What Are the Requirements to Be a Pediatric Surgeon?

Pediatric surgeons are specialized surgeons who perform operations on children, from infancy into late adolescence. Read on to learn about how to become a pediatric surgeon and pediatric surgeon education. Schools offering Surgical Technology degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Pediatric Surgeon Career Overview

Pediatric surgeons specialize in operating on infants, children, and adolescents. Pediatric surgeons are responsible for diagnosis, pre-operative, operative, and post-operative care of their patients. They must also be skilled in communicating with children, adolescents, and the guardians of these patients. Pediatric surgeons collaborate with other physicians in determining if surgery is necessary and in the care of their patients. They also work with a team of medical professionals to perform surgeries and care for patients before and after surgery.

Educational Requirements Bachelor degree
Doctor of Medicine (M.D.) or Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (D.O.)
General surgery residency
Pediatric surgery residency
Licensing and Certification Requirements U.S. Medical Licensing Exam (USMLE) or Comprehensive Osteopathic Medical Licensing Exam (COMLEX-USA)
American Board of Surgery General Surgery certification
American Board of Surgery Pediatric Surgery certification
Key Skills Empathy, Interpersonal Communication, Manual Dexterity, Critical Thinking, Stress Management
Average Salary (2019) $289,841*
Job Outlook (2018-2028) 1%** for all surgeons

Sources: *PayScale.com, **U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Requirements to Become a Pediatric Surgeon

Pediatric Surgeon Education

Bachelor's Degree

Aspiring pediatric surgeons should plan their undergraduate study with their medical school applications in mind.

  • Consider attending an undergraduate institution with a strong pre-med program
  • Medical schools all require that applicants have taken a certain number of specified science courses, so undergraduates should plan their course of study accordingly
  • Take the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT)
  • Cultivate relationships with people who can write strong letters of recommendation
  • Participate in school activities and volunteer work that demonstrates their empathy, interpersonal skills, and leadership abilities

Medical School

Aspiring pediatric surgeons must next earn a medical degree: either a Doctor of Medicine (M.D.) or Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (D.O.). Medical schools for pediatricians are 4-year programs. The first two years will generally be focused on coursework. Students will receive a well-rounded medical education which will include courses on the human body, psychology, medical practice, patient care, medical ethics, and broader societal issues pertaining to medical practice. The final two years will largely be spent in clinical rotations. Medical students will also learn to care for patients and to collaborate with other medical professionals. Students may focus more on pediatric surgery during their fourth year of medical school.

Residency Requirements

1. Five-year general surgery residency

General surgery residents will start by learning basic operative skills and will learn more advanced skills as they progress through their residency. Some programs will have simulation centers where residents will learn a variety of operative skills. Residents will gain experience in a variety of surgical settings, such as endocrine, oncological, transplant, acute care, and trauma. Residents will also take classes, attend conferences, and complete assignments.

2. Two-year fellowship program in pediatric surgery

Pediatric surgery residents will be responsible for the pre-operative and post-operative care of patients. As they progress through their residency, residents will be given greater responsibilities. Residents will do clinical rotations in different areas of pediatric surgery, such as neonatology, pediatric urology, and otolaryngology. Residents will also attend weekly and monthly conferences and may be encouraged or required to do research.


To practice medicine in the US, candidates must pass one of these standardized national license exams:

  • M.D. candidates: U.S. Medical Licensing Exam (USMLE)
  • D.O. candidates: Comprehensive Osteopathic Medical Licensing Exam (COMLEX-USA)

These are both three-part exams. For both exams, the first two parts will be taken during medical school. The final part will be taken during the candidate's residency.

Board Certification

The next requirement to become a pediatric surgeon is to get board-certified in general surgery and pediatric surgery through the American Board of Surgery. The first step is to become board certified in general surgery, as board certification in general surgery is required in order to take the exam to become board certified in pediatric surgery. The general surgery certification requires candidates to pass several exams, demonstrate ethical standards and be engaged in the field of surgery. The pediatric surgery certification involves a qualifying exam, which can be taken all over the country, and a certifying exam, which is given annually in Philadelphia.

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