CareerExplorer’s step-by-step guide on how to become a pediatrician.
Is becoming a pediatrician right for me?
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If you're interested in becoming a pediatrician, you'll need to pursue a rigorous academic path that includes a strong foundation in science, math, and other core subjects. Here are some high school courses that could help prepare you for a career in pediatrics:
- Biology: Biology is the foundation of all medical sciences, so taking a comprehensive high school biology course is essential. You'll learn about cell biology, genetics, physiology, and more.
- Chemistry: Chemistry is another essential course for any aspiring physician. It will introduce you to the basic principles of chemical reactions, properties of matter, and chemical structures.
- Physics: While not as directly related to pediatric medicine as biology and chemistry, physics is an important subject for any medical career. Understanding principles of energy, forces, and motion can be helpful in understanding certain medical concepts.
- Math: Strong math skills are essential for any medical career. In high school, you should focus on courses such as Algebra, Geometry, and Trigonometry.
- English: Strong communication skills are also critical for a career in pediatrics. Taking advanced courses in English, writing, and public speaking can help you develop the skills you need to communicate effectively with patients, colleagues, and other healthcare professionals.
- Psychology/Sociology: These courses can provide insight into human behavior and social factors that can impact a patient's health.
- Health/Physical Education: A high school health or physical education class can give you a basic understanding of fitness, nutrition, and healthy habits.
In addition to taking these courses, it's also important to seek out opportunities to gain practical experience. Consider volunteering at a hospital or clinic to get a sense of what it's like to work in a medical environment. You could also consider shadowing a pediatrician to gain a better understanding of the day-to-day responsibilities of the job.
Formal Education Steps
To become a pediatrician, you'll need to complete a formal education that typically includes:
- Bachelor's degree: Before you can attend medical school, you'll need to earn a bachelor's degree from an accredited college or university. While there's no specific major required for pre-med students, it's common for aspiring pediatricians to major in biology, chemistry, or a related field.
- Medical school: After completing your bachelor's degree, you'll need to attend medical school. This typically takes four years, and covers topics such as anatomy, pharmacology, and medical ethics. During your third and fourth years of medical school, you'll begin working with patients under the supervision of licensed physicians.
- Residency: After graduating from medical school, you'll need to complete a residency program in pediatrics. This typically takes three years and provides hands-on training in a clinical setting. During your residency, you'll work with patients under the supervision of licensed pediatricians, and you'll have the opportunity to gain experience in a variety of pediatric specialties.
- Board certification: After completing your residency, you'll need to pass the American Board of Pediatrics (ABP) exam to become board certified. Board certification is not required to practice as a pediatrician, but it is strongly recommended as it demonstrates a high level of knowledge and skill in the field.
- Continuing education: Even after becoming a licensed pediatrician, it's important to continue your education and stay up-to-date with the latest advances in pediatric medicine. This may include attending conferences, completing continuing medical education (CME) courses, or participating in research studies.
Overall, becoming a pediatrician requires a significant amount of education and training. It typically takes a minimum of 11 years after high school to become a licensed pediatrician, and many pediatricians choose to continue their education throughout their careers to stay up-to-date with the latest research and advancements in the field.
There are several fellowship programs available for pediatricians that allow them to specialize in a particular area of pediatric medicine. Some of the common fellowship programs for pediatricians include:
- Pediatric Cardiology Fellowship: This program focuses on the diagnosis and treatment of heart problems in infants, children, and adolescents.
- Pediatric Critical Care Fellowship: This program is designed to train pediatricians in the management of critically ill children and infants.
- Pediatric Hematology-Oncology Fellowship: This program focuses on the diagnosis and treatment of blood disorders and cancers in children.
- Neonatal-Perinatal Medicine Fellowship: This program is designed to train pediatricians in the care of premature and critically ill newborns.
- Pediatric Endocrinology Fellowship: This program focuses on the diagnosis and treatment of hormone-related disorders in children.
- Pediatric Infectious Disease Fellowship: This program is designed to train pediatricians in the diagnosis and treatment of infectious diseases in children.
These are just a few examples of the many fellowship programs available for pediatricians. Each program has its own set of requirements, so it's important to research the specific program you are interested in to determine if you meet the eligibility criteria.
To practice as a pediatrician in the United States, you must be licensed by the state in which you plan to work. Here are the general steps to obtain a license as a pediatrician:
- Graduate from medical school: Before you can become licensed, you must first graduate from an accredited medical school and earn your medical degree.
- Complete a residency: You must complete an accredited residency program in pediatrics, which typically takes three years.
- Pass the USMLE: You must pass the United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE) or the Comprehensive Osteopathic Medical Licensing Examination (COMLEX) to be eligible for licensure.
- Apply for licensure: You must apply for a medical license with the state licensing board in the state where you plan to practice. Requirements vary by state, but generally, you must submit an application, provide documentation of your education and training, and pass a criminal background check.
- Pass additional exams: Some states may require you to pass additional exams, such as a jurisprudence exam or a state-specific medical exam.
- Maintain your license: Once you are licensed, you must maintain your license by completing continuing education requirements and renewing your license periodically.
It's important to note that licensure requirements can vary by state, so it's important to research the specific requirements in the state where you plan to practice. Additionally, many pediatricians choose to become board-certified through the American Board of Pediatrics, which requires passing a certification exam and completing ongoing education and training requirements.
Pediatricians can obtain board certification from the American Board of Pediatrics (ABP) to demonstrate their expertise and proficiency in the field. The process for achieving board certification typically involves the following steps:
- Completion of Residency: Pediatricians must first complete an accredited residency program in pediatrics, which usually spans three years. During this residency, they receive comprehensive training in various aspects of pediatric medicine, including clinical rotations, hands-on experience, and didactic education.
- Eligibility Requirements: After completing residency, pediatricians become eligible to pursue board certification. The specific requirements set by the ABP include holding a valid medical license, demonstrating ethical and professional behavior, and meeting educational and training criteria.
- Written Examination: Pediatricians must pass a written examination administered by the ABP. This exam evaluates their knowledge and understanding of core pediatric topics, including general pediatrics, subspecialties, and clinical scenarios. The exam assesses their ability to diagnose, manage, and provide appropriate care for pediatric patients.
- Maintenance of Certification: Board-certified pediatricians are also required to participate in a Maintenance of Certification (MOC) program. This program involves ongoing learning, self-assessment, and practice improvement activities to ensure that pediatricians remain up to date with advancements in the field and provide high-quality care.