It's often tough to determine the direction you want your life to take. And choosing a major isn't easy. But if you love science -- and children -- studying pediatric medicine might be the way for you to go. A pediatrician is a doctor who treats the physical, social, and mental health children from birth to young adulthood. Some pediatricians focus on treating infections, birth defects, genetic illnesses or behavioral and social problems, according to the University of Maryland Children's Hospital. To become a pediatrician, you should take classes that will prepare you to pass the Medical College Admission Test, or MCAT, and get into medical school.
You can choose any major to become a pediatrician, as long as you meet the premed requirements. Although the exact course requirements can vary among medical schools, you'll typically need a year of chemistry, organic chemistry, biology and physics, each with a lab. You'll also likely need a year of English and a year of calculus. Some students pursue a premed degree, but not all schools offer them. If you aren't interested in obtaining a science degree, you might choose to obtain your bachelor's degree in the humanities, social sciences, a foreign language, or literature, for example. However, remember that if you choose a non-science major, your first two years of medical school might present more of a challenge than if you chose a more applicable major.
Since future physicians often excel in the sciences, you might consider majoring in chemistry, biology, physics, astrophysics, marine biology, biochemistry, cognitive science, earth sciences or another science, depending on the university and program you are targeting. Biology is a popular choice because the requirements for a biology degree are very similar to most medical school admission requirements.
Combined Degree Programs
What if you're interested in becoming a pediatrician but want to speed up the process a little? Some universities also offer combined degree programs that will let you forgo taking the MCAT and go straight to medical school when you graduate. These programs typically combine a Bachelor of Science degree with an M.D., or Doctor of Medicine. This type of program can decrease the time it takes to get an M.D. by a full year. Penn State, for example, offers such a program. It lets students choose between either a 6-year program including summer courses and a 7-year program, both of which include four years of medical school. For admission to one such program offered at Penn State, you must have strong high school academic scores and participate in a three-part interview process.
Medical School and Beyond
Getting accepted into medical school typically isn't an easy task. It involves more than just having a degree, excellent grades and passing the MCAT. Medical schools also look for women who are well-rounded with a variety of interests. Volunteering is generally a big plus on your application. To show that you're passionate about working with children, you might volunteer at a children's hospital or a children's home. Working in the medical field in some manner will also increase your chances of acceptance. In addition to medical school, you will also need to complete a residency and obtain the appropriate licenses and certificates to become a pediatrician.
- Princeton University: My Pre-Princeton, Pre-Med Plans
- Association of American Medical Colleges: Accelerated M.D. Programs Provide Benefits, But Still Face Skepticism
- University of Maryland Children's Hospital: What is a Pediatrician?
- Penn State: Penn State's Accelerated Premedical-Medical Program (B.S./M.D.)
With features published by media such as Business Week and Fox News, Stephanie Dube Dwilson is an accomplished writer with a law degree and a master's in science and technology journalism. She has written for law firms, public relations and marketing agencies, science and technology websites, and business magazines.