Children can be funny, insightful and the greatest joys in life. A career in pediatrics is a rewarding one; it lets you spend your day helping children to stay healthy. But even the most happy-go-lucky children get grumpy and difficult when they are sick or hurting. Pediatricians diagnose and treat children of all ages. To become a pediatrician, you will need to get a medical degree and complete a three-year residency.
Pediatricians must complete a four-year undergraduate degree to be admitted to medical school. While medical schools do not require a specific major, they do have many prerequisites in chemistry and biology. The easiest way to meet these requirements is to pursue an undergraduate degree in one of these fields. Undergraduates must also take the Medical College Admission Test, or MCAT, a standardized test required for entry into medical school.
Most medical schools consist of four years of graduate-level study. During the first two years, students take classes and work in the laboratory. Areas of study include anatomy and physiology, pathology, immunology, pharmacology and ethics. During the final two years, students perform rotations in hospitals and clinics. They work in areas including surgery, internal medicine, family practice and psychiatry. Each rotation lasts one to two months. Students graduate with either a Doctor of Medicine (M.D.). or a Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (D.O.) degree. The D.O. degree includes the coursework included in the M.D. degree, but also includes additional study in preventative medicine and holistic care. D.O. degree programs focus on the role of the musculoskeletal system in the overall health of the patient.
License to Practice Medicine
After graduating from medical school, doctors must be licensed to practice medicine. Specific license requirements vary by state, but most states require taking and passing the U.S. Medical Licensing Examination.
To work as a pediatrician, doctors must complete a three-year residency after medical school. Residency programs must be accredited by the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education or the Review Committee for Pediatrics. During the residency, doctors work with experienced, certified pediatricians and receive progressively more responsibility for treating patients and managing medical students and staff.
After completing residency, pediatricians must become board-certified by the American Board of Pediatrics. Doctors must hold a current medical license to take the certification exam, a four-part, seven-hour multiple choice test. Once certified in general pediatrics, a doctor may pursue a subspecialty, such as child abuse pediatrics, pediatric cardiology or pediatric rheumatology. All require additional training and certification exams.
Pediatricians must be able to clearly communicate with children, their guardians and other medical staff. Doctors frequently work with sick or injured patients, so empathy and patience are critical. In addition, pediatricians must provide leadership to patients and staff, and be organized, detail-oriented and excellent problem solvers. They also must be able to work long shifts and irregular schedules.
- American Board of Pediatrics: A Guide to Board Certification
- Education Portal: Pediatrician
- American Board of Pediatrics: Admission Requirements
- American Board of Medical Specialties: Pediatrics
- Education Portal: Pediatrician Training Programs and Requirements
- Bureau of Labor Statistics: Physicians and Surgeons
- Jupiterimages/Comstock/Getty Images