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What Type of Degree Does a Pediatrician Need?

Pediatricians tend to the health care needs of infants, children, adolescents, and young adults. Read on to learn about the education required to become a pediatrician.

How to Become a Pediatrician

Pediatricians are medical doctors who are focused on the health care needs of the younger population, from infants to young adults. In order to become a pediatrician, one must earn a Doctor of Medicine (M.D.) or a Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (D.O.) from a medical school. Admission to medical school requires a bachelor's degree, MCAT scores, and sufficient undergraduate science coursework. Once medical school has been completed, aspiring pediatricians also undertake a residency program in their specialty and then sit for licensing exams.

Required Degrees Bachelor's degree
Doctor of Medicine (M.D.) or Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (D.O.)
Doctoral Program Prerequisites Science courses, such as biology, chemistry, and physics
Licensing Requirements Passing scores on the USMLE or COMLEX-USA after the completion of a residency

What Degree Does a Pediatrician Need?

Bachelor's Degree

The first step towards becoming a pediatrician is to earn a bachelor's degree. Majoring in something related to pediatrics, such as child psychology, or entering a pre-med program could be helpful. Regardless of major, students should check the prerequisites for the medical schools to which they want to apply. Admission to medical schools requires students to have taken a sufficient amount of science courses, such a biology, chemistry, and physics.

To increase the possibility of being accepted into a medical school, students should also engage in volunteer work and university activities that will demonstrate their leadership abilities, empathy, interpersonal skills, and commitment to helping others.

Pediatrician Degree

In order to become a pediatrician, a student must also earn a medical degree: either a Doctor of Medicine (M.D.) or a Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (D.O.). M.D.'s and D.O.'s share many similar methodologies. However, D.O.'s take a more holistic and whole-person approach to medical practice.

Medical school will generally take four years to complete. During the first two years of medical school, students focus on coursework that includes a thorough study of the human body, such as the cardiovascular system, the reproductive system, molecular and cellular function, and the brain. Students also take courses on:

  • Clinical practice
  • Medical ethics
  • Patient advocacy
  • Public health

The next two years are focused on learning how to care for patients in a variety of settings under the supervision of physicians, such as family practice, surgery, pediatrics, and psychiatry settings. Students learn how to effectively communicate with different types of patients from diverse backgrounds, gather patient information, communicate that information with a clinical team both in verbal form and written form, follow a diagnostic plan, and collaborate with other physicians. The fourth year is focused on clinical training in pediatrics.

Residency

While there's no such degree as a master's in pediatrics or a PhD in pediatrics, aspiring pediatricians do enroll in specialized programs designed to help them develop patient care skills specific to infants and children. After earning their M.D. or D.O., graduates complete a 3-year pediatrics residency, where they are exposed to a variety of subspecialties, including:

  • Neonatal intensive care
  • Emergency medicine
  • Adolescent medicine
  • Oncology

After completing their residency, candidates with an M.D. must take the U.S. Medical Licensing Examination. Candidates with a D.O. must take the Comprehensive Osteopathic Medical Licensing Examination. Candidates may also decide to become certified through the American Board of Pediatrics.