Pediatricians specialize in the diagnosis and treatment of children. The undergraduate education of a pediatrician is is followed by at least eight years in medical school and a residency, not to mention further fellowships or subspecialties. A pre-med student planning on becoming a pediatrician may major in any discipline, yet must complete certain prerequisites to prepare for the Medical College Admission Test and rigorous medical school curriculum. Required courses are heavy on the sciences.
Students planning on entering medical school must take the full two-semester sequence of general biology, chemistry and physics courses, all with labs. The biology courses survey molecular and cell biology and physiology, as well as environmental science and evolution. General chemistry will cover topics such as the periodic table, acids and bases, and the physics course covers topics in energy and matter such as electromagnetism and light. In addition, pre-med students need to take a semester of organic chemistry with lab, which studies the chemical reactions of living things. These topics are covered on the MCAT, so students must have a solid foundation in these courses to go to medical school. The Association of American Medical Colleges states that only these introductory courses are required to do well on the exam.
After the introductory courses are completed, future pediatricians take more advanced biology and chemistry courses to more fully prepare for the MCAT and medical school. These courses will delve more completely into the cellular and genetic structure of living things. Biology courses such as anatomy and physiology, cell biology and microbiology, genetics and immunology are recommended by medical schools before admission. Biochemistry is also recommended for both the MCAT as well as medical school.
There is no math section on the MCAT, but math knowledge up through pre-calculus is required to complete the other sections. However, almost all medical schools require calculus for admission. In addition, the general physics courses pre-med students are required to take generally involve calculus methods, so calculus is required before taking these courses. Statistics is a common prerequisite for medical schools as well, as it deals with the collection and interpretation of observational data.
Social Sciences and Humanities
Social science and humanities courses help students develop their critical and analytical thinking skills as well their verbal communication skills. These skills are essential for the verbal reasoning section of the MCAT as well as for their future medical career. Introductory courses in the social sciences, such as psychology, sociology and anthropology, are recommended and sometimes required for medical school. In addition, pre-med students must often have credits in English composition and literature. Courses in communications are often recommended as well.
Since medical school prepares students for a general medical degree, pediatricians may want to take courses more specific to children to prepare for their future specialty. Elective biology courses such as embryology, developmental biology or child pharmacology are recommended. Developmental psychology, child and adolescent psychology will help pediatricians become more familiar with child and adolescent issues. Child development or public health courses may be beneficial as well.
- The Catholic University of America: Department of Biology Course Descriptions
- University of North Carolina: Biology Department Course Descriptions
- Johns Hopkins School of Medicine: Requirements
- Medical University of South Carolina: Entrance Requirements
- College of Charleston: Psychology (B.A.) Major Requirements
Gale Marie Thompson's work has been published in "Denver Quarterly," "Los Angeles Review" and "Best New Poets 2012." Thompson holds a BA in English and creative writing from the College of Charleston, a MFA from the University of Massachusetts Amherst, and is working on a PhD at the University of Georgia.