If you are interested in a medical degree and like working with children, pediatrics can be a rewarding career choice. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that doctors, including pediatricians, earn median salaries of $208,000 per year. Not only is it one of the highest-paying careers in the country, but doctors feel personal fulfillment as well.
While most medical schools allow you to choose this specialty, the best pediatric medical schools can open unique opportunities. Before you make a final decision, make sure you understand the best routes for becoming a pediatrician and the many factors that make up the best pediatric medical universities.
How to Become a Pediatrician
To become a pediatrician, you must complete many of the same steps as other types of doctors. However, you can choose to focus on pediatrics in medical school. Then you can apply to enter one of the top pediatric residency programs.
The specifics may vary, but pediatricians need to complete the following steps:
- Earn a bachelor's degree in pre-medicine or a related field
- Take the Medical College Admission Test
- Apply to pediatrician colleges
- Finish medical school
- Pass the United States Medical Licensing Examination
- Complete a pediatric residency program
- Earn certification from the American Board of Pediatrics
The final step is optional. However, board certification can help you get hired at top hospitals or can help you to start your own practice. You may need to fulfill additional steps to specialize in pediatrics.
Consider Pediatric Specialties
Once you are a board-certified pediatrician, you can further specialize in specific areas. Some examples of pediatric specialties include:
- Primary care
- Emergency care
- Behavioral medicine
- Sports medicine
Each specialty has different requirements. For example, you can become a pediatric oncologist by completing a three-year fellowship in the field. Roughly one out of every three pediatricians choose these programs.
Choose an Undergraduate Degree
If you have not already earned a bachelor's degree, you must complete that step first. Choosing the right university can help you get into the best pediatric medical schools. You should consider the following factors when selecting a school:
- Cost and available financial aid
- Pre-med programs
- Partner medical schools
You must decide which of these factors is most important to you. For example, you may want to stay close to home for financial support, which would make the location the most important consideration. However, you could have your eyes on a specific medical school and prioritize undergraduate universities that work with it.
Choosing an Undergraduate Major
Although some universities offer specific pre-medicine majors, many do not. Instead, learners who want to pursue careers in pediatric medicine must choose other science majors. Even when pre-medicine is available as a major, it is only the best fit if you are sure that you want to practice medicine. Other majors keep your options open.
When medical schools look over your transcript, they will pay particular attention to your overall GPA and how well you do in your science courses. With this in mind, choose a major in which you know you can excel. In addition to fields like biology and chemistry, soon-to-be doctors earn undergraduate degrees in:
Get Ready for the MCAT
As you wrap up your bachelor's program, you can begin preparing for the Medical College Admission Test, or MCAT. It's essential to have a plan for studying for the exam. Give yourself at least three months of preparation and plan when you will review each section of the test.
As you study, you should also make sure you understand the format of the MCAT. The test consists of four distinct parts:
- Biological and biochemical foundations of living systems
- Critical analysis and reasoning skills
- Chemical and physical foundations of biological systems
- Psychological, social and biological foundations of behavior
You have 95 minutes to complete each section except for the critical analysis and reasoning skills section, which has a 90-minute time limit. This section has 53 questions, but the others consist of 59 items each. Every question on the MCAT is in the multiple-choice format.
Take the MCAT and Get Your Score
On the night before your test, try to get a great night's rest. This strategy will probably do more for you than a last-minute cramming session with little sleep. Arrive early with your photo ID. You can take advantage of the three optional breaks if you want.
You MCAT scores should be ready to view between 30 and 35 days after your exam. In addition to scores for each section, your report will include:
- Percentile ranks
- Confidence bands
- Score profile
The percentile ranks compare your scores to others who took the same exam. Confidence bands demonstrate the accuracy of the ratings. Finally, the score profile goes into detail about the strengths and weaknesses you bring to a medical program.
Rank the Best Medical Schools for You
As you did when choosing an undergraduate school, you will need to decide on medical schools based on several factors. The things that are most important to one person may be less vital to another. You may consider any of the following elements:
- Admissions criteria
- Partnering hospitals
- Opportunities for pediatric specialization
Your MCAT scores and undergraduate GPA play a role in this process. If your scores are a little lower than you would like, you may not qualify to apply to some schools. You can either retake the exam or find a school that fits your needs.
Characteristics of the Best Pediatric Medical Schools
Because every student has unique needs, it's difficult to say which school is the best. However, many of the top pediatric medical schools share some qualities. For example, you should only attend medical schools that the American Association of Medical Colleges accredits.
The best medical colleges for pediatricians also have nationally or regionally recognizable names. If you know you want to practice medicine in a specific area, you might choose a college that the locals respect. If you're not sure, pick one with broad name recognition.
Furthermore, you should consider universities that have special pediatrics tracks. These courses help you get ahead, find top residency programs and land your dream job in the field.
Consider Top-Rated Schools
If you only want to consider the most respected pediatrics programs in the country, be sure to check some national rankings. Although your needs may differ from other students, these lists can help you determine which colleges will net you the most professional respect.
U.S. News & World Report ranks these schools as the 10 best universities for pediatric medicine:
- Harvard University
- University of Pennsylvania – Perelman
- University of Cincinnati
- University of Colorado
- Johns Hopkins University
- University of California – San Francisco
- University of Pittsburgh
- University of Washington
- Stanford University
- Baylor College of Medicine
A Note on Accreditation
Institutional accreditation and recognition from the AAMC should be mandatory for any medical school you attend. Without these credentials, you may be unable to earn a license or other professional certifications.
Institutional accreditation can come in two forms: regional and national. Regionally accredited schools tend to deliver more academic rigor and rank higher. While national accreditation is acceptable, it's best to stick with regionally accredited schools.