Undergraduates who are considering becoming pediatricians will need to complete a four-year pre-medical curriculum. This can be accomplished through many different bachelor's degree programs, although students may choose to focus on science areas such as biology or chemistry. After earning the bachelor's degree, aspiring pediatricians go to medical school just like any other type of physician. This typically includes four years of education in medical school followed by at least three years of residency training in a pediatric hospital.
Bachelor's Degree in Biology
Students who complete a pre-medical degree in biology can expect to focus on different life forms and scientific processes. Students will also expand on their knowledge of scientific methodologies. Online programs are available at this level. Some common course topics in these programs include:
- General zoology
- Principles of general biology
- Scientific and technical writing
- General chemistry
Medical School Program
After getting a bachelor's degree, individuals can enter a medical school program. They typically focus on giving students practical skills and knowledge that will benefit them later on in their career as a pediatrician. Course topics in these programs might include:
- The nervous system
- Brain and behavior
- Cells to tissues
- Systemic diseases
Pediatric Residency Program
During the first year of a pediatric residency program, individuals develop basic medical skills in pediatrics. The second year provides supervisory and leadership experiences, and students have more independence. Medical students typically don't specialize until their third and fourth years, but many medical programs offer pre-clinical pediatric studies for first- and second-year students who are considering the field.
During the third year students often complete a series of clerkships or internships, which include short-term rotations through several different pediatric care settings. Fourth-year medical students may have the opportunity to complete longer internships and elective student rotations in the field of pediatrics. Students get most of their pediatric-specific training during their residencies, which begin after graduating from medical school.
Employment Outlook and Salary Information
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) states that pediatricians, as of May 2015, make a median annual wage of $170,300. Between 2014-2024, the employment of pediatricians is expected to grow 10%, according to the BLS. This is faster than average.
To practice as a licensed physician in the U.S., all doctors must pass the United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE) after graduating from medical school. Pediatricians must also take a board certification exam from the American Board of Pediatricians (ABP) after completing their residencies (www.abp.org). In addition to the general pediatrics certification, the ABP offers exams in subspecialties such as pediatric emergency medicine, pediatric infectious diseases or pediatric cardiology.
Many also choose to participate in the ABP's maintenance of certification (MOC) program. Although it is not currently required for practicing pediatricians, many state regulating agencies and insuring companies have started to recognize the importance of the program for continuing medical education and certification of competency for pediatricians.
The educational path students must complete before they take the ABP certification exam starts with a bachelor's degree in either pre-medical or a related science field, like biology. They then must graduate from a medical school program and complete a three-year pediatric residency program.