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How to Become a Pediatrician

Two Parts:Getting Your Education and CredentialsUnderstanding the Required Skills and Habits

Pediatricians provide medical care for adults under 20 and children under 18, and also for some adults with pediatric illnesses. Working as a pediatrician can be a very rewarding career, but also requires a great deal of training, education, and both physical and emotional stamina. Read this article to learn how to get started.

Part 1
Getting Your Education and Credentials

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    Obtain a high school diploma or pass the General Education Development (GED) test.[1] This is the first step on the road to becoming a doctor. Classes like biology, physics, and chemistry will prepare you for the type of coursework you will be studying in medical school. How you perform in these types of courses will be a good indicator of whether medicine is the right field for you.
    • If you dislike science courses like biology and chemistry, or find that you struggle to keep up with the classes, you might want to consider getting a private tutor to help you. If you are still having trouble even with the help of a tutor, then you should reconsider pursuing medicine and explore your other interests.
    • Getting good grades in high school will be important when it come to applying to a four year university. The grades you receive during your sophomore and junior years are important. Be sure to complete assignments on time, study for tests and quizzes, and keep up with reading assignments.
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    Graduate from a four-year university. You should apply to several different universities and choose the most prestigious one, as this will increase your chances of getting into medical school.[2] Most students who pursue medicine choose pre-med majors like Biology or Chemistry, but you don't necessarily have to graduate with a Bachelor of Sciences (BS).[3] Students who graduate in social sciences and humanities can also be accepted to medical school.[4]
    • Even if you don't graduate in sciences, you may need to complete certain requirements in chemistry, physics, general biology, and calculus.[5] The specific requirements will vary between schools, so check around with the various medical schools you plan on applying to.
    • Increase your chances of being accepted to a top medical school by volunteering or working in an environment that deals with public health. Volunteer at a hospital or nursery home, or find a job working in a pharmacy.[6]
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    Take the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT). The MCAT is a standardized multiple-choice test that is required for admission to medical school. The topics covered in the test include physical sciences, biological sciences, and verbal reasoning.[7]
    • Prepare for the test by buying an official MCAT handbook, taking practice tests, hiring a private tutor, and/or taking an MCAT preparatory class.[8]
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    Finish medical school. Most medical school programs are four years long. During the first two years, you will study broader subjects like physiology, chemistry, human anatomy, and pharmacology.[9] During your second two years, you will narrow down your focus to a specialized field, including family practice, internal medicine, and pediatrics.[10]
    • Annual fees for medical school average at $25,000 for state residents and $48,000 for non-residents.[11] Consider getting a loan, grant or scholarship to help you pay for medical school.
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    Complete a residency at a hospital. Once you have graduated from medical school, you will need to complete a three year pediatric training program at a hospital before you can start your own practice.[12] During this time, you will be given hands-on training and develop your skills in treating and dealing with sick patients. Over the course of the three years, you will be given an increasing amount of responsibilities and learn how to properly interact with patients.[13]
    • The training program must be accredited by the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME) or the American Osteopathic Association (AOA).[14]
    • Residencies are the most challenging part of becoming a doctor. You will be working very long hours (80-100 hours per week) and will be paid a minimum wage.[15] Expect to devote all of your time to completing your residency; you will have very little time to spend with friends and family.
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    Get board certified. You will need to receive and maintain a certification to practice pediatric medicine by the American Board of Pediatrics (ABP) or the American Osteopathic Board of Pediatrics (AOBP).[16]
    • There is a limit of seven years that can pass between the time you finish your pediatric training and become board certified.[17]
    • Certifications expire on December 31st of the specified year of expiration, and doctors will have to renew their certifications to continue practicing.[18]

Part 2
Understanding the Required Skills and Habits

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    Be prepared for the physical and emotional challenges involved. Pediatricians work with both healthy children and sick children whose illnesses will vary in their severity, and may meet patients who do not survive their illnesses. Parents of sick children may be extremely emotional and touchy, so it is important to be empathetic, patient, and have strong communication skills.
    • It is important to be detail-oriented and have a thorough understanding of medicine in order to effectively diagnose patients, especially infants, who cannot articulate their symptoms.
    • Physicians usually work long hours and have limited time to spend with friends and family. They also experience a great deal of stress when it comes to both time-management and the prospect of losing patients.
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    Know what to expect in medical school. Many students feel overwhelmed and discouraged by the heavy workload and breadth of study in medical school. The best way to prepare for medical school is to have a thorough understanding of the basic subjects, which include anatomy, physiology, and and biochemistry, among others.
    • Be prepared to spend a majority of your time either in school or studying. Take advantage of the months before medical school starts to travel and spend time with loved ones, as your free time will be very limited once the program begins.
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    Start early. It is important that you fully apply yourself in all levels of your education, from high school through medical school. Getting good grades early on in life will increase your likelihood of being accepted to a reputable university, medical school, and residency program. More importantly, being able to grasp the basic subjects early on in life will build a foundation that will help you throughout your education and work as a doctor.
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    Determine whether you enjoy working with children. Pediatricians should love children and feel comfortable working with them. Remember that you will be working with children of all ages, from infants to adolescents up to age 18. Treating younger patients requires more patience and intuition as a doctor, as patients may be uncooperative or unable to speak for themselves (especially infants).


  • Keep in mind that you will need lots of patience to become a pediatrician.
  • If you want to be a pediatrician, never stop chasing your dreams, even if there are setbacks along the way.
  • Even if you have your heart set on pediatrics, you may want to explore the prospect of other specialized fields of medicine. The first two years of medical school will help you narrow down your area of interest.
  • Consider taking out a student loan or applying for a scholarship to help pay for medical school, which can be very expensive.
  • If you are good with small animals, you should be able to do well with small children. Testing has shown many similarities to the brain activity of both. If you have successfully treated a puppy for parvis, helping a child with a cold will come naturally for you and being a pediatrician will come naturally to you.

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