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How do I Become a Developmental Pediatrician?

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  • Written By: Tricia Ellis-Christensen
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 03 November 2016
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The path to become a developmental pediatrician or a developmental-behavioral pediatrician is lengthy. These doctors, who specialize in treating children with developmental or behavioral issues, work in what is considered a subspecialty of pediatrics. Since pediatrics is its own specialty, it can take many years before someone can become a board-certified developmental pediatrician. Work begins in college, progresses through medical school, a residency in pediatrics, and a fellowship in developmental pediatrics.

Beginning in college, students will have to choose a major that is acceptable for entry to a medical school. For some students, this major is logically pre-med, while others choose one of the sciences, such as biochemistry or microbiology. Since developmental pediatrics means working mostly with children, it’s not a bad idea at the college level to take courses like childhood development or to work a job that directly concerns children. Courses in psychology or psychiatry, especially as relates to children and adolescents, can be valuable training, too.

The principal focus in college is to gain enough information to pass the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT). High scores on the test, along with strong grades and solid recommendations, increase chances of being accepted to medical school. When students are accepted to medical school, they have moved into the next phase to become a developmental pediatrician.

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In countries like the US, medical school is comprised of three years of study and one year of internship. During the internship year, students are given the opportunity to try out a number of different medical specialties. They can take board examinations at the end of the internship year and become medical practice generalists or they can choose to match with a specialty and receive more study and practice. The doctor who wants to become a developmental pediatrician must obtain a residency in pediatrics, in order to fulfill his or her goal.

Most pediatric residencies are three years in length, and when they are finished, doctors take examinations to become board-certified pediatricians. At this point, they can also choose to continue, studying a subspecialty of pediatrics, such as neurology, cardiology or developmental behavioral pediatrics. Doctors will spend three more years in a developmental pediatric fellowship. When it is completed, they take another set of board examinations to finally become a developmental pediatrician.

The field of developmental pediatrics is a relatively new specialty, and competition for fellowships may be fierce. Only the top students progress from level to level, so it’s important to work hard, maintain very strong grades, and establish excellent rapport with teachers who have the power to make recommendations. Once in this field, doctors may work in a variety of ways. Some work in direct practice, others advise or develop plans for pediatricians, and many others work in research, further advancing the contributions this field has to offer patients.

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