What Does a Veterinary Dermatologist Do?

Learn About the Salary, Required Skills, & More

Image by Melissa Ling © The Balance 2019 

Veterinary dermatologists are responsible for diagnosing and treating a wide variety of animal skin diseases and disorders. They can also be involved with teaching, performing, and publishing scientific research, developing animal health products, or consulting on cases when an opinion is requested by an animal’s regular veterinarian.

Veterinary dermatologists who work in academia often have additional duties that might include giving lectures, supervising lab work, supervising student researchers, and advising students and residents.

Veterinary Dermatologist Duties & Responsibilities

Responsibilities can depend on whether the dermatologist is board certified. Duties often include:

  • Evaluating an animal before treatment
  • Performing diagnostic tests and procedures, such as skin exams, biopsies, skin scrapings, and cultures
  • Interpreting the results of tests and recommending a course of treatment
  • Performing surgeries
  • Documenting cases in detail for medical records
  • Supervising veterinary technicians or other support staff

Veterinary dermatologists solve problems such as hair loss, parasitic infections, emerging cancers, and a variety of other related disorders of the skin, nails, and ears.

Veterinary Dermatologist Salary

Licensed veterinarians tend to earn top dollar. The BLS doesn't provide specific salary data for each of the veterinary specialties, but veterinarians overall earn:

  • Median Annual Salary: $93,830 ($45.11/hour)
  • Top 10% Annual Salary: More than $162,450 ($78.10/hour)
  • Bottom 10% Annual Salary: Less than $56,540 ($27.18/hour)

Compensation can vary widely based on the practitioner’s level of experience in the field.

Education, Training & Certification

Those looking for a career as a veterinary dermatologist will need extensive education and certification.

  • Education: Veterinary dermatologists begin by completing an undergraduate degree before achieving their Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degrees.
  • Residency: As a licensed veterinarian, dermatologists can pursue a residency which provides additional specialty training in the field.
  • Certification: The ACVD administers the certifying exam for veterinary dermatology in the U.S. A candidate must complete a one-year internship to become eligible to take the board certification exam, then complete two additional years of residency and publish at least one paper in a scientific journal.
  • Diplomate Status: A veterinarian will be granted diplomate status in the specialty of dermatology after passing the certification exam.

There are approximately 235 active diplomates in the U.S. Diplomates must complete continuing education credits each year to maintain their status.

Veterinary Dermatologist Skills & Competencies

You should have several essential qualities to succeed at becoming a veterinary dermatologist:

  • Compassion: Animals may be in pain at the time you treat them, and some are more well-trained than others. You'll need compassion when handling them, as well as when dealing with worried owners.
  • Good with your hands: This field requires the use of sometimes delicate instruments, and you'll need steady hands when performing surgeries.
  • Problem-solving ability: This will help immeasurably with diagnoses and in determining the best option to fix the problem when taking owners' budgets and the animals' pain and stressed into consideration.
  • Communication skills: You must convey information factually but not over the heads of animal owners and staff.

Job Outlook

The Bureau of Labor Statistics doesn't separate the specialty of veterinary dermatology from data collected for all veterinarians, but it does project solid growth for the veterinary profession at about 19% over the decade from 2016 to 2026. This is significantly faster than the average for all occupations.

The rigorous nature of the training programs and board certification exams ensure that only a limited number of professionals can achieve board certification each year. This limited supply should guarantee a strong demand for professionals in this veterinary specialty.

Work Environment

The environment can depend on whether a veterinary dermatologist is working in academia, a veterinary hospital, a research or diagnostic laboratory, a government agency, or for a pharmaceutical company. In any case, the job is very hands-on with animals.

Veterinary dermatologists might specialize in working with one particular species, although it's more common to see a broader category of patients, such as small animals, large animals, or exotics. Large animals and exotics typically require working outdoors, or at least in barns, while treatment of small animals normally takes place in offices or clinics.

Work Schedule

Veterinarians as a whole tend to work full time, and often more than 40 hours a week. Even in the field of dermatology, care isn't always scheduled and performed by appointment. Emergencies can arise at night and on weekends and holidays.

How to Get the Job

CHOOSE THE RIGHT SCHOOL

The American College of Veterinary Dermatology maintains a list of approved training programs that includes educational institutions such as Auburn University, Cornell University, North Carolina State University, Ohio State University, University of California at Davis, University of Montreal, University of Pennsylvania, University of Tennessee, University of Wisconsin, University of Guelph, and Michigan State University.

JOIN AN ORGANIZATION

several professional organizations accept members who are board-certified dermatologists or veterinarians with a strong interest in the field. The World Association of Veterinary Dermatology (WAVD) and the American Academy of Veterinary Dermatology (AAVD) are two such organizations.

Comparing Similar Jobs

Some similar jobs and their median annual pay include: