What Type of Degree Does a Pediatrician Need?
Are you interested in helping children grow into healthy young adults? Pediatricians monitor children's health from infancy through adolescence. Becoming a pediatrician requires many years of graduate education and postgraduate training. Read on to learn about the education requirements for pediatricians. Schools offering Health Science degrees can also be found in these popular choices.
What is a Pediatrician?
Pediatricians are medical doctors who treat children and adolescents. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, about 30,000 of these professionals were employed in the United States in 2012. They made a median annual salary of $167,640 that year. If you want to become a pediatrician, you will need to complete several years of both undergraduate and graduate schooling and then complete a residency in pediatrics.
Earn a Medical Degree
After earning an undergraduate degree, you'll need to attend medical school, which generally takes four years to complete. You can enroll in a program that confers a Doctor of Medicine (M.D.) or Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (D.O.). The curricula for these degree programs are similar, and physicians with either type of degree can treat patients and prescribe medicine; however, a D.O. program generally emphasizes a more holistic, preventive approach to patient care.
In medical school, you'll learn the basics of medicine through academic courses and hands-on experience. In most cases, your first two years of med school will emphasize classroom learning and lab work and provide a supervised introduction to patient care. You'll learn about various body systems, like the cardiovascular, reproductive, endocrine, musculoskeletal and renal systems. Your classes likely will cover topics such as:
- Infectious diseases
- Human growth and development
- Essentials of clinical medicine
Your third and fourth years are usually spent completing rotations or clerkships that will expose you to different medical specialties, including obstetrics and gynecology, family medicine, pediatrics, surgery, neurology and psychiatry. Your clerkships will be supervised and will take place at various hospitals and medical facilities so that you'll experience a variety of environments and care situations.
Upon completion of medical school, you'll take the United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE) if you've earned a M.D. or the Comprehensive Osteopathic Medical Licensing Exam (COMLEX) if you've earned a D.O. This exam is part of the licensure process in every state, although other requirements vary.
Complete a Residency
Once you've completed medical school, you'll begin a residency in pediatrics. Although you'll still be considered a student, you'll also get paid for your work.
As a pediatrics resident, you might treat children in hospital nurseries, neonatal intensive care units and pediatric care centers. You'll continue to attend lectures and meet with fellow residents and supervising physicians, but you'll also be expected to teach medical students and attend pediatric medical conferences. Your residency could take three years to complete, and you might work daytime, evening or round-the-clock on-call shifts.
When you've completed your residency, you may be eligible to sit for board certification. Physicians with an M.D. might take the board certification exam offered by the American Board of Pediatrics., while physicians with a D.O. might also be eligible to sit for the American Osteopathic Board of Pediatrics exam.
Pursue an Optional Fellowship
After completing your residency, you might choose to apply for a fellowship to continue your learning in a specific type of pediatric care, such as surgery, cardiology or oncology. Completing a fellowship is not mandatory. Most pediatric fellowships last 1-2 years.
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