Sign up to our Newsletter

Picture of a Pediatrician inspecting a young child's throat using a black medical tool with a light

How to Become a Pediatrician

August 15, 2022
image of dots background
How Hard is it to Become a Pediatrician?Steps to Becoming a PediatricianHow Long Does It Take to Become A Pediatrician? What Do Pediatricians Do?How to Become a Pediatrician: FAQs

”Akhil

Reviewed by:

Akhil Katakam

Third-Year Medical Student, Lewis Katz School of Medicine at Temple University

Reviewed: 4/13/22

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!

image of dots background

How Hard Is It to Become a Pediatrician?

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. 

Picture of a pediatrician looking after a kid, while her mother is waiting.

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.

Sign up to our Newsletter

Steps to Becoming a Pediatrician

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.

Infographic outlining the 6 steps to becoming a pediatrician

1) Obtain a Bachelor’s Degree

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. 

2) Apply to Medical School

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. 

You’ll also need to provide letters of recommendation and a description of your extracurriculars. If the initial phase of your application is successful, you’ll be invited to an interview.

3) Complete Medical School

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.

4) Complete a Residency Program in Pediatrics 

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.

5) Complete an Optional Subspeciality

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. 

6) Become Licensed and Board-certified

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.

How Long Does It Take to Become a Pediatrician? 

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. 

What Do Pediatricians Do?

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.

How to Become a Pediatrician: FAQs

Read on for answers to frequently asked questions about becoming a pediatrician.

1. Who Should Become 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.

2. What Are the Best Schools for Pediatric Residency Programs?

The top three pediatric programs are the University of Pennsylvania, Harvard University, and the University of Cincinnati.

3. What Are the Salary Prospects for Pediatricians?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the annual salary of pediatricians is $198,420. It’s currently ranked #10 among the best-paying jobs in the U.S.

4. What Is the Job Outlook For Pediatricians?

The demand for pediatricians is expected to grow by 15.2% from 2016 to 2026.

5. What Is the Best Major to Become a Pediatrician?

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.

6. What Are the Pediatric Subspecialties?

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. 

7. What Degree Is Needed to Be a Pediatrician? 

You need a bachelor’s degree and an MD or DO from medical school before applying to a pediatric residency. 

Final Thoughts 

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.

Schedule A Free Consultation

Plan Smart. Execute Strong. Get Into Your Dream School.
Get Free Consultation
image of dots background

You May Also Like

Exclusive Webinar: How Are Medical School Admissions Decided: What Matters Most - our team of MDs and former admissions committee members have the answers you seek!
Register NowClose