Pediatricians are doctors that focus their care on infants and children. Pediatricians are specialized primary care physicians, and students interested in becoming pediatricians have to complete a four-year bachelor’s degree, a four-year medical degree, and four to five years of residency work focused on pediatrics. While working towards their bachelor's degree, students have to complete a number of pre-med requirements. Those who have an interest in pediatrics at an early age can prepare for this pre-med coursework while they are still in high school.
Medical schools require all applicants to take a certain number of courses in specialized fields to ensure that they have adequate undergraduate-level preparation to succeed in medical school courses. These courses are commonly known as pre-med requirements. Different medical schools have different requirements, but most require students to take a year of introductory biology, a year of general chemistry, a year of organic chemistry, a year of general physics, one or two semesters of calculus, and one semester of microbiology or biochemistry. All of science courses have laboratory components that college students are also expected to take to get experience in conducting research, and handling biological and chemical samples.
To prepare for college-level courses in biology and microbiology, high school students interested in becoming pediatricians should take a year of general biology in the beginning of their high school career, and a course in advanced placement biology when they are juniors or seniors. These courses will introduce students to the basics of the study of life, covering topics such as plants, animals, fungi and cells. Not all high schools offer advanced placement courses, but students attending high school that do should take them. Advanced placement courses are considered equivalent to college courses, and students can get college credit for completing these courses by taking and passing the advanced placement exam at the end of the year.
High school students who are interested in pediatrics should prepare for the pre-med requirements in chemistry by taking a year of general chemistry and a course in advanced placement chemistry, if it is available. The study of chemistry focuses on the building blocks that make up our world, covering topics such as atoms, molecules, elements, gases, solids, acids, bases and chemical reactions. High school courses also come with laboratory components that prepare students for chemistry laboratory work in college. Those who take advanced placement chemistry and pass the exam often pass the first semester of general chemistry in college and go directly into general chemistry 2.
Math and Physics
To prepare for college-level courses in physics and calculus, prospective pediatricians should take at least one course in physics, to get an introduction to the study of the physical world, and as many courses in mathematics as possible, at least through pre-calculus. High school students who want to be better prepared for the pre-med requirements often take advanced placement Calculus AB, advanced placement Calculus BC, as well as advanced placement Physics B and advanced placement Physics C. These courses give students a very thorough preparation for the types of physics and math classes that they have to take as undergraduates.
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