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What are all the steps to becoming a pediatrician?

Hello, my name is Athena and I am currently a junior in high school. Ever since kindergarten I've wanted to be a "kid doctor". I've always enjoyed the sciences more than anything else. However, I'm not really sure how to become a pediatrician. I think you have to get your undergrad degree first, then apply to med school, and then do residency? And are there standardized tests you have to take, like the MCAT? Right now I'm doing dual-enrollment at my local community college, since I know med school takes a while... Thank you in advance to anyone who answered my question! pediatrician doctor pediatrics medical-school medicine college

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John’s Answer

Athena it takes around 11 years to become a board-certified pediatrician in the United States.

Of courses, the first step is to get a bachelor's degree with a pre-med focus. Medical schools don't typically require a particular undergraduate degree for admission. You should apply to several different universities and choose the most prestigious one, as this will increase your chances of getting into medical school. 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). Students who graduate in social sciences and humanities can also be accepted to medical school. 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. During your undergraduate study, you will prepare for the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT), which is a requirement to get into most medical schools. Students are evaluated on their knowledge of physical science and biology, cognitive skills and verbal reasoning skills.

The next step in pediatrician education requirements is to complete your MD degree to be a pediatrician. The first 2-years of these medical programs are spent in a classroom, taking courses in medical procedures, body systems and disease, among other subjects. During the second 2-years of the program, students complete clinical rotations, working with patients while supervised by a licensed physician. Clinical rotations include areas like pediatrics, psychiatry, obstetrics, and internal medicine. After you get your MD degree, you'll have to undergo a 3-year pediatrics residency. During your residency, you complete clinical rotations in different pediatric sub-specialties, such as adolescent medicine, emergency medicine, endocrinology and cardiology. You may also attend lectures, conduct research and gain teaching experience. Consider earning a board certification in pediatrics following completion of your residency, although this isn't required. Board certification shows patients that you hold a high level of competency in your chosen specialty.

Athena in some of your other questions you've inquired about the steps of becoming a Registered Nurse (RN), may I also suggest you could pursue becoming an RN before going on to becoming a Pediatrician. This will allow you to work for a couple of years as an RN to help pay for Medical School, although this does not qualify you to become a pediatrician, but it does fulfill the same prerequisites for medical school. When your ready to pursue becoming a pediatrician you'll need to take and pass the MCAT and enroll in medical school. The rest of the steps to becoming a doctor would still apply to nurses. While these education requirements are significant, nurses do have a head start in becoming doctors, and many of them will excel in medical school and residency because of their prior experience.

Hope this is helpful Athena

Thank You Gianella. “We can’t help everyone, but everyone can help someone.” — Ronald Reagan John Frick

Thank you for always answering my questions! They're always very helpful. Athena R.

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Jennifer’s Answer

Hi Athena,
Yes, it sounds like you have a general gist of the steps towards being a pediatrician! First, you must fulfill your prerequisite requirements of taking different classes in chemistry, biology, organic chemistry, physics, english and math (not always required). The most prestigious school actually does not have much impact on your acceptance towards medical school though. As long as you have a solid overall GPA and science GPA in college, then you will be looked upon more favorably than someone who is barely passing their science classes from an Ivy League university. Even if your GPA is not your strength, you can still balance that out through your MCAT score if you do well. On top of that, you can show your passion towards medicine in other ways, through extracurriculars or volunteering with children in hospitals (assuming you have the ability to during this pandemic). Once you are accepted into medical school, your first 2 years will be spent in the classroom and your next 2 years will be clinical. During this time, pediatrics is one of the mandatory rotations, and this will give you a taste of whether pediatrics is for you or whether another specialty is your calling. Once you complete residency, you could decide to pursue a fellowship, which narrows down your specialty much more. For example, maybe you want to be a pediatrician, but you really want to combine that interest with endocrinology. Being a fellow allows you to combine those interests and you can treat children that have endocrine related problems. Hope this helped!

Thank you so much for your response! I will keep that in mind :) Athena R.

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Joanne’s Answer

Hello Athena,

As you see from my brief profile, I am not a Pediatrician, but I have worked as a Pediatric RN for over 35 years.

The advice from others on this forum addressed the process.
What I suggest is you find a respected Pediatrician in your area who you could “follow,” therefore getting a sense of the actual day-to-day work.
The education, residency, and finances should be discussed with a career counselor at a university or two of your choice...then if it fits, go for it!

Finally, I must add that I can relate to your lifelong thoughts of wanting this. I wanted to be a Pedi nurse ever since I was a teenager, pursued it, and to this day, I have never regretted it. Love my work with infants, children, teens and their families. Shoulda gone to medical school maybe, but Nursing is also a rewarding career.

Maybe we both are naturals and find it a calling....

Best of luck!
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Yasemin’s Answer

Hi Athena! Great on the dual enrollment courses, they will definitely help! In addition to the above answers, I'll add what I know as well. So first of all in college you can be any major, but you must complete prerequisites and show to medical school that you are committed to the field. Although GPA and MCAT are very important to admissions, extracurriculars and experience is no less. It is important to volunteer clinically and non-clincally; I would recommend volunteering at a local hospital or clinic nearby. You want patient experience and make it meaningful to prove that this is the right field for you. Non-clinical is also important because community service and helping others matters in medicine; find something you love to do and commit to it! It can be tutoring, a kitchen, maybe teaching how to play an instrument to underserved communities, there is a lot of variety but it should speak to you. It is more than only checking boxes and completing hours but liking what you do and being able to speak in a meaningful way about it.

Shadowing is also important; you want to definitely get some shadowing in, the hours can vary (some say 50 is average while others even go for 100), so there is a little difference. I think it matters time wise too, if you shadow one or two physicians for a couple months over the summer breaks or throughout college that can be helpful! If you can do more than one physician that is also beneficial. I think it's good to definitely have that experience when applying to medical school, it may not be 100 hrs but you definitely want to make it meaningful. For volunteering hitting a 100 hours and more is good, I'm sure speaking with a premed adviser or even doing a simple search on google through various premed sites will tell you this. You really want to show commitment but let's says 200 hours over a couple years as an undergraduate will be more favorable for the admissions committee than 200 hours in 6 months only. You want to complete hours but not in a quick way like "box-checking".

For the MCAT, it is like the SATs for college, but will test your knowledge in a variety of ways through the courses you take as a premed. I would advise to take a semester of Biochemistry before sitting for the MCAT; there is a lot to know about amino acids, their pKas and enzymes, and biochemistry is a great way to really get this knowledge down. Usually, although a formal class is not always required for medical school (some do want it and some can substitute for organic chemistry II so please double check with each school), and for the MCAT as you can study for it through Khan academy, I think it would still do more good for medical school and the exam to take a formal lecture course. Lab is not required however like other prerequisites that do require it, so you don't have to worry about it! Lastly, for the MCAT, AAMC has a lot of information and I would advise to check out their website; they are the ones administering the exam and they also have practice exams and other question packets for sale, so definitely buy them and practice, practice, practice! For the MCAT practice is crucial, take practice exams and test yourself so you can build up stamina and be more comfortable for exam day. Khan academy also has videos that have partnered with AAMC so they are very helpful in studying. I also think Kaplan has a great review book series on different subjects, and I would purchase either them or Princeton review. There are many so definitely check out different options but these two are pretty popular and reliable for the MCAT. Remember to set time for yourself in studying for the MCAT, some individuals study for it during the summer before their senior year and some graduate college and then study (I did the second option). I think it matters about each person's own responsibilities and how much time they can give to the exam. You want to be prepared so giving yourself the time you need is perfectly fine and practice exams are the way to know if you are ready for the exam.

Also one last note, when you apply to medical school you do so before the year of matriculation. For example, if you apply as a junior you won't start medical school until the following year. That year will be having your application reviewed and interviews, and then you will hear back.

I hope this helps! Please ask more questions if needed! Study and do well, stay committed, and you will be just fine, it's a long process but it is worth it if you truly love this field!

Best of luck future doctor!

Thank you so much for this! I learned a lot :)) Athena R.

You're welcome! Yasemin G.