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Pediatrician Training Programs and Requirements

Pediatricians acquire comprehensive medical knowledge and training about infant, child and young adult healthcare. They gain this expertise by attending medical schools and completing internships and residencies. Upon graduation and licensure, many pediatricians work in private practices and pediatric units in hospitals.

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Training Programs and Recommendations

Pediatricians follow the same medical training regime as other doctors. Many complete bachelor's degree programs and then go on to pursue medical degrees from an accredited medical school. Most pediatricians obtain a Doctor of Medicine (M.D.). However, individuals with a Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (D.O.) may also practice general pediatrics in primary care or family practice offices. Both require four years of medical school and 3-8 years of internships and residencies. Upon graduation, pediatricians must pass the U.S. Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE) in order to practice as physicians.

Admission to medical school is competitive. Applicants are required to submit Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) scores and undergraduate transcripts. Undergraduate coursework in English, biology, chemistry and physics is required prior to admission. Many prospective pediatricians also volunteer or work part-time at a hospital or other healthcare facility to gain medical experience.

Formal Education

Pediatricians may choose between pursuing an M.D. degree program or a D.O. degree program. Both offer general medical knowledge and the opportunity to specialize in pediatrics. These medical degree programs also culminate with pediatric internships and residencies that last several years and provide clinical rotations in general pediatrics, infancy care and a chosen sub-specialization (such as pediatric cardiology, pediatric pulmonology or pediatric emergency care). Those wishing to pursue certification in a sub-specialty area complete additional years of residency in that specialty.

Doctor of Medicine Degree Program for Pediatricians

Individuals interested in pursuing a 4-year M.D. degree program should verify its accreditation with the national accrediting agency, Liaison Committee on Medical Education (LCME). According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), LCME listed 129 accredited medical schools in 2008.

Medical degree programs include coursework in anatomy, biochemistry, psychology, physiology and pathology. Medical students also learn how to document medical histories, perform patient exams and diagnose acute or chronic illnesses. Students specializing in a pediatric sub-specialty dedicate additional coursework and clinical rotations to that specialty and gain certification through the American Board of Medical Specialists (ABMS). Upon completion of medical school, an M.D. typically enters a paid residency program that lasts several years; this often occurs in a hospital setting.

Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine Degree Program

Prospective medical students interested in preventive medicine, holistic patient care and musculoskeletal systems may wish to enroll in a D.O. program. This type of medical degree not only includes traditional M.D. coursework, but also emphasizes the role locomotor systems have in overall health and well-being. This degree program includes extensive homeopathy remedies and preventive care techniques, and lasts four years.

According to the BLS, the American Osteopathic Association listed 25 accredited schools that award a D.O. as of 2008. However, unlike M.D. candidates, many D.O. students begin a 12-month internship with clinical rotations prior to joining a residency program that lasts an additional 2-6 years.

Job Experience

Job experience for pediatricians comes from extensive internships and residency programs. Many spend several years in residency programs that provide diverse clinical experiences in general rotations and specialty areas. Licensure ensures that all pediatricians have met these practical and theoretical medical guidelines.

Licenses and Certifications

Every state in the U.S requires pediatricians to be licensed in order to practice medicine. This licensure involves taking and passing the USMLE. In order to sit for the exam, all candidates must graduate from an accredited medical school. Additional specialty certifications may be granted by the American Board of Medical Specialists (ABMS) or the American Osteopathic Association (AOA) upon meeting residency criteria for respective specialties.

Additional Professional Development

Pediatricians often work irregular hours and are required to handle stressful medical situations. They work closely with partnering physicians, nurses and other medical support staff. Good bedside manner is important for pediatricians, who must build a rapport with patients and their families over years of check-ups and during critical times.

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