A pediatrician is a medical doctor that specializes in the care and treatment of infants, children, and teenagers. Some pediatricians specialize even further in fields such as pediatric surgery or diseases that are commonly found in children. The path to becoming a pediatrician involves many years of education including both undergraduate degree programs, medical school, and residency.
Traditional Bachelor's Degree
Students desiring to become a pediatrician must start with an undergraduate degree. Most medical schools do not require that their students have any specific undergraduate major, but most do require a heavy course load in the sciences. Chemistry, biochemistry, organic chemistry, biology, physics, anatomy, and other advanced science courses are key. Math courses such as calculus and even statistics can also come in handy. Medical schools want their students to be well-rounded individuals, so courses in the arts, social sciences, languages, and technology help achieve that. Since pediatricians work with children, courses that stress child development are also helpful. This might include child psychology or education courses.
Medical School Classes
Once in medical school, the future pediatrician spends the first two years doing the same coursework as all of their classmates. This coursework focuses on intense study in biology, microbiology, chemistry, biochemistry, and the human body. During the second two years of medical school, medical students start to specialize. In addition to more advanced coursework, a significant part of their education is hands-on work and observation in hospitals and clinics. Students are required to do work in all specialties during this time period to ensure that their skills match their interests.
While not very common, there are a few programs that are combination of a Bachelor of Science program and medical school. The benefit to this type of program is that the student only has to go through the admissions process once. Once admitted to the bachelor’s level program, they are guaranteed entrance into medical school, assuming their grades and other requirements are met. The recommended coursework for this type of program is the same as the traditional bachelor’s degree option.
After medical school, the newly licensed doctors do their residencies. A residency is essentially a time to get more on-the-job training in their specialty of choice. A doctor who wants to become a pediatrician will now spend a significant amount of time in various pediatric settings learning by doing and watching more experienced pediatricians.
- Jupiterimages/liquidlibrary/Getty Images