as a medical doctor with the Health Professions Council of South Africa for 1 year.

Special courses in Dermatology are available at UKZN, UFS, UP and US.
On successful completion of the examination to qualify as a specialist, candidates register with the IMDC as a Dermatologist.


  • state hospitals
  • clinics
  • self-employment - private practice

Further Information

Health Professions Council of South Africa (HPCSA) 
(553) of Hamilton and
Madiba Streets,
Arcadia, Pretoria
Tel: (012) 338-9300

Getting Started

  • gain experience working with people by joining clubs at schools, church
  • try to obtain vacation work in a dermatologist’s office or clinic
  • make an appointment to speak to a dermatologist about this type of career

Programmes by Study Institutions

Related Occupations

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