Every parent knows the value of a good pediatrician. It's the veteran doctor who still answers his or her pager at 3 a.m. to comfort a worried new father. It's the sensitive caregiver who respectfully alerts a parent to an emerging physical or emotional disorder that needs special attention. It's the pediatric cardiologist, pulmonologist or oncologist that labors diligently through a 12-hour surgery to vastly improve -- or even save -- a child's life.
Pediatricians, like all medical doctors in the U.S., need to complete four years of medical school, plus three years in an approved pediatric residency program. Even longer residencies are required for pediatric sub-specialties like emergency medicine or hematology [source: KidsHealth].
Pediatricians are not only responsible for the treatment of acute illnesses, injury and disease, but for the prevention of common and uncommon childhood medical conditions. A good pediatrician will advise parents on healthy eating choices, physical exercise, and the warning signs of possible emotional, psychological or behavioral problems [source: OSU Medical Center].
Pediatric residency programs are the most competitive of all medical residencies: In 2010, there were 15 applicants for every available spot [source: Medliorate]. So, if you're serious about being a pediatrician, expect to take the most challenging coursework available in both high school and college. It wouldn't hurt to get straight A's, too.