What is a Dermatology Nurse Practitioner? (Answered By a Nurse)
Written By: Caitlin Goodwin DNP, CNM, RN
The skin is the largest organ of the body, protecting us from disease and harm, regulating body temperature, and enhancing touch sensations. Skin disease in the United States costs over $75 billion annually in treatments. The number of dermatology nurse practitioners (NPs) is rapidly rising. Whether it’s treating skin cancer or performing Botox injections, dermatology NPs are the experts in skin, hair, and nails.
Dermatology NPs care for everyone from youth to seniors. They provide care and guidance during a time where the patient needs a little TLC, such as severe acne or skin cancer. If you are wondering, how do I become a dermatology nurse practitioner? Read on. This article will cover everything you need to know, from what dermatology NPs do to how to become one.
What Does a Dermatology Nurse Practitioner Do?
A dermatology NP possesses a graduate nursing degree, board certification, and advanced training in dermatology care. Dermatology nurse practitioner duties are specialized to the profession. Dermatology NPs diagnose conditions of the hair, skin, and nails. They prescribe medication that treats these conditions and perform many in-office procedures. While some dermatology NPs have certified through the dermatology certification exam, most have not.
Conditions that a dermatology NP may treat include:
● skin cancer
● wound management
They also may perform the following:
● cosmetic procedures
● mole removals
● skin allergy testing
Most dermatology NPs care for patients across the life span. However, some choose to narrow their niche and work with cosmetic, surgical, and pediatric sub-specializations:
● Cosmetic dermatologic NPs work with adults
● Pediatric dermatologic NPs work with children
● Surgical dermatologic NPs work with patients of all ages but perform or assist with procedures.
Where Do Dermatology Nurse Practitioners Work?
Dermatology NPs typically work in private practice, whether it is group or individual, in a medical office building. Dermatology NPs work in a variety of settings, such as:
General dermatology office
with a dermatologist.
Plastic surgeon’s office:
They can work with a plastic surgeon to perform minor procedures.
They can also work at a hospital burn unit or conduct dermatology consultations for hospitals.
Education Dermatology NPs
can educate at nursing or medical schools.
Dermatology NPs can perform cosmetic procedures.
Some pharmaceutical laboratories for skincare will hire dermatology NPs.
Do You Have the Skills and Characteristics Required to Be a Successful Dermatology Nurse Practitioner?
Dermatology NPs work with rare and confusing skin conditions and may differ from traditional NPs in many ways. There are some positive attributes that one should possess to become a dermatology nurse practitioner. Because of their focus on examining rare skin, hair, and nail conditions, they should be passionate and intelligent. Other requisite skills and characteristics are:
○ You will encounter many rashes and skin conditions that you may not have seen before. It’s critical to perform a thorough history and physical examination to get answers.
○ Many patients have waited months for a visit. A lot of the procedures are out of pocket because health insurance will not pay. Patients expect kindness and compassion.
○ As an NP, you must be able to start your day with one set of expectations and dive into the unexpected.
○ While skin cancer is typically not fatal, receiving a cancer diagnosis is scary. Dermatology NPs should be compassionate and caring while educating and treating patients during this time.
Why Become a Dermatology Nurse Practitioner?
The advantages of becoming a dermatology NP includes following your passion for caring for patients who need you. Other advantages are:
● ideal hours for work-life balance
● continuing education and acquiring new skills (i.e., procedures)
● Six-figure salary
● Growing demand
● an impressive career where no two days are the same
How Long Does It Take to Become a Dermatology Nurse Practitioner?
When you’ve decided you want to pursue a career as a dermatology NP, it can be challenging to be patient. The process requires three to four years to achieve a bachelor’s degree, two-three years for a general nurse practitioner education, passing a difficult exam for certification, and additional training for specialization in dermatology and cosmetic procedures. Altogether, this will take between five to eight years if completed full-time. Those who spend more time working as a nurse or who attend the programs part-time will take longer.
How Much Does It Cost to Become a Dermatology Nurse Practitioner?
Cost is an important consideration in becoming a dermatology nurse practitioner. The price of the tuition varies depending on a variety of factors, like
● Brick and mortar institution vs. virtual
● Public vs. private
● Master of Science in Nursing vs. Doctor of Nursing Practice
● Out of state vs. in state
The overall price includes more than just tuition. Each program will vary in its expenses depending on the school and the area’s cost of living. The cost to become a dermatology NP include:
● Technology fees
● Program costs
● Course materials
○ Lab coats
○ Name tags
○ Procedure practice kits
Following is a Step-by-Step Process to Become a Dermatology Nurse Practitioner
Those considering a career in dermatology NP may feel overwhelmed before they start. One’s journey from high school to competent clinical practice as a dermatology NP is a long road. The following will guide you through each step in how to become a dermatology nurse practitioner.
1. Graduate from high school and apply to college:
○ Apply to an associate’s degree program for nursing OR apply to a bachelor’s degree program in nursing
○ You will need to demonstrate high school activities, volunteer work, and a grade point average (preferably over 3.0).
2. Graduate from an accredited nursing school
with courses such as community nursing, anatomy and physiology, microbiology, and nursing ethics.
3. Take and pass your NCLEX-RN:
Also known as the National Council Licensure Examination for RNs
, the NCLEX-RN is a computer-based test that will assess your proficiency in basic, entry-level nursing skills and knowledge.
4. Obtain licensure as a registered nurse (RN):
After completing school and passing the NCLEX-RN, you will apply to the nursing board in your state to be licensed as an RN.
5. Complete a bachelor’s degree:
Dermatology NPs must pursue higher education. If you graduated with your Associate’s degree in nursing, obtaining a bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) is one of the first steps in becoming a dermatology nurse practitioner. The alternative to getting a BSN is to attend a bridge program for RN to Master of Science in Nursing.
6. Gain experience as a nurse:
Work for two to three years to gain experience before NP school. You should aim to work in the area of expertise that you would like to work to ensure that it’s a good fit. There are many options for nurses to work in dermatology or wound care. For example, working in long term care with the wound care nurses, working on a hospital burn unit, or on a floor where nurses manage dressing changes.
7. Obtain special certifications:
After working as an RN and gaining experience with various skin conditions, you can achieve additional nursing certifications like:
○ Dermatology Nurse Certified (DNC)
■ To sit for this exam, you must have 2000 hours of dermatology nursing experience in the last two years.
■ You must be an RN with two years of dermatology nursing experience.
○ Certified Wound Nurse (CWCN), Certified Wound Ostomy Nurse (CWON) or Certified Wound Ostomy Continence Nurse (CWOCN)
■ Requires recertification every five years.
○ Certified Plastic Surgical Nurse (CPSN) or Certified Aesthetic Nurse Specialist (CANS)
■ You must be an RN working with a Dermatologist, Plastic Surgeon, Ophthalmologist, Ears, Nose, and Throat (E.N.T.) physician with at least 1000 practice hours experience.
■ You must have worked in this role for at least two of the last three years.
8. Apply to Graduate Nursing School:
Graduate schools require a significant portfolio to achieve admission to become a dermatology nurse practitioner:
○ Completion of all prerequisite coursework
○ Curriculum vitae
○ Personal goal narrative
○ At least three professional references
9. Attend NP school:
Attend a general program like a family nurse practitioner (FNP) program. Depending on your current education level and your educational goals, you can pursue an RN to MSN, MSN, or Doctorate of Nursing Practice (DNP) degree.
○ Nurse practitioners take general nurse practitioner courses like health care policy and leadership, pathophysiology, health assessment, statistics, nursing ethics, pharmacology, and nursing theory.
■ For those who pursue an FNP, you will take courses that specialize in all kinds of care across the lifespan like acute care, chronic care, care of the childbearing woman, and pediatrics.
○ Complete clinical with a more general provider All dermatology NPs participate in a broad clinical experience. There is not yet a specified dermatology educational program.
10. Graduate NP school:
One of the hardest parts of becoming a dermatology nurse practitioner is this step. However, there is no feeling in the world like graduating from NP school.
11. Pass the FNP certification exam
and become certified as an FNP-BC or FNP-C
through one of two certification bodies:
○ American Association of Nurse Practitioners Certification Board (AANPCB) delivers the FNP-C
○ American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) promotes the FNP-BC
12. Obtain advanced practice nursing licensure in your state:
The licensure process varies by state, but the certifying body typically reports your exam results to the board of nursing. The board of nursing will process the exam results. After that, they will review your application for licensure and issue you a state NP license. Some states label NPs as advanced practice nurses (APNs) or advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs).
○ If you plan to practice in more than one state, you must apply to multiple nursing boards. While there is no compact NP law to date, the National Council of the State Boards of Nursing recently proposed reciprocity for advanced practice nurses in other states.
13. Find employment:
Some dermatology NPs start in an internal medicine office, while others jump into their dream career at a dermatology clinic. Seek employment at a dermatology clinic either before or after achieving NP experience. You will need lots of specialized training in your first few months, so ensure that your co-workers promote a supportive educational environment.
14. Learn on the job:
The specific training for dermatology NPs is determined by their collaborating healthcare team or dermatologist and not by an overseeing body.
○ Master's degree in nursing
○ National certification as a nurse practitioner
○ Minimum of 3,000 hours of dermatology practice within the past three years
16. Sit for the dermatology NP certification exam:
While not required, taking the dermatology certified NP (DCNP) exam demonstrates your professionalism. The Dermatology Nurse Practitioner Certification Board gives the exam through the Center for Nursing Education and Testing (CNET
○ The test is 175 questions and four hours long.
17. Receive results:
You must receive at least 75% to pass. You find out your results immediately. If you pass, the certification is good for three years.
18. Attend a dermatology NP fellowship:
A fellowship is given to certified nurse practitioners who collaborate with other dermatologic professionals to meet patients’ needs. As of now, there is only one program. This two-year, full-time fellowship is offered at the Lahey Hospital and Medical Center
, and the recipient will receive full benefits during a 40-hour-per-week residency. Lahey provides a didactic and clinical curriculum to expand their knowledge, which trains them in any dermatology setting.
How Much Does a Dermatology Nurse Practitioner Make?
According to ZipRecruiter, Dermatology NPs make an average of $100,562 per year or $48.35 per hour.
| Per Hour||$48.35 |
|Per Year||$100,562 |
The Top Paying States
When looking at the top paying states for dermatology NPs, New York pays the most at $53.03 per hour or $110,303 per year. However, Massachusetts follows close behind with only fifty cents less at $52.53. Rounding out the top ten are Washington, New Hampshire, Hawaii, Maryland, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Alaska, and Vermont.
| Rank|| State|| Per Hour|| Per Year|
| 1|| New York|| $53.03|| $110,303|
| 2|| Massachusetts|| $52.53|| $109,260|
| 3|| Washington|| $52.16|| $108,498|
| 4|| New Hampshire|| $51.12|| $106,336|
| 5|| Hawaii|| $50.45|| $104,937|
| 6|| Maryland|| $48.68|| $101,258|
| 7|| Connecticut|| $48.67|| $101,226|
| 8|| Rhode Island|| $48.27|| $100,403|
| 9|| Alaska|| $48.21|| $100,273|
| 10|| Vermont|| $48.01|| $99,857|
Job Market for Dermatology Nurse Practitioners
The job market for dermatologic providers is growing and the need for clinicians in the field of dermatology is
increasing by 11.4% between 2016 and 2026. Reasons for this market demand include:
● Increasing rates of skin cancer
● Aging population and cosmetic procedures
● Research for dermatologic pharmaceutical companies
The states with the largest need for dermatologists and dermatology NPs are New York, California, and Pennsylvania. As long as dermatologists continue to see the value of employing dermatology NPs, the demand for dermatology NPs will only increase.
The Dermatology Nurses’ Association is a nationwide network of dermatology nurse leaders who strive to promote dermatologic nursing care’s highest standards. In 1978, an informal meeting gathered for dermatology nurses and grew to the first convention in 1982. Members include nurse practitioners and licensed, registered, practical or vocational nurses involved or interested in nursing patients’ dermatologic care.
● The association publishes a journal
with timely, evidence-based, and relevant articles about dermatological nursing care.
● Mission: “To promote excellence in dermatologic care by providing education, networking, and support for [nurses and] nurse practitioners.”
In 2011, the NADNP was organized by nurse practitioners to address needs in education, research, networking, and professional support for dermatology care. The organization also supports all NPs looking for leadership and guidance in the field of dermatology. The organization promotes access to high-quality dermatology care for all and works to reform health care. NADNP holds conferences and educational offerings that enable evidence-based dermatology practice, research, and communication networks.
The certification board ensures high standards among dermatology NPs by establishing the highest credentialing standard to validate one’s competency and proficiency in dermatologic nursing patient care. Dermatology NPs receive professional recognition through the DNPCB.
Dermatology NPs are skilled professionals who improve the skin, hair, and nails of patients throughout the lifespan. They typically work clinic hours and enjoy a hardworking environment with other healthcare professionals. If becoming a dermatology NP is your dream, after reading this article stop asking “how to become a dermatology nurse practitioner?” and jump in.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) Answered by Our Expert
Will I have to get a DNP to continue working as a dermatology NP?
As of now, you do not need a DNP to work as an NP. However, if a DNP is required in the future, the MSN will be grandfathered in for existing NPs. However, getting your D.N.P. is an excellent decision because it will enable you to teach and prepare you for leadership.
How many hours a week do dermatology NPs work?
Dermatology NPs typically work banker’s hours. They work 40 hour weeks, Monday to Friday, and 8-hour workdays.
Do dermatology NPs perform cosmetic procedures like electrolysis, microdermabrasion, fat freezing, or body sculpting?
Dermatology NPs work at medical spas and provide cosmetic procedures. In some cases, they have to receive formal training. They perform various cosmetic procedures like:
● electrolysis (hair removal)
● chemical peels
● Botox injections
What’s the difference between a dermatology NP and a dermatologist?
Dermatologists and dermatology NPs provide similar care for many different conditions. However, dermatologists complete medical school, a residency, and hold a medical license. Dermatologists can practice independently in every state and perform surgery on skin conditions like cancer. On the other hand, Dermatology NPs go to nursing school, hold a graduate degree, and are certified by the state Board of Nursing. They must practice within the bounds of their state Board of Nursing.
Do You Have to Take the Certification Exam to Become a Dermatology Nurse Practitioner?
You do not need to sit for the exam. Most dermatology NPs learn through practice. However, the dermatology certified NP (DCNP
) credential objectively measures your competence to perform dermatology care. This board certification is in line with other medical specialties that require board certification.
How old do dermatology NP patients have to be?
Dermatology NPs can care for patients throughout the lifespan. Some focus on pediatric cases, while others may primarily work with adults. However, the only limit to their dermatology practice is according to their nurse practitioner license. For example, a pediatric NP is limited to pediatrics, while an FNP can work with populations of any age.
Caitlin Goodwin DNP, CNM, RN
Caitlin Goodwin is a Certified Nurse-Midwife who has been a nurse for 12 years, primarily in women’s health. She is passionate about caring for children with developmental disabilities, as her son has Autism Spectrum Disorder. She is currently working as a freelance writer and consultant and is passionate about advocating for her patients, students, and profession.