Neonatologists provide care for babies who are born prematurely or who have special needs at birth and through the first few weeks or months of their lives. All neonatologists train as doctors first, which means they complete four years of medical school and then train in their area of specialization by completing a residency and fellowship. No specific undergraduate major is required to become a neonatologist, but some majors may prove more useful than others.
Preparing for Medical School
All medical schools require that applicants complete certain prerequisite courses before they can be accepted. Requirements vary by school, but the Association of American Medical Colleges says the course list typically includes one year of biology, one year of physics, two years of chemistry and one year of English. Many programs also require at least one course of calculus or statistics. Requirements for chemistry include both organic and inorganic chemistry, and all science courses should typically be accompanied by a lab component.
Though medical schools do not require a specific undergraduate major, and no specific major is required to train as a neonatologist, some common choices of major include chemistry and biology. Both majors typically cover all the courses that are required to get into medical school, and both majors provide a strong foundation for study in medical school. Aspiring neonatologists may find chemistry to be a good choice of major since it provides education in some basic principles that they'll use in their careers, such as the study of medical treatments and pharmacology.
Preparing for the MCAT
A good score on the Medical College Admission Test is essential for getting into a top medical school. Sections on the exam include physical science, biological sciences, verbal reasoning, physical and biological sciences cognitive skills and verbal reasoning cognitive skills. Students who major in chemistry as undergrads may be better prepared for sections of the exam dealing with chemistry. Some concepts covered in the sections dealing with chemistry include electronic structures, the periodic table, ionic and covalent bonds, gas phases and stoichemistry.
After medical school, neonatologists complete their specialty training through a pediatrics residency and a neonatology fellowship. The residency typically lasts three years, and the fellowship typically lasts one to two years. Coursework for both the residency and fellowship can include advanced topics in chemistry or can be informed by advanced chemistry principles, such as disease processes and pharmacological treatment. However, the majority of the residency and fellowship will be spent in hands-on, clinical training.