How to Become a Pediatrician

A pediatrician primarily works with children and teenagers to address their medical needs and to become a pediatrician requires the completion of medical school as well as a pediatric residency.

Education

A pediatrician completes a four year undergraduate degree, usually in a science discipline, though some medical schools will accept liberal arts students who have completed the necessary science prerequisites for admission. For admission to medical school, the applicant needs an exceptional grade point average as well as a strong grade on the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) which applicants usually take in their fourth year of their undergraduate degree.

Entrance to medical school also requires writing an essay, usually a personal statement, and a specialized medical admissions interview. The medical admissions interview can vary between medical schools, with some using a traditional medical interview and others using a variety of problem-solving questions.

After four years of medical school, a potential pediatrician will complete a one year pediatric internship, as well as a two year residency in Pediatrics. All pediatricians are licensed physicians and they have successfully completed the United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE). The American Academy of Pediatrics also offers additional education and training for pediatricians as well as healthcare professionals who work with children and young adults.

Tips and Advice

If you are in high school, you need to take courses in biology, chemistry and mathematics, in addition to completing the requisite courses for admission into the college of their choice. While in college, it is important to do well in the prerequisites for medical school, such as biochemistry. If available, take courses in anatomy, physiology and child development.

You can also gain experience working with children and young adults in college. Some people have the knack for dealing with children. Either way, you can learn how to deal with children. Look for opportunities to volunteer with children, as in helping at risk youth, working as a tutor or working in a summer camp. There are specialized summer camps for children that have medical issues, such as developmental difficulties or cancer, and these camps do hire college student staff for the summer. These experiences are assets to your medical school application and when applying for a residency program.

Experience in a health care setting is another important pre-requisite. In addition to working with children, it is also helpful to have experience working in a hospital or physician's office. Physicians hire college students to work in their offices handling medical records, scheduling appointments and dealing with patients. There are also jobs in hospitals, such as EKG technician, that only require a high school diploma. It is possible to work your way through college in a health care setting.

Different Types

In addition to the special type of patients they assist, pediatricians can specialize in a particular area of medicine. There are pediatric cardiologists who diagnose and treat disorders of the cardiovascular systems of children and young adults. There are opportunities to specialize in neonatal care, pediatric surgery or psychiatry. Medical school and exposure to the health care environment will help the medical student and resident direct their professional training.