How Many Years of College Does It Take to Become a Pediatrician?

by Melly Parker ; Updated July 27, 2017

There are some things you have to be born with to be a pediatrician: compassion, desire to work with children and a gentle touch. Having a good heart doesn’t mean you can just jump into an office and start diagnosing ill children. You have to go through years of college, medical school and internships to start your own office. The education you get ensures that you’re a quality caregiver who knows her stuff. Prior to starting down the path to being a pediatrician, be sure you’re willing to complete many years of school before beginning your career.

Undergraduate Degree

Before you can study medicine, you must obtain a bachelor's degree in any field. If you study a science like biology, chemistry or anatomy, it will help you with your courses in medical school. While you're in school, work or volunteer in the medical field as often as possible. You will have to take the Medical College Admission Test after during your junior year of undergraduate education. You submit the scores, along with your transcripts, resume, essays and recommendation letters, to medical school when you're beginning your senior year in college.

Medical School

Medical school lasts for four years. The first two years are focused on laboratory and classroom experience. You'll learn about the human body, diseases, patient care and medical ethics. After you're completed the classroom portion of medical school, you'll begin your rotations at hospitals and doctor's offices. You'll learn about how to diagnose and treat illnesses by studying internal medicine, family practice, obstetrics and gynecology, pediatrics, psychiatry and surgery.

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When you're doing your rotations, you apply to medical residencies in pediatrics. You'll spend 3 years under the supervision of a licensed pediatrician and other doctors. Usually you'll complete this residency in a hospital. You select a track for the type of pediatrician you want to be -- if you want to be a family practitioner, for example, you would want to work under the care of a doctor who is known to be a strong family practitioner. If you're interested in pediatric psychiatry or another specialty, you should choose your residency and the director of your program to suit those interests.


After you've taken your national medical exams and satisfied any state or local requirements to be licensed, you'll be able to practice privately if you choose. As a doctor, you are required to stay current on the latest education and industry advances, so you'll have to occasionally complete new courses or retake examinations. If you want to specialize in an area of pediatrics like surgery or oncology, you must take between two and 10 additional years of coursework under a licensed doctor in that field.

2016 Salary Information for Physicians and Surgeons

Physicians and surgeons earned a median annual salary of $204,950 in 2016, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. On the low end, physicians and surgeons earned a 25th percentile salary of $131,980, meaning 75 percent earned more than this amount. The 75th percentile salary is $261,170, meaning 25 percent earn more. In 2016, 713,800 people were employed in the U.S. as physicians and surgeons.

About the Author

Melly Parker has been writing since 2007, focusing on health, business, technology and home improvement. She has also worked as a teacher and a bioassay laboratory technician. Parker now serves as a marketing specialist at one of the largest mobile app developers in the world. She holds a Master of Science in English.

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