How to Become a Pediatrician
If you’re thinking of becoming a doctor and enjoy working with kids, then pediatrics is potentially a career path for you. To know for sure if the field of pediatrics is right for you, you’ll need to know how to become a pediatrician.
Pediatricians care for children from infancy into early adulthood. They may see patients as young as a few months and as old as their early twenties. As a pediatrician, you’ll have the choice of working in general practice or in a highly specialized field of medicine. Those who want to be pediatricians will have a lot of work ahead of them, and ideally, that work begins in high school.
Pediatricians are charged with providing medical care for infants, children, adolescents and young adults. Becoming a pediatrician requires years of schooling and adequately preparing for a career in medicine actually begins in high school, with strong academic performance in all classes and a special focus on math and science classes.
Students must attend a good college or university and maintain a strong grade point average throughout. They will need to complete prerequisites for entering medical school, and again, math and science courses are the primary focus. Admittance to medical school requires strong achievement on the Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT).
Those who want to know how to become a pediatrician should also recognize that medical school is not the final step in the process. In fact, following successful completion of medical school, graduates go on to complete an internship and residency program. The minimum requirement for residency is three years, though individuals who wish to go into a pediatric specialty will need to spend more years in residency, potentially as many as eight.
High School Academic Performance
When wondering how to become a pediatrician, many students don’t realize that preparation actually does begin in high school. Students should be willing to take more advanced classes and should strive for good grades in all of their classes. Strong overall academic performance in high school provides an excellent platform for success in college.
High school courses should ideally include chemistry, biology, physics, calculus, and other mathematics and science classes. Students will also need to be accomplished in English, and should consider taking Latin, if it is offered at the high school level, as most medical terminology is derived from Latin.
Students who take college preparatory courses will see greater success in gaining admittance to a good college or university. Honors courses and advanced placement classes can also give you a leg up. Volunteer work, participation in extracurricular activities, and good scores on the SAT are also important when applying to colleges and universities and can also help in paying for college, by making it more likely that you will win scholarships and obtain other forms of financial aid.
College and Pre-Med Studies
A big piece of how to become a pediatrician is finishing a four year undergraduate degree. While some colleges and universities offer a pre-med degree, most do not. The majority of pre-med students complete a focused degree in biology, chemistry, or a similar health or natural health sciences degree instead.
Regardless of the degree completed, pre-med students will focus much of their coursework on science and math courses, including biology, chemistry, organic chemistry, physics, calculus, and others. Even if a student completes a degree in another discipline, they will still complete the classes that are prerequisites for medical school.
In addition to taking the right classes, pre-med students should strive for a 3.0 GPA or higher. They must also take the MCAT and perform well on all portions of the exam. The test is comprised of four sections: verbal reasoning, biological sciences, physical sciences, and a writing sample or essay portion.
A huge part of how to become a pediatrician is completing the required pediatrician schooling at medical school. The admissions process for each school is different, but you can count on a few things. First, you will need to have a bachelor’s degree under your belt. You will also need to have performed well on the MCAT.
After being admitted to medical school, you’ll spend your first couple of years attending lectures and participating in labs. Classes will include pathology, human anatomy and physiology, and microbiology, to name a few. In their third year, medical school students begin clinical rotations, after which they are expected to choose a specialty. During the final year of medical school, students are expected to successfully complete an internship in a hospital setting and to focus in more highly on their specialty of choice.
U.S. Medical Licensing Exam (USMLE)
The medical licensing exam is completed in two phases. The first half of the exam is taken halfway through medical school. The second portion of the exam is finished during the fourth and final year of medical school. A big part of how to become a pediatrician is passing the second portion of the USMLE and without it; you cannot enter a residency program. The last section of the USMLE is taken at the end of the first year of residency.
How To Become A Pediatrician – Residency Programs
After finishing medical school and passing the USMLE, you’ll go into a residency program in the medical specialty of your choice. A residency provides intensive training in a real world setting. The first year of a pediatric residency includes rotations through medical units in a hospital setting, allowing new grads the chance to explore all of their options before settling on a specialty.
During the second year, residents formally choose a specialty and begin to work more often in pediatrics. If you decide to go into general pediatrics, then your residency will likely last three years. If you want to know how to become a pediatrician who works in a more specialized field of pediatrics like pediatric oncology, immunology, or orthopedics, for example, then additional years of residency will be required.
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