How do I Become a Developmental Pediatrician?

It takes a long time to train as a developmental pediatrician or developmental-behavioral pediatrician. These doctors work in a subspecialty of pediatrics that specializes in treating children with developmental or behavioral issues. Because pediatrics is a separate specialty, becoming a board-certified developmental pediatrician can take many years. Work begins in college and continues through medical school, a pediatric residency, and a developmental pediatrics fellowship.

Beginning in college, students must select a major that will allow them to apply to medical schools. This major is logically pre-medical for some students, while others choose one of the sciences, such as biochemistry or microbiology. Because developmental pediatrics entails primarily working with children, it’s not a bad idea to take courses in childhood development or work in a field that directly affects children while in college. Courses in psychology or psychiatry, particularly as they pertain to children and adolescents, can also be beneficial.

In college, the main goal is to learn enough to pass the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT). High test scores, combined with good grades and recommendations, improve your chances of being accepted to medical school. When students are accepted into medical school, they have advanced to the next stage of their training to become developmental pediatricians.

In countries such as the United States, medical school consists of three years of study followed a year of internship. Students have the opportunity to try out a variety of medical specialties during their internship year. They can choose to match with a specialty and receive more study and practice at the end of the internship year, or they can take board examinations and become medical practice generalists. In order to achieve his or her goal of becoming a developmental pediatrician, a doctor must complete a pediatric residency.

Most pediatric residencies last three years, after which doctors must pass board exams to become board-certified pediatricians. They can also choose to continue studying a pediatric subspecialty, such as neurology, cardiology, or developmental behavioral pediatrics, at this point. A developmental pediatric fellowship will last three years for doctors. After that, they must pass another set of board exams in order to become a developmental pediatrician.

Because developmental pediatrics is a relatively new specialty, fellowship competition may be fierce. Only the best students advance from level to level, so it’s critical to work hard, maintain excellent grades, and build strong relationships with teachers who have the authority to make recommendations. Doctors can work in a variety of capacities once they enter this field. Some work in direct patient care, while others advise or develop plans for pediatricians, and still others work in research to advance the field’s contributions to patients.