Majors for Aspiring Pediatricians: Undergraduate Degree Options

According to the American Medical Association, prospective doctors typically major in a science field, but medical schools accept applicants with other undergraduate degrees as long as they complete specific prerequisite coursework. Learn what to major in to become a pediatrician.

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Essential Information

Although there is no specific pediatrician college major, bachelor's programs in biology, chemistry, and physics all include classroom lectures and lab sessions in their specific fields, along with general education requirements, which would allow graduates to pursue a medical degree later. Some of these programs may offer pre-med tracks, through which students are specifically prepared for medical school admissions and the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT). After earning a four-year undergraduate degree, an additional 7-12 years of education are needed to become a licensed pediatrician, which includes medical school and a residency. To qualify for undergraduate admission, students should have their high school diplomas, high standardized test scores, and a background in the sciences.


Bachelor of Science in Biology

There is not one specific undergraduate degree required for enrolling in medical school and becoming a pediatrician, but a bachelor's degree program in biology is a common choice, according to the American Medical Association (www.ama-assn.org). Biology programs focus on life science, which includes plants and animals, and the study of the human body. Biology students typically divide their time between classroom instruction and required laboratory hours.

After completing the required general education courses, biology students enter a curriculum heavily focused on the cellular and genetic makeup of living organisms. Students who plan to apply to medical school to become pediatricians should select courses that focus on the structure and development of the human body versus classes that pertain to plant and animal life. Specialized human biology courses typically taken by biology majors may include:

  • Cellular biology
  • Genetics
  • Anatomy
  • Physiology
  • Molecular biology
  • Statistics

Bachelor of Science in Chemistry

Students majoring in chemistry examine the matter that makes up the world around us, including that of the human body. They learn about the composition of elements and how those different elements react to the environment by studying years of chemistry research and through individual experiments. Many universities offer a medicinal or biochemistry focus for undergraduate chemistry students planning a medical career, which is a beneficial option for students seeking a career in pediatrics.

Undergraduate chemistry students enroll in courses primarily focused on chemistry and concentrations within the discipline. Chemistry majors dedicate their time absorbing information in lectures and accompanying labs on topics including:

  • Organic chemistry
  • Inorganic chemistry
  • Biological chemistry
  • Physical chemistry
  • Instrument analysis
  • Advanced calculus

Bachelor of Science in Physics

Physics majors explore how and why various functions of the world perform the way they do. Physics degree plans include many of the science and math courses that are required for medical school admission. The foundations of physical science are essential for students preparing for the MCAT and the basic principles found in a physics curriculum are revisited in medical school curricula.

Most of the coursework within a physics degree program focuses on the operations of various aspects of life, from the human body to the universe. While most universities offer the same general classes, some also include physics classes focused on medicine or the human body. Most physics degree plans include the following options:

  • Mathematical physics
  • Dynamics
  • Thermal physics
  • Biological physics
  • Relativity
  • Mechanics

Employment Outlook and Salary Information

According to May 2018 data reported by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS, www.bls.gov), the median annual income for general pediatricians was $170,560. The BLS predicted a job growth of 13% for physicians and surgeons, which includes pediatricians, for the decade of 2016-2026.

Requirements to Be a Pediatrician

After completing an undergraduate degree program, prospective pediatricians must attend medical school and complete a residency. Near the end of their undergraduate degree program, students planning on attending medical school take the Medical College Admission Test, which tests a candidate's knowledge of physical and biological sciences, writing skills and verbal reasoning abilities.

Once admitted into a medical school, future pediatricians should expect four years of study in medical school, which results in a Doctor of Medicine (M.D.), followed by residency training, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (www.bls.gov). Medical students interested in pediatrics may choose a track tailored to the health and wellness of children and apply for residencies in children's hospitals or pediatric departments. After completing medical school and residency requirements, pediatricians are required to pass a medical board examination and obtain a license to practice medicine.

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