How to Become a Pediatrician in 7 Simple Steps

What is a Pediatrician

A pediatrician’s career is well-respected with a really good outlook. But in order to pursue this career you will have to start preparing early on.

In order to answer the question “How to become a pediatrician?” we have gathered and divided the answer into simple steps. Walking you through all the necessary information you need in order to achieve your goal.

Skills Needed to Be a Pediatrician

But before we dig into this let’s see what skills you need to possess in order to become a successful pediatrician.

Communication Skills

You need to have excellent communication skills in order to communicate efficiently with both children and their parents. It’s crucial to develop good communication skills as kids are often afraid or shy to talk about their health problems, so you will have to make them feel comfortable and open up.

Problem-Solving Skills

Like all physicians, a pediatrician has to have great problem solving skills. Every patient is unique and has different reactions with different health problems. A pediatrician has to thoroughly collect data, analyze the results, and apply a quick and efficient solution to their patient.

Diverse Cultural Understanding

A pediatrician will have to work with people from different cultures. English will often be their second language, and there may be different traditions that will have an affect their child’s heath. You should be able to explain to them in plain English what they should do in order to improve their child’s health, and why they may need to stop following certain culture practices.

Organizational Skills

A pediatrician needs excellent organizational skills in order to be efficient and stay on track. They need to manage paperwork, schedule appointments, analyze results, and lab tests. Doing all of this in a way that will allow them to prioritize emergency situations and be effective.

Becoming a Pediatrician

Step 1: High School Preparation

What High School Classes Do I Need to Take to Become a Pediatrician?

As we mentioned before becoming a pediatrician is a long journey and begins as early as high school, so let’s see what you have to accomplish there.

Your goal should be to do everything you need to be accepted at a good college for your undergraduate degree. There are a lot of majors you can study before you get to a medical school but we will talk about this later.
Probably your first question will be, “what classes I should take”. When choosing your classes your main goal should be to take classes that will help you prepare with your pre-med requirements (more on that late). The classes that will help you do this are:

1 year of general biology in the beginning of high school.
1 course in advanced placement biology when junior or senior.

1 year of general chemistry in the beginning of high school.
1 course in advanced placement chemistry when junior or senior.

Math and Physics
Advanced placement Calculus AB
Advanced placement Calculus BC
Advanced placement Physics B
Advanced placement Physics C

Foreign language
Most likely Spanish

If your school offers AP or IB courses for the above subjects consider taking them.

Extracurricular Activities

Another requirement that colleges look for is volunteer work or research. You can shadow your physician or volunteer at your local hospital to achieve this. A secret here is to be consistent with your volunteer work and don’t change constantly, as this will demonstrate how dedicated you are to what you are doing.

Apply for a research internship program for high school students at a college. This will not only familiarize you with college but it will also let you know how much you really like the curriculum you are about to study.

Get a Good SAT, ACT Score and a High GPA

With the national average SAT score being 1500 and ACT around 20-21, you certainly want to score higher than this. You can look here for College’s average test scores.
Also your GPA should be more than 3,7 to get into a good college.

Step 2: Get your Undergraduate Degree (Bachelor’s Degree) 4 Years

After you finish high school the first thing you have to do is to decide what major you will choose. While it makes sense to follow a pre-med major, a lot of students choose to follow a major in biology, chemistry, math, science and even social studies.

When deciding what major you will follow, there are two factors to take into consideration.

1) Your major should include the prerequisite courses required from medical schools

The prerequisite courses vary amongst medical schools, so you should research the schools you want to attend.

The (AAMS) Association of American Medical Schools requires the following courses for all applicants:

  • 1 year of physics – 2 semesters
  • 1 year of biology – 2 semesters
  • 1 year of English – 2 semesters
  • 1 year of inorganic chemistry – 2 semesters
  • 1 year of organic chemistry – 2 semesters

It’s beneficial if your major includes the following courses. However they are not required, but it’s highly recommended for entering a medical school:

  • Calculus
  • Genetics Statistics or epidemiology
  • Molecular biology
  • Neuroscience
  • Psychology
  • Writing
  • Ethics

2) You should choose a major where you have better chances of getting a higher GPA

A big factor on a medical school’s decision whether they will accept you or not is your GPA. This will be a sum of the science GPA, (BPCM Biology, Physics, Chemistry, Math) GPA and the non-science GPA.

You should aim for a total GPA of 3.7+

Volunteering & Research

Like high school, you should continue volunteering and be consistent about it. You should start from your first year and continue through to the last. As you want to become a pediatrician, it makes sense to pick an organization where you can help children – like at an orphanage for example.

When you are at college you will have a lot of opportunities to get involved with research. Make sure you take advantage of them, as they will make your bio look more appealing to medical schools.

Ace the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT)

The Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) is a test required by all medical schools.

There are 4 sections that you will be examined on during a five and half hour examination. These sections are:

  • Chemical and Physical Foundations of Biological Systems.
  • Biological and Biochemical
  • Foundations of Living Systems.
  • Psychological, Social, and Biological Foundations of Behavior.
  • Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills.

If you want to do well at the MCAT you need to start preparing at least six months before taking the test. Keep in mind that the MCAT, along with GPA are 2 of the most important factors medical schools take into consideration when deciding if they will accept you or not. The MCAT grading system is over 45 points, with a good score considered around 30, and an excellent being 34+.

pediatrician degrees

Step 3: Get your Doctor of Medicine Degree (D.O./Ph.D. – M.D./Ph.D.) 4 Years

Congratulations! All the hard work you have done since high school has finally paid off and you have entered a medical school – but you are still far from becoming a pediatrician.

You will spend the first two years of the medical school in a classroom where you will learn basic medical sciences like physiology, human anatomy, chemistry, pharmacology, microbiology, and neuro-anatomy.

The last two years you will get mostly hands-on experience, working clinical rotations under the supervision of a licensed physician.

During these two years you will probably decide on your specialty. The specialties are divided in two categories.

The first one is “Primary Care” which includes specialties like general internal medicine, family medicine, pediatric and, gynecology.

The second one is ”Subspecialty Care” which includes orthopedics, surgery, neurosurgery, cardiology, gastroenterology.

Step 4: Choose a Pediatric Residency Program 3 Years

After you finish medical school you need to do a 3 year residency. During this time you will work under the supervision of a licensed physician at a hospital or doctor’s office. These 3 years will probably be the most difficult years of your life.

You will be working as much as 80-100 hours per week facing really stressful situations, dealing with children facing fatal illnesses, and parents being devastated from it.

You will be amazed at the courage and optimism from children facing these situations, it can be truly inspirational. These three years will teach what it takes to be a pediatrician, and what it really takes to be a good one.

The residency program you will choose should be accredited by (ACGDE) Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education.

Step 5: Pediatric Fellowship 2 Years

After you finish your residency you can do an optimal two year “Fellowship”. This is training in which you will sub specialize on pediatric skills.

Some fellowships you take on pediatrics are:

  • Child and Adolescent Psychiatry Fellowship
  • Child Abuse Pediatrics Fellowship, Developmental Behavioral
  • Pediatrics Fellowship
  • General Pediatrics Fellowship
  • Neonatal-Perinatal Medicine Fellowship.

Step 6: Take your Medical License

After you finish your residency or fellowship you are required by law to obtain a medical license from your state’s licensing board.

The requirements are different from state but all states should require you submit proof of education and additional training. You will also need to pass the USMLE test.

Step 7: Get a Pediatric Board Certification

As a licensed pediatrician you can obtain an optional certification from the American Board of Pediatrics.

The requirements to get certified are:

  • To be a graduate from an accredited medical school.
  • Completed a 3 year residency providing medical care to children under the supervision of a licensed medical specialist.
  • Verification of the residency.
  • Possession of a state medical license.
  • Successful completion of a one-day examination.

How long does it take to become a pediatrician and how much does it cost?

Degree                Years                               Cost
Bachelor                  4                          $40,000 – $160,000
Medical School        4                         $100,000 – $160,000
Residency            3 Income                $30,000 – $45,000 per year

Total                         11                         $50,000 – $185,000

Average pediatrician salary $163,350

Becoming a Pediatrician Video

Noel Griffith, Ph.D.
Noel Griffith is a Doctor of Philosophy with a strong interest in educational research. He has been an editor-in-chief of since 2014. Noel is an avid reader (non-fiction), enjoys good food, live theatre, and helping others make wiser career decisions.

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