Interested in how to become a pediatrician, how long it takes, and more? We’ll answer these questions to help you start your journey in pediatric care.
If you’re passionate about medicine and working with children, becoming a pediatrician could be the right career for you. Pediatricians have the special responsibility of caring for children from infancy to teens, making this career diverse and rewarding. Read on to learn more about the requirements pediatricians must fulfill!
The work involved in becoming a pediatrician includes late-night studying, long shifts, and the pressure to maintain a high GPA. What’s even more pressurizing is that you’re given responsibility in the lives of young people by the third year of medical school.
Working with sick children can be emotionally taxing, and it takes effort to develop coping strategies. So, in summary, it’s hard to become a pediatrician. But if you’re passionate about this field, it’s worth it. Fostering the health and well-being of children is extremely rewarding, and the impact you leave on the lives of families is immeasurable.
While treating patients for acute illnesses, you’ll likely follow up with children and their families long-term. During that time, you can employ preventative medicine and encourage healthy habits in children.
Below we’ve outlined six major steps to becoming a pediatrician. While each of these steps is a significant time commitment, it’s best to know what’s required of you.
The first step to becoming a pediatrician is earning a bachelor’s degree, which typically takes three to four years. It’s recommended that you major in something related to pediatrics, such as biology or child psychology.
Doing so helps you prepare for the MCAT, your first two years of medical school, and helps you confirm your interests. However, as long as you take the necessary prerequisites, your major doesn’t make much difference.
Maintaining a high GPA of 3.5 or higher is recommended to help you become a more competitive candidate. You should also seek experiences such as:
These efforts outside class strengthen your application and show your commitment to the medical field.
An example of one of many internship programs you could check out is the University of Alabama’s Preparation for Graduate and Medical Education. PARAdiGM for short, this funded summer program is for exceptional undergraduate students from underrepresented minority backgrounds who are interested in becoming physician-scientists.
Whether you just finished college, have been working for years, or have finished graduate school, the next step is to apply to medical school. Application requirements differ depending on the school, but most schools require MCAT scores. Aim for a score above 511, the average score of entering MD students.
Once accepted into medical school, you’re ready to start your first real training on becoming a pediatrician! Medical school is typically four years long, in which the first half is the pre-clinical phase. During this time, you’ll spend most of your time in the classroom and laboratories learning basic medical concepts such as:
The clinical phase starts in year three and offers hands-on experience working with patients in clinics and hospitals. This is when you’ll experience what the daily life of a medical professional looks like. Your clinical rotations can include pediatrics, family medicine, psychiatry, and more.
You’re required to take the United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE) during medical school. This three-step examination grants you medical licensure and is required to apply to U.S. residency programs.
After two years of clinical rotations and graduation, you’re ready to begin a residency. You’ll use the Electronic Residency Application Service (ERAS) to apply to pediatric residency programs. You’ll provide letters of recommendation, a personal statement, and documents outlining your experience.
The length of a pediatric residency is typically three years long. You’ll develop specialized skills in pediatric medicine under the supervision of physicians. Residency introduces you to pediatric emergency medicine, behavioral pediatrics, neonatal care, and more.
After completing residency, you have the option to subspecialize in an area of pediatrics, such as:
Subspecialties typically range from two to four years long. The specialized knowledge you gain in these programs can help you pursue specific pediatric career paths.
After completing residency, you can apply for a medical license and become board certified. To become fully licensed, you must pass the American Board of Internal Medicine’s certification exam.
Upon becoming licensed and board-certified, you can look forward to working in a hospital, clinic, or private practice.
It takes approximately 11 to 15 years, depending on your timeline:
However, it can take longer if you take gap years before college or medical school. You may be able to shorten your timeline if you use AP credits to fulfill introductory course requirements or if you attend a three-year MD program.
Pediatricians provide medical care for infants, children, teenagers, and young adults. They’re intensively trained to diagnose and treat a broad range of illnesses.
There are many different types of pediatricians. General pediatricians work in private practices, clinics, or hospitals, providing primary care from infancy. This includes preventive care and monitoring physical and mental development.
Examples of day-to-day responsibilities include:
After residency training, some pediatricians subspecialize in a particular field and spend their days primarily focusing on their specialty. Pediatric cardiologists, for instance, are trained to become experts in heart conditions in children.
Read on for answers to frequently asked questions about becoming a pediatrician.
A pediatrician should be someone who loves and has the skill set to work with children. This includes having patience, compassion, and excellent communication skills. You’ll need to communicate with children, who may not be able to express their needs, and with parents who can be highly anxious about their children’s health.
The demand for pediatricians is expected to grow by 15.2% from 2016 to 2026.
While your major doesn’t matter, you must take the courses required by your medical schools of choice, such as biology and chemistry classes. Other than those, taking courses related to pediatrics can be helpful. Consider taking child psychology and development courses, for instance.
There are 19 major pediatric subspecialties, including adolescent medicine, cardiology, child abuse, dermatology, neonatology, and emergency medicine. These subspecialties open doors to multiple pediatric career paths.
You need a bachelor’s degree and an MD or DO from medical school before applying to a pediatric residency.
Now that you know how to become a pediatrician, you can look forward to the rewarding responsibility of helping children and their families every day. The positive impact of pediatric care doesn’t stop once a person enters adulthood but often lasts a lifetime.
While the path to pediatrics is by no means easy, a positive outlook, dedication, and a clear idea of what’s expected from you can make your dream a reality.