Though it requires 11 or more years of schooling after high school, becoming a pediatrician can be a rewarding career for the rest of your life. Because they dedicate themselves to treating young children, most pediatricians require years of education, not just in medicine, but also in compassion and care. It’s certainly a difficult educational path, but one that can be very fulfilling.

Four-Year Degree

Immediately following high school, you will need to attend an accredited four-year college or university. You should choose an academic major that lends itself nicely to the medical profession, such as biology or chemistry. You may also elect to choose a “pre-medicine” track, if your institution offers such an option. Pre-med prepares you for medical school and is a more specific course track than a straight biology or chemistry major.

Medical School

Upon graduating from college and applying to medical schools, you will then start another four-year program with a more specified set of courses designed to prepare you for the medical profession. Typically, the first two years of medical school focus on general coursework, familiarizing the student with courses related to their future career. These include human anatomy, physiology and pharmocology. In your third and fourth years of medical school, you will likely choose pediatrics as your medical specialty. Then, you will take courses more specifically designed towards diagnosing and treating young children.

Residency

Following medical school, though you are officially a doctor, you are still required to complete three years of on-the-job training known in the medical profession as a residency. Typically, you will work in a hospital, as opposed to a private practice. In the hospital, you will work with all kinds of young patients. Most doctors consider their residencies to be the most challenging aspect of their educational and professional career, as you are required to work long and unpredictable hours. Because you are working directly in a hospital, you often see sicker patients than you would in a private practice.

Post-Residency Fellowship

Though you may elect to stop after your residency, many pediatricians opt to complete an additional two years of training to receive a pediatric specialization. This training is referred to as a fellowship, and it can prepare you to practice a more specific kind of pediatric medicine, ranging from child neurology or psychiatry to pediatric surgeon to developmentalist. Depending upon your specific interest in working with young children, you may opt to continue on to a post-residency fellowship.