Pediatrician Degrees: Program Overviews

Learn about the training required to become a pediatrician. Get information on residency and fellowship programs, and learn what is required to become board certified.

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Essential Information

To become a pediatric generalist, students have to complete at least 11 years of postsecondary training. Most students begin with the completion of a pre-medicine or biology bachelor's degree program, followed by an accredited medical degree curriculum that requires four years of study. After medical school, aspiring pediatricians move on to a residency program and, if desired, a fellowship.

In the residency program, new doctors spend three years gaining paid experience in pediatrics in a residency program at a hospital. They spend time working in many areas of pediatric care. They will accompany veteran physicians on their rounds and participate in conferences and meetings. 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 or oncology, may complete a 1- to 3-year fellowship after completing their residencies. These programs are focused on research, although there are some clinical requirements. Fellows often attend conferences and publish their work in scholarly publications.


Pediatric Residency Training

Physician residency training is paid work experience that typically takes three years to complete. 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.

Education Prerequisites

In order to apply to a residency program, students must have a unique National Resident Matching Program (NRMP) number. Most residency programs accept applications through the Electronic Residency Application Service (ERAS) and use the match number to secure individual applicants.

In order to apply through ERAS, students must generally submit a resume, three letters of recommendation, a dean's letter and a personal statement. Applicants must also include transcripts from medical school as well as the United States Medical Licensing Exam. If the residency admissions board is interested in an applicant, an in-person interview is typically arranged.

Program Coursework

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

Employment Outlook and Salary Information

Pediatricians can find work in clinics, hospitals, group practices or private practices. As of May 2012, general pediatricians earned a median annual wage of $154,650, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (www.bls.gov). Additionally, the same government agency noted that employment of all physicians and surgeons was predicted to climb by 24% from 2010 to 2020.

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.


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.

Education Prerequisites

In order to be eligible for a pediatric fellowship, applicants must have completed a 3-year residency. Once this is qualification is met, the process is similar to applying to a residency program, since many fellowships use the matching and ERAS systems.

Program Coursework

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

Popular Career Options

Those who have completed a pediatric fellowship could go on to work with government agencies, pharmaceutical companies, medical centers or practices. Not only could they practice in their field, but they could also work as:

  • Faculty members
  • Researchers
  • Consultants

Continuing Education and Certification Information

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.

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