Home » How to Match into a Dermatology Residency Program in 2021

How to Match into a Dermatology Residency Program in 2021

11 min


students in a lab after matching into dermatology residency program


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


Matching into a Dermatology Program for residency is no small feat. Luckily, 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 survey solicited information on: 

  • the number of applications received, screened, and reviewed, as well as the number of applicants interviewed and ranked
  • the frequency with which programs interview and rank specific applicant groups
  • use of test scores in considering which applicants to interview
  • factors used for both interview selection and for ranking applicants


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: https://public.tableau.com/profile/national.resident.matching.program#!/vizhome/PDSurvey2020-Final/Desktoptablet. In order to help you on your journey to a successful Dermatology match, we’ve highlighted the key points for Dermatology below.

*Of note, although this survey was sent to 142 dermatology program directors, response rates were limited so these results are based on N=16*


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


Selection Criteria for an Interview

 These are the top 10 factors program directors use in selecting applicants to interview. 100% consider USMLE Step 1 scores a MAJOR factor. Factors that were ranked as most important (with a rating of 4.5, 5 being the highest level of importance) include a rotation in the department, grades in required clerkships, MSPE/Dean’s Letter, and LOR in the specialty.


2020 Survey
2019 Survey of Comparison and Changes











  • 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: 62% of the interview invitations will be sent out during November, 20% in October, and 12% will be sent out in December. Expect to hear very little from dermatology programs within the first 2 months of submitting ERAS.


    • Expect to interview in December/January: Only 15% of interviews will occur before December, which gives you ample time to prepare. The majority of interviews (64%) occur in January. For further discussion on how to prep for your interview, see our blog post on how to Crush your Residency Interview: https://elitemedicalprep.com/preparing-for-your-residency-interview/



Selection Criteria to be Ranked

These are the top 10 factors program directors use in selecting applicants to be ranked. 100% consider feedback from residents, interactions with faculty, and interactions with house staff to be major factors. The factors that received the highest ranking were interpersonal skills (4.8), interactions with housestaff (4.7), interactions with faculty 94.7), and perceived interest in the program (4.6).


Step 1 and Step 2 CK Scores

  • Step 1 – Score
    • 250 is the median score above which programs almost always grant interviews
    • 220 is the median score for which programs typically do NOT offer interviews

    Step 2CK – Score

    • 247.5 is the median score above which programs almost always grant interviews
    • 230 is the median score below which programs generally do NOT grant interviews

    COMLEX Level 1 – Score

    • Data not available

    COMLEX Level 2 – Score

    • Data not available



Failing Step 1 Will Likely Inhibit your Dermatology Match Chances: 

  • 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 67% will NOT consider you if you’ve failed Step 2CK. So, if you’ve failed an exam, you can still apply, but you should apply to a BIG number of programs and do your research to see. 50% and 33% of programs seldom 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. 58% consider U.S. IMGs seldom, and 42% never consider a U.S. 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 seniors may have difficulty matching into dermatology: No programs regularly interview and rank DO applicants. 58% of programs will never interview a DO applicant. With the remaining 42% that seldom 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.


SOAP Communications

  • Only 8% of programs have no communication other than receipt of the ERAS application. 33% prefer no communication from the applicants and will initiate the contact themselves. 
  • 25% prefer to be contacted by the applicant’s medical school after the program has initiated contact. 
  • Thus, it is reasonable to look into the programs that you are applying to and determine if you should pursue additional contact to increase your chances of receiving an interview.



Summary for Dermatology Residency Applications


  • A solid dermatology application would include a minimum score of 250 on Step 1, 248 on Step 2, a LOR from 1+  dermatologist, and a rotation in the department.
  • Dermatology does not seem particularly IMG friendly, but it 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 a USMLE or COMLEX  exam, you can still apply in Dermatology, but you should apply very broadly and apply for a back-up specialty.
  • Expect to receive Interview Invites primarily in November and go on interviews in December and January.



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

Alexandra earned her Neuroscience degree from the University of Michigan, graduating with Summa Cum Laude recognition in 2014. She continued her education at the University…

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