What Are the Requirements to Be a Pediatric Surgeon?

When a child is in need of a surgical procedure, it takes a physician who is not only suitably trained to perform that surgery but also has the sensibilities to understand the needs of children and their families. Keep reading to find out the required education and training to become a pediatric surgeon. Schools offering Surgical Technology degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Education Requirements

To become a pediatric surgeon, you first need to study to become a medical doctor by earning either a post-baccalaureate Medical Doctor (M.D.) or Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (D.O.) degree. This road begins at the undergraduate level, where you'll have to take the necessary courses needed for admission to medical school. Completing medical school, which includes clinical rotations, can qualify you for licensure. To demonstrate your competency, you can earn board certification after attaining specific experience in pediatric surgery through one or more residencies.

Important Facts About Pediatric Surgeons

Key Skills Manual dexterity, proficiency in math and science, attention to detail, problem-solving
Work Environment Healthcare facilities
Similar Occupations Chiropractor, Dentist, Optometrist
Median Salary (2019) $290,822*
Job Outlook (2016-2026) 14%** (for all surgeons)

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

Pre-Med Preparation

There are a few undergraduate options that can prepare you for medical school. You could enroll in a 4-year pre-med program that fulfills all of the necessary course requirements for medical school admission, or any other bachelor's program that meets those requirements. Your declared major doesn't need to be in any specific field, though some medical schools recommend a broad liberal arts education. You'll at least need to complete coursework in:

  • Biology
  • Chemistry
  • Physics
  • Humanities

If you already have a bachelor's degree but haven't completed all of the necessary courses for medical school, you could fulfill the requirements with a post-baccalaureate program that lasts a year or so. Consisting of requisite science courses, you could also take electives in:

  • Physiology
  • Anatomy
  • Genetics
  • Cell biology
  • Immunology
  • Biochemistry

Medical School

Medical school lasts four years, and you'll need to pass the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) during your application. The first and second years prepare you for advancement into later clinical courses. You'll take classes in anatomy, genetics, pathology, microbiology, pharmacology, and neurology. In the third year of medical school, you'll participate in clinical rotations in a number of different specialties, including pediatrics and surgery. In the fourth year, you can begin working toward licensure and direct your clinical rotations to gain further experience in your intended discipline.


To become a doctor and practice medicine, you'll need to obtain a license. Depending on whether you've earned an M.D. or a D.O. degree, you'll usually either take the United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE) or the Comprehensive Osteopathic Medical Licensing Exam (COMLEX). Before earning your license, you'll probably need to participate in a one-year internship program to meet experience requirements. Licenses are usually valid for two years and you'll need to pay any state fees and complete continuing education to maintain your license.

Residency Training

Becoming a pediatric surgeon typically requires that you complete a general residency, which lasts about five to six years. Under the direction and supervision of pediatric doctors and surgeons, you'll learn preoperative and postoperative care, perform complex surgical techniques, collaborate as part of a surgical team, and develop leadership skills.

In addition to your practical training, there will also be didactic portions of your residency. Your clinical instruction introduces you to general surgery, trauma, vascular, transplant, and other surgical specialties through rotations. Once you become an advanced resident, you could get the opportunity to work in pediatrics and elective surgeries. You'll also spend significant time doing research on the principles and practices of surgery. Toward the end of your residency, you'll continue to train in different specialties, with the chance to specialize in your area of interest.

Residency Specialization

Once you've completed a general surgical residency, you can apply for a residency in pediatric surgery. Such a residency frequently lasts two years, during which time you'll be given gradually increasing levels of responsibility, including performing surgical procedures and doing rounds. You could have full accountability for all pediatric care related to surgery, outpatient care, and relevant teaching activities, though you'll still work under the general guidance of pediatric surgeons.

Board Certification

If you'd like to pursue voluntary board certification in pediatric surgery through the American Board of Surgery, a member board of the American Board of Medical Specialties, you'll first need to get board certified in general surgery. General surgery board certification requires you to be licensed and have at least five years of residency experience, including training in cardiovascular life support, advanced trauma life support, and laparoscopic surgery. A qualifying and certifying exam is required and your credential will be valid for ten years (www.absurgery.org). To become a board certified pediatric surgeon, applicants must have a ABS general surgery designation and meet training requirements.

To become a board certified pediatric surgeon, you'll need to have completed at least two years in a pediatric surgery residency, with at least one as a chief resident. After passing the certification exam, you'll need to maintain your medical license, complete 90 hours of continuing education with 60 hours of self-assessment, and pass a cognitive exam in pediatric surgery to renew your credential every ten years.

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