Education and Training Requirements

High School

While in high school, take college prep classes, with a heavy emphasis on science and math. Biology, chemistry, physics, and physiology are important science classes. Any advanced math courses are also excellent choices.

Classes in English, foreign languages, and speech will enhance communication skills, which are vital to being a successful physician. Such social sciences as psychology and sociology, which increase your understanding of others, are also beneficial.

Postsecondary Training

After earning a medical degree (either M.D. or D.O.) and becoming licensed to practice medicine, pediatricians must complete a three-year residency program in a hospital. The pediatric residency provides extensive experience in ambulatory pediatrics, the care of infants and children who are not bedridden. Residents also spend time working in various specialized pediatric units, including neonatology, adolescent medicine, child development, psychology, special care, intensive care, and outpatient.

Some of the other subspecialties a pediatrician might acquire training for include adolescent medicine, pediatric cardiology (care of children with heart disease), pediatric critical care (care of children requiring advanced life support), pediatric endocrinology (care of children with diabetes and other glandular disorders), pediatric neurology (care of children with nervous system disorders), and pediatric hematology/oncology (care of children with blood disorders and cancer).

Certification, Licensing, and Special Requirements

Certification or Licensing

Pediatricians must be certified by the American Board of Pediatrics. A certificate in general pediatrics is awarded after three years of residency training and the successful completion of a comprehensive written examination. A pediatrician who specializes in cardiology, infectious diseases, or other areas must complete an additional three-year residency in the subspecialty before taking the certification examination.

Experience, Skills, and Personality Traits

Pediatricians gain hands-on experience in medical school, often in the third year or fourth year. Students often work full time at a designated site during each six- to 12-week rotation period and are assigned on-call duty on scheduled nights and weekends. Further experience is developed in the mandatory three-year residency. Scientific ability is critical to success, as well as the ability to communicate with parents and children.

Pediatricians who desire to own their practice need to possess business management, marketing, and leadership skills.