How Do You Become a Dermatology Nurse Practitioner?

During some downtime at work this afternoon, several nurses and I were discussing our need for some Botox…STAT.  Our love of sunshine seems to be catching up with us resulting in unsightly, premature forehead wrinkles.  Ultimately, we decided the solution to our problem was for these nurses to go back to school and become dermatology nurse practitioners.  But how?

There’s a lot of confusion over the dermatology nurse practitioner career.  Most NP programs don’t cater to the dermatology specialty leaving prospective NP’s to pave the way into the skin care profession themselves.  Fortunately, the path to becoming a dermatology nurse practitioner is pretty straightforward. 

Step 1: Get your nurse practitioner degree in a more general specialty

Unfortunately, there are not any master’s level dermatology nurse practitioner programs out there.  The only derm-specific program for NPs is the DNP in dermatology at the University of South Florida.  If you prefer to skip the DNP and practice with a master’s degree, or are unable to attend USF’s dermatology program, you still have plenty of options.

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The easiest and most flexible way to become a dermatology NP is to get your degree as a family or adult nurse practitioner.  While these specialties are certainly not skin focused, they give students an essential primary care foundation they can build upon when becoming more specialized.  

Step 2: Decide if completing a dermatology residency is right for you

Similarly to dermatology-focused NP programs, dermatology residencies for nurse practitioners are nearly non-existent.  The Lahey Hospital and Medical Center in Burlington, Massachusetts offer the nation’s only dermatology nurse practitioner residency.  While the experience acquired in an NP residency is certainly valuable, prospective derm NPs shouldn’t feel pressure to complete this program.  The majority of dermatology nurse practitioners enter the field with little or no experience learning their skin care skills on the job.

Step 3: Land a job in a dermatology clinic

Finding a dermatology clinic willing to train you without specialty experience is the key to beginning your dermatology career.  While many dermatology clinics employ NPs and PAs, make sure the clinic to which you are applying has an environment conducive to new graduates.  You will need a lot of help in your fist days working in a specialized clinic.  With other NPs, PAs and MD’s willing to help you hone your skills, you will undoubtedly succeed in dermatology practice.  Without a supportive learning environment, you will undoubtedly become frustrated leaving you drowning in a sea of atypical moles, melanoma and glycolic acid peels.

Step 4: On the job learning

Once you find a clinic committed to making you the next mole-excising, rash diagnosing, skin soothing expert, word hard at perfecting your skills.  Taking extra steps to mastering your new profession will pay off big-time in your practice.  Watch other providers perform procedures during your downtime, get advice from experienced aestheticians learning their element of practice and research on your own so you are as prepared as possible while also demonstrating commitment to your new employer.

Remember, working in a highly specialized area comes with a steep learning curve.  Be patient with yourself as you perfect your practice. 

Step 5: Consider an official dermatology NP certification

The Dermatology Certified Nurse Practitioner organization offers an official dermatology NP certification.  In order to qualify to become a certified dermatology NP, applicants must hold current NP state license, have at least a master’s degree in nursing, be nationally certified as a nurse practitioner and have completed at least 3,000 hours of dermatology NP practice.

A certification through the DCNP lends credibility to the specialized training you have completed outside your formal NP education and can help in future job searches. 

Without a clear-cut path to the dermatology nurse practitioner profession, many NPs struggle to find a way to enter the field.  But, by following the preceding steps you can land a career as a dermatology NP.  With a notoriously laid back work week (Friday’s off anyone?) and a salary into the six-figure range, dermatology nurse practitioners have it pretty good.  If you are a nurse practitioner interested in skin care, a career in dermatology might be just the job for you. 


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24 thoughts on “How Do You Become a Dermatology Nurse Practitioner?”

    1. Dr. Debra Shelby

      I developed the dermatology residency program at USF.
      I dismantled the program when students started complaining about the 1,000 clinical hours and USF lowered the clinical
      requirements to 500 hours.
      The program offered is through the National Academy of Dermatology Certificate Program which I created and continue offer.
      Please update your website so that people are correctly
      Informed. They can look at the website for
      more info.

      Dr. Debra Shelby, PhD, DNP
      President, NADNP

  1. Thanks for sharing your guidance. I’ve considered going into plastics and cosmetic derm once I’m finished with my FNP program, but don’t really know how to penetrate that niche market. It’s nice to know there are options available for NPs in this field.

  2. From one MD to an NP

    Please rethink the slang term “midlevel”. What are you trying to imply by using it?

    On behalf of my husband,


  3. I appreciate this article, however, do the NP accrediting agencies (CCNE, etc) and all states recognize this “national certification”?

  4. Hi Gia, 

    There is not a national dermatology nurse practitioner certification. Most dermatology nurse practitioners are Family Nurse Practitioners. You could also become a dermatology NP with an Adult or Pediatric Nurse Practitioner certification, however you would be limited as far as the age demographic you treat. 

  5. So if there is no national dermatology NP certification, what are the implications for malpractice/liability coverage?

  6. Working in dermatology is within the scope of practice of other types of NP certifications, for example, a family nurse practitioner certification. So, liability coverage would work the same as for an NP working in any other setting. 

  7. No offense, but this article truly underestimates the time (8+ years), effort, studying, etc that it takes to become a dermatologist. It is unfair to the general public that gets billed the same in some states for seeing a nurse practitioner and a doctor, especially those that think that their NP or PA is a Dr. Additionally, the literature has shown nearly a 6:1 biopsy to “cancer find” ratio for midlevel providers vs 2.9:1 for Board certified dermatologists.

    I think NPs and PAs are an important and vital part of healthcare but the focus should be on general, first line care and less on getting into specialties. Again, just my opinion and not intended to offend.

  8. Can I still specialize in dermatology as a Nurse Practitioner if I have my MSN in pediatrics? I know most dermatological specialization programs tend to prefer Family Nurse Practitioners, but is it still possible with an MSN in pediatrics? I am more interested in pediatrics than general family medicine, and would love to have that as a backup plan in case I change my mind about dermatology. Thanks!

  9. Hi Olivia, 

    You could be a pediatric dermatology NP with your PNP degree. However, if you are a pediatric nurse practitioner, you cannot treat adults. 

  10. For those that are unaware of the term “mid-level provider”, it is NOT SLANG. Please educate yourself on the term in which the various boards of the state have provided the 46term for all nurse practitioner and physician assistants regardless of the specialty! The author of the article is not “impyling anything,” rather she is being politically correct.. Unbelievable

  11. Everything I’ve read so far says family is the avenue to take for dermatology ARNP. Walden university has dermatology as part of their acute care. Derm and acute care are 2 very different stecialties and I’m not sure why they are grouped together. I don’t mind doing acute care as I already work in icu. I just don’t want to take the wrong classes! Anybody have any thoughts on this?

  12. Nurse Practitioners spent many years to obtain their NP-C. It is unfair to say that physicians study more. Many of NP’s
    have prior BSN, MSN degrees, or PharmD degrees plus 4 years studying for RN and 2-3 years for MSN. Furthermore, most of NPs have extensive hands on experience. Most of them worked in acute care settings for a while prior to obtaining their NP degree. I hope non of physicians get offended, but I would rather question education of Carribean graduated physicians rather than US graduated NP’s. In order to get in to Carribean Med school applicants are not required to complete nor pass certain prerequisites and exams.

    1. I believe Ivy is very ill informed about the rigors of study to achieve the MBBS in the Caribbean. You are making faulty generalizations without sufficient background knowledge. What audacity!!!
      I am a Caribbean trained NP who got a DNP here in the USA. I graduated with a 4.0 because my course was not half as intensive as my MSN – NP from the University of the West Indies. That same University has produced world class physicians, some of whom I was fortunate to have as professors.

  13. Patton Graham, NP

    Consider This is an 80+ topic dermatology course for NPs and PAs with 15.0 CME including 10.0 pharmacology hours. Really hits on all the common derm material.

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