Pediatrician Degrees: Program Overviews

Oct 14, 2019

Aspiring pediatricians usually complete 11 years of training that includes a pre-medicine or biology bachelor's degree followed by a four-year medical degree curriculum. Following medical school, students move on to a residency program or fellowship.

Essential Information

In a residency program at a hospital, new doctors spend three years gaining paid experience in pediatrics, working in many areas of pediatric care. By the end of the residency, the doctor will act as team leader to newer residents and medical students. Residents are also expected to develop their research skills and may be required to complete a research project. Pediatricians who want to specialize in a particular area, such as pediatric cardiology, oncology or nephrology may complete a 1- to 3-year fellowship after completing their residencies.

Applications to residency programs require a National Resident Matching Program number, resume, letters of reference, a dean's letter, a personal letter, transcripts, and United States Medical Licensing Exam scores. Pediatric fellowship training applicants must first complete a 3-year residency, and the application process typically matches those of residency training programs.

Pediatric Residency Training

Physician residency training is paid work experience. Through hospital or clinic rotations, students gain hands-on skills in health assessments and patient care. The residency training period incorporates time in ambulatory settings, pediatric intensive care units (PICU) and neonatal intensive care units (NICU). Students continue to participate in didactic training through daily and weekly grand rounds, in which they shadow veteran physicians. They also take part in daily meetings, conferences and case study analyses. While residencies are intended to develop students' diagnostic and treatment abilities, they are also intended to build individualized research skills. In fact, residents may be required to complete a research project prior to completing the program. In addition, as senior residents, they often lead routine rounds, honing their teaching abilities by training other residents and medical students. Areas of study within a residency program may include:

  • Child advocacy
  • Critical care
  • Adolescent medicine
  • Developmental and behavioral pediatrics
  • Medical informatics

Pediatric Fellowship Training

Oftentimes, residents can stay on with their training hospital to complete a fellowship in pediatric medicine. Fellowships can require 1-3 years of post-residency work. Pediatric fellows can specialize in a number of areas, including pediatric oncology, cardiology, or nephrology. While participants gain additional knowledge and clinical skills in the field, much of a fellowship is research-focused. Fellows are encouraged to publish their individualized studies in scholarly publications. They often participate in specialty conferences and typically examine such concepts as:

  • Instructional techniques
  • Advanced research methods
  • Grant writing
  • Biostatistics
  • Advanced public health and disease control

Employment Outlook and Salary Information

Pediatricians can find work in clinics, hospitals, group practices or private practices. As of May 2018, general pediatricians earned a median annual wage of $170,560, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics ( Additionally, the same government agency noted that employment of all physicians and surgeons was predicted to climb by 7% from 2018 to 2028.

Continuing Education and Certification Information

In order to legally practice, all doctors must obtain licensure from their state, which usually requires passing a national medical licensing exam and meeting educational requirements. Furthermore, after participating in a pediatric residency program, doctors can pursue voluntary certification through the American Board of Pediatrics, a sub-board of the American Board of Medical Specialties. As of 2010, certification maintenance requirements must be met every five years and include a self-assessment, patient survey, continuing education courses and the passing of a renewal exam.

Fellows who have completed a subspecialty concentration program may obtain voluntary certification from the American Board of Pediatrics, which offers certification in 20 fields. Those interested in research and development may continue their training by pursuing a complementary clinical scientist or health policy research master's degree. Graduates interested in more scholarly roles may seek a related doctoral degree.

Becoming a pediatrician requires about 11 years of education and training. Graduates are not only trained in how to treat patients, but are knowledgeable in instructional techniques, grant writing, even biostatistics.

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