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How to Become a Pediatrician

By Ahmad Rhodes

A pediatrician is a physician who treats adolescents and children from birth to seventeen years old. In addition, pediatricians can be primary care physicians. Specifically, primary care physicians aim to prevent chronic and acute diseases from worsening and avert health problems like hypertension and diabetes.

The path to becoming a pediatrician involves a bachelor’s degree with medical school prerequisites, medical school attendance, and a three-year pediatrics residency. On average, this would take 11 years. Some BS/MD programs combine undergraduate and medical in 6-8 years. These must be applied to during high school and confer a conditional acceptance to medical school. During undergraduate, volunteering, researching, shadowing, taking the MCAT, and doing well in your prerequisite courses are all recommended or required. The average GPA for an MD medical school matriculant is 3.7. DO schools are more holistic and focus on treating the patient as a whole. They differ from MD’s because they use osteopathic manipulative therapy to help treat patients. They do joint massages with the bones. DO schools are not as competitive as MD schools, so you will need a 3.5 gpa and an MCAT score of a 502 or higher.

The MCAT is the medical school entrance exam that is required for entry [l]. The different sections of the MCAT are the critical analysis and reasoning section, chemical and physical foundations of biological systems, biological and biochemical foundations of living systems and psychological, and social and biological foundations of behavior. Study skills are vital for this rigorous exam. Students will often full-time study for months before the exam. Technically, the MCAT can be taken 7 times, but doing so more than 3 times is frowned upon. Do not use any of the attempts as practice. Previous MCAT attempts can be seen by schools and may be averaged with the new score. If a student feels that they have not performed well, they may void the score before they have received it. Most will take the MCAT during junior year as prior prerequisites are often beneficial. The MCAT is a standardized, multiple-choice exam. It is also curved, where the average is set at 500 and each number is set to a percentile. The lowest score possible is 472, while the highest is 528. Check the average matriculant MCAT for each medical school to determine the competitiveness of a score. A data set, MSAR, can be purchased.

In medical school, the first 2 years are pre-clinical. Essentially, these are classes. The last 2 years are clinical rotations where there are clerkships in pediatrics. Between the pre-clinical and clinical years, there is the STEP 1 exam. This is also standardized and taken over the course of 2 days. The exam covers the basic sciences, such as anatomy, immunology, microbiology and pharmacology. It is the main determinant of competitiveness for a specialty. Certain specialties are more competitive than others and will require a higher STEP 1 score. It cannot be retaken unless the student has failed. A failing score is 194, and the exam is scaled from 1 to 300. However, the STEP 1 exam will be made pass/fail in 2022. Other factors will be used to determine competitiveness for specialties. Which factors are still debated, but some suspect STEP 2 will be used. The STEP 2 exam is taken in third year. This test consists of material from internal medicine, general surgery, OB/GYN, pediatrics, family medicine, emergency medicine, and psychiatry. While historically less important than STEP 1, it is still a factor in residency application. One part is the clinical knowledge test, and the other part is clinical skill. Clinical knowledge remains scored, while clinical skills is already pass/fail. For pediatrics, the average STEP 1 score is 226 and the average STEP 2 score is 215. After medical school, a successful applicant will start a pediatric residency in outpatient settings (clinic) and inpatient settings (hospital). A thorough knowledge of anatomy and pathophysiology are required because of work with infants, children, and teens. Residents will work with several pediatric specialists, such as pediatric cardiologists or pediatric dermatologists. After residency, new attendings can work in general pediatrics, typically in primary care or as a pediatric hospital. Conversely, they can apply to fellowship. Like with residency, certain fellowships are more competitive than others. They allow physicians to further specialize.

Passion is vital for pediatrics. Notably, pediatricians are some of the lowest paid physicians. Pediatric patients do not just come in when they are sick - they also come in for wellness check-ups and vaccines. Sometimes, there will be stubborn parents who do not want to listen to medical advice. Not everyone supports vaccines, and as a result, there will be many situations with controversial topics or a similar scenario. After infants are delivered by a OB/GYN, they will be in the pediatrician's care until they are 17 years old. Adolescents will go through a lot of changes in their body, so excellent communication skills will be needed as they enter puberty. A pediatric specialty like intensive care can also be straining. Unfortunately, death in the medical field is inevitable.

Lastly, pediatricians make around $184,240 yearly, according to the U.S Bureau of Labor and statistics. Other doctors such as general surgeons make $397,461 a year on average. Pediatrics is an important field where the physician can be an important part of a child’s life until adulthood. They will be seen as the child’s guardian angel alongside their parents. To pediatricians, children are endearing and resilient. They often are able to conquer illness quickly because they have a strong immune system. Even though it can be challenging at times, it is a broad field of different subspecialties and childhood memories.


  1. (n.d.). Retrieved November 10, 2020, from

  2. Online USMLE Tutoring: Best USMLE Tutors. (2020, October 01). Retrieved November 10, 2020, from

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