What Education Is Required to Be a Pediatrician?
Are you interested in providing healthcare services to infants and children? Becoming a pediatrician involves several years of schooling and specialized training. Earning a medical license allows you to practice medicine and obtaining voluntary certification can establish your proficiency in pediatrics. Schools offering Health Science degrees can also be found in these popular choices.
Pediatric medicine focuses on preventing, treating, and diagnosing childhood illnesses and diseases, as well as monitoring a child's growth and development from infancy to young adulthood. To become a pediatrician, you'll need training in general medicine throughout most of your undergraduate and graduate education. Specialization in pediatric healthcare begins during your residency.
Though not a typical major, undergraduate programs in pre-medicine are usually offered as advising programs to prepare you for medical school. You'll often take pre-med studies in conjunction with another major of your choosing, such as biology, chemistry, or math. Pre-med programs generally add a year to a typical bachelor's degree program or can be completed in three years if you enroll without declaring an additional major.
To be accepted into a medical school program, you must take the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) and submit transcripts and letters of recommendation to the college. Many schools also have an interview process. Your Doctor of Medicine (M.D.) or Doctor of Osteopathy (O.D.) program should take four years to complete and will focus on teaching you a variety of medical and healthcare practices. Part of your training also will include taking courses in anatomy, pharmacology, psychology, medical ethics, pathology, and biochemistry.
After you graduate from medical school, you'll need to complete a residency in a clinical setting. In this program, you'll receive hands-on training under the supervision of experienced pediatricians. If you choose to further specialize in pediatric surgery or acute medical conditions that affect children, you can pursue a fellowship or additional training after your residency. Residencies and fellowships are paid positions that can last from 7-10 years or more.
During the course of your medical degree and residency programs, you'll take the United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE) in order to practice medicine within the U.S. After passing the USMLE, you'll be able to apply to your state's board of medical examiners for a medical license. Some states recognize licensure from other states, though you might need to complete additional requirements to practice in more than one state.
The American Board of Pediatrics (ABP) awards optional certification in general pediatrics and a few pediatric subspecialties (www.abp.org). In order to become certified, you'll need a medical degree from an accredited medical school in the U.S. or Canada or from an international school accredited by the World Health Organization. To qualify to take the certification exam, you'll need to be licensed and have completed three years of pediatric training. ABP certification is valid for seven years and you can renew your credential by completing a recertification exam.
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