Primary Certification Exam


To be eligible for certification in Dermatology, candidates must meet the criteria below:

  • Be a graduate of a COCA-accredited college of osteopathic medicine.
  • Satisfactorily complete a one-year internship in an AOA-approved training program.
  • Satisfactorily complete a three-year dermatology AOA or ACGME-accredited residency training program.
  • Successfully sit for and pass all sections of the certification examination.
  • Hold an unrestricted license to practice in a state or territory.
  • Adhere to the AOA Code of Ethics.


At the time of application, you must submit the following to the AOBD:

  • Letters of recommendation from two AOBD-certified dermatologists. The letters must be dated the same year as the exam. Please include your AOA ID on the letter.
  • Copy of your medical school diploma.
  • Copy of your internship diploma.
  • Copy of your state license. License must be valid as of date of test.
  • A recent passport-size photo or professional photo.
  • Signed applicant statement and ethical statement.
  • Completed application form.
  • All three years of your training must be declared complete for your application to be reviewed. Be sure your program director has submitted all necessary documentation to the AOCD Education Evaluating Committee no later than 30 days before the exam date.

Exam Fees

A non-refundable application fee of $1,800 must be submitted with your completed application. No application will be considered complete until all fees have been paid. If a candidate fails one or two parts of the exam, the fee for re-examination is $900. If the candidate fails three or four sections, it requires a re-take of the entire exam with a fee of $1,800.

Exam Dates and Deadlines

The Dermatology Primary Certification Exam is offered once per year, generally every fall. Applications are due August 1 of each exam year.

Exam Content Outline

The exam is administered in one nine-hour session. It is designed to thoroughly test the candidate’s knowledge of the basic sciences and clinical aspects of dermatology and related disciplines. The exam is psychometrically analyzed and updated yearly. There are four parts of the exam: Clinical Part I – Dermatopathology In this section, candidates view histopathological digital images of glass slides and answer multiple-choice questions about the slide. Slides will be viewed with Aperio ImageScope, which allows users to manipulate, rotate and magnify the slide. Candidates will be able to view slides at their own pace. It is recommended that candidates download and practice with the free ImageScope prior to the test to become comfortable with manipulating digital slides. Additional questions on staining, immunohistochemistry and other laboratory techniques are included in this section. Clinical Part II – Clinical Dermatology This section utilizes high-resolution clinical images of dermatological conditions with associated multiple-choice questions, emphasizing clinical and laboratory dermatology. Written Part I – Osteopathic Principles & Practice This written essay exam tests a candidate’s understanding of the osteopathic approach to dermatology, emphasizing a multifactorial approach to disease management. Case histories are presented. The candidate then responds in writing in the requested format, which may include a hospital consult, an outpatient consult, a letter to a referring physician, or instructions to patients or family members regarding the case. The candidate will discuss how they would approach the evaluation, diagnosis and management of the case. Candidates are scored based on the appropriateness of their evaluation and management process, their communication skills and the integration of the osteopathic concepts into the evaluation and management plan. Their ability to comprehend the presented clinical findings, apply this knowledge to solve the diagnostic problem, organize and communicate this information effectively and ethically are integral to the scoring of this essay exam. Written Part II – Comprehensive This section covers basic science and clinical dermatology.