How Do I Become a Pediatric Surgeon?

Research what it takes to become a pediatric surgeon. Learn about education, training, licensure and certification requirements and salary to find out if this is the career for you. Schools offering Surgical Technology degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is a Pediatric Surgeon?

Pediatric surgeons perform surgeries on children from newborns to teenagers. Some of these surgeries may be for medical conditions that are typical for this age group, while others are to repair broken bones or tissues, remove growths, correct deformities and more. Pediatric surgeons perform some tasks similar to a regular physician, such as reviewing medical histories, ordering diagnostic tests and examining their patients. However, these professionals must communicate well with the parents of their patients to explain procedures and conditions, as well as be able to put their patients at ease. They must also counsel their patients and their parents post-operation about the recovery process. The following chart provides an overview about becoming a pediatric surgeon.

Degree Required Doctor of Medicine (M.D.)
Training Required 5-year residency in general surgery followed by 2-year residency in pediatric surgery
Key Responsibilities Examine patients; evaluate and diagnose medical conditions in infants, children and adolescents that may require surgery; perform surgical procedures for medical situations involving injury, illness or disease or to correct congenital defects
Licensure or Certification Licensure for doctors is required in all states; board certification in general surgery and pediatric surgery is available
Job Growth (2014-2024) 14%* for all physicians and surgeons
Median Salary (2017) $415,540** for pediatric surgeons

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), **Salary.com

What Will I Do as a Pediatric Surgeon?

As a pediatric surgeon, you are a trained general surgeon who specializes in performing surgeries on newborns, infants, children and teenagers. You talk with patients, consult other physicians and surgeons as needed, perform operations and monitor patient progress. You may choose to concentrate practice in prenatal surgery, neonatal surgery, trauma surgery or pediatric oncology. You have the opportunity to work in a variety of medical environments, such as city hospitals, university hospitals and children's hospitals.

What Education Do I Need?

The first step to becoming a pediatric surgeon is to obtain an undergraduate degree. Along with general educational requirements outlined by the college or university, you will take courses designed specifically for your major. You are strongly encouraged to consider a science major, such as biology or chemistry, or a pre-med major. It typically takes four years to complete an undergraduate program.

Typically during your senior year, you will need to take the Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT) and apply to medical school, which generally takes four years to complete. A medical school curriculum usually combines informational courses and workshops with extensive practical experience in a clinical setting working with practicing physicians and patients on real cases. At the core of the program is the rotation system, which gives you in-depth training in a variety of major areas of medicine, such as obstetrics and gynecology, psychiatry, internal medicine, pediatrics, family practice and surgery.

What Happens After Medical School?

After medical school, you must enter a residency program in general surgery. Such programs generally take five years to complete and are designed to give you a thorough background in preparing for and conducting common and complex surgeries. Focuses of residency programs can vary, and they allow you to gain extensive operative experience under supervision and provide continuous quality patient care before, during and after surgery.

Following completion of a residency program in general surgery, you will then need to complete a two-year residency specifically in pediatric surgery. This residency focuses on surgeries and procedures particular to children. During the program, you will typically do rotations in a number of essential areas, such as pediatric cardiac surgery, pediatric urology, pediatric anesthesiology and neonatology.

How Do I Get Licensed and Certified?

All 50 states require practicing surgeons to pass the United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE). You should also check your state board for specific requirements. Becoming board certified in pediatric surgery involves first obtaining board certification in general surgery, according to the American Board of Surgery (ABS) (www.absurgery.org). Certification is obtained by passing written examinations and ensures that you have achieved a minimum level of skill and knowledge.

How Much Can I Expect To Earn?

The median annual salary for a pediatric surgeon as of January 2017 was $415,540, according to salary.com. The top ten percent earned over $615,893, while the bottom ten percent earned less than $262,911. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projected a 14% percent growth for physicians and surgeons from 2014-2024 (www.bls.gov).

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Chiropractors, dentists and veterinarians are all related careers that require a doctoral or professional degree. Chiropractors specialize in treating pain in the neck and back muscles, nerves and bones. They may use spinal adjustments and other techniques to manage pain. Dentists care for a patient's teeth, gums and mouth. They provide preventative care, as well as treat any complication of the teeth, such as cavities. Veterinarians diagnose and treat medical conditions in a variety of animals. They may also perform surgery on the animals as needed.

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