The Education Required for Becoming a Pediatrician
A career as a pediatrician, like any other specialty doctor, can take some time to achieve. College, medical school, residency programs, and further education for subspecialties should all be expected. Of course, everything starts with a high school diploma, and if your school offers them, AP courses geared toward healthcare are always a plus.
Following high school, you will be required to take four years of undergraduate courses at a college or university. There are many different types of programs from which you can choose, but as long as you receive a BA, BS, or other Bachelor’s degree in a medical-based field, and preferably pre-medicine, you should find yourself well-prepared to tackle medical school.
Before you are admitted into medical school, you will first need to pass the MCAT, or the Medical College Admission Test. Your pre-med major should help you prepare for this, and the test is generally offered by your four-year university. Medical school will require another four years of education, and once you have completed it, you will receive a DO or MD degree as a “general” doctor who is then able to practice medicine.
The path to becoming a pediatrician starts during your residency in which you participate after you have completed medical school. During this time, you will work with patients in a hands-on setting under the supervision of licensed doctors. This residency is generally three years in length, but it could be longer if you choose to specialize even further. These are usually paid positions which means that they differ from the initial internship in which you participate during medical school.
Once your residency has been completed, you will have the option of choosing a subspecialty. For instance, you may choose to work with children who have cancer or become a pediatric surgeon. If this is the case, you can pursue additional training in the form of a fellowship following your residency. Again, a fellowship is a paid position that may last up to 10 years or more.
As you are pursuing your medical degree and residency, you will be required to take the USMLE, or United States Medical Licensing Exam (often referred to as the “boards”) in order to actually practice medicine. Once you have passed, you can then apply for a medical license through your state. Some states will accept licensure from others, but if you plan to practice in more than one state, there may be additional requirements.
If you have chosen a subspecialty, the American Board of Pediatrics offers optional certifications for some of these. If you want such a certification, you’ll need a degree from an accredited medical school, licensure, and completion of three years’ training in a pediatric medicine setting. If you receive one of these certifications, it is valid for seven years. Recertification exams can be taken to maintain this credential.
There is quite a bit of education required for becoming a pediatrician, but grants and scholarships are available. If you are willing to dedicate your time, this can be a very rewarding and high-paying career path.