Acceptance Factors for Matching into Dermatology for Residency

10 min



From A Program Director Viewpoint: What You Need to Match into a Dermatology Residency


The NRMP conducted a survey to determine what factors Program Directors consider when deciding which candidates to interview and rank for their residency program. The results were compiled into a “at a glance” tool, whic is extremely helpful in gauging where your application packet stands compared to the applicant pool, and whether adding additional components, like a letter of recommendation (LOR) in the specialty, could give you a leg up as programs review your application.

The interactive tableau tool can be found here, and we recommend taking a look at the specialty you’ll be applying to before submitting your ERAS packet:!/vizhome/PDSurvey_0/Desktoptablet


For Dermatology residency specifically, major components of the survey you should pay attention to include:


  • Selection Criteria for an Interview LOR in the specialty is a MAJOR factor, while having an appropriate Step 1 score and commitment to the field (ie research) are also highly recommended.


  • Step 1 and Step 2 Scores:

  • Step 1 – Score


      • 250+ looks like a very solid score in dermatology, with the median being 243.
      • Range programs do NOT typically offer interviews: 230-235 seems to be the minimum threshold we would recommend for having a good chance at enough interviews. If you’re below 230-235 range, we suggest having a back-up specialty you could consider.
      • Range programs DO typically offer interviews: 250+ seems to be the range at which you can feel comfortable in being offered interviews by a decent number of programs. If you’re in the 260+ range, you can likely be selective about where you apply.


  • Step 2CK – Score


      • 240-245 seems to be the minimum threshold at which programs will grant interviews
      • Scores below 230 generally will place you in a unfavorable position to receive an interview 


  • Step 2CK – Timing of Taking the Exam
  • Only 30% of programs required at least passing CK, although we do expect this number to grow. You can wait to take Step 2CK until after you have submitted ERAS.



  • Failing Step 1 is more likely to be a show stopper: 
    • Failing Step 1 is a BIG deal in ANY specialty, and this is especially relevant in dermatology. 50% of dermatology programs will NOT consider you if you’ve failed Step 1, and 60% will NOT consider you if you’ve failed Step 2. So, if you’ve failed an exam, you can still apply, but you should apply to a BIG number (100+) of programs. 50% and 40% of programs seldomly consider applicants who have failed Step 1 and Step 2, respectively.

  • Types of Applicants Considered:
    • International Grads (U.S. and non-U.S.) are more likely to have difficulty matching into dermatology: There are no programs that consider interviewing or ranking IMGs (U.S. and non-U.S.) on a routine basis. 75-80% consider U.S. IMGs seldomly, and 20-25% never consider an IMG for an interview or rank. If you are a non-US IMG, the chances are even lower, with nearly 60% of programs never considering such an applicant. We recommend doing your homework to determine which programs may be more likely to consider IMGs, and definitely recommend a back-up specialty to apply into.
    • Osteopathic graduates may have a chance to match into dermatology: 6% of programs will routinely interview DO applicants, but there are no programs that routinely rank them. 1/3 of programs will never interview or rank a DO applicant. With the remaining 61-67% that seldomly consider DO applicants, it is very important to do your research to identify these programs so that you can best increase your chances of matching.

  • Interviewees Get Ranked!: If you get an interview invitation, you are very likely to end up on the rank list if you interview. We recommend ranking at least 8-10 programs, so once you receive 10 interview invitations, you can feel okay with starting to prioritize and cancel as more come in given you are likely to get ranked.
  • Expect to receive interview invitations in November: 70% of the interview invitations will be sent out during November, and over 20% will be sent out in December and January. Expect to hear very little from dermatology programs after the first 2 months that you submit your ERAS.
  • Expect to interview in December/January: Only 9% of interviews will occur before December, which gives you ample time to prepare. For further discussion on how to prep for your interview, see our blog post on How to Crush your Residency Interview. 

After you’ve browsed your specialty, take a look at a few other specialties and note what’s NOT important for Dermatology Residency:

Step 2 isn’t particularly important in dermatology


  • The MSPE/Dean’s letter isn’t particularly important for dermatology
  • Class ranking/quartile isn’t as important in dermatology as in other specialties



Summary for Dermatology Residency Applications: 


  • A solid dermatology application would include a 243+ on Step 1, 245+ on Step 2, a LOR from 1-3 dermatologists, and evidence of commitment to the specialty (ie research). 
  • Dermatology does not seem particularly IMG friendly, but it certainly is possible to match as an IMG if you do your research to identify programs with active IMG residents and establish proper connections.
  • If you’ve failed an exam, you can still apply in Dermatology, but you should apply very broadly and apply for a back-up specialty.
  • Expect Interviews in December-January. Reach out to programs you have high interest in if you haven’t heard from them by mid-December. Once you have about 10 interview invitations, you can consider being a bit more selective about which ones you actually take (but not before).


Good Luck! 

Wondering about your chances of matching into other specialties for residency? Check out our analysis of the NRMP directors survey “at a glance” tool for areas including anesthesia, neurology, family medicine, transitional year, psychiatry, emergency medicine, and more under the Residency Applications category of our blog! If you need further or specialized assistance understanding which residency specialties you are best suited to apply to, you can contact us or visit our residency advising page to learn more about how Elite Medical Prep residency advising services.

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About the Author

Alexandra R., MD

After completing her coursework a semester early in December of 2013, Alexandra Rzepecki officially graduated with the University of Michigan Class of 2014 with Summa…

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