In order to become a pediatric surgeon, a student needs to undertake years of study and practice. Students first must graduate from high school and complete an undergraduate degree. They have to apply for medical school and then complete this four-year program. The next steps include finishing a five-year residency program in general surgery and then a two-year fellowship in the subspecialty of pediatric surgery. When these experiences are satisfactorily completed, students can take a licensing test to become fully certified practitioners in this field.
The first and most basic educational experiences that are required to become a pediatric surgeon include graduating high school and obtaining a bachelor's degree. Although no specific undergraduate majors are required, students must finish the necessary prerequisites for gaining admission to medical school. These include classes such as calculus, biology, organic chemistry, inorganic chemistry, physics, and English. Many students take the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT)® during their junior years of college if they plan to start medical school immediately after graduating.
Completing medical school is the next step to become a pediatric surgeon. In most cases, students attend classes for the first two years of this four-year program and learn the basics of anatomy, physiology, and pathology. The third and fourth years offer more practical experiences in fields such as pediatrics, surgery, internal medicine, and neurology. Students with an interest in pediatric surgery might be able to complete elective rotations within this field during their medical school careers.
After medical school, prospective pediatric surgeons must complete a five-year residency in general surgery. Depending on their residency program, they might be able to participate in a number of rotations focusing on pediatric surgery. More importantly, however, they learn more basic surgical techniques during these years. As obtaining a fellowship in pediatric surgery, the final step in training to become a pediatric surgeon, is very competitive, many students pursue research within the field before applying for a fellowship. Often this research can last for another year or two, thus extending the amount of time it takes to enter this field.
The final training experience needed to become a pediatric surgeon comes in the form of a two-year fellowship that focuses solely on this surgical sub-specialty. There are only 44 fellowship positions available yearly in the United States. Once a fellowship spot is obtained, the training surgeons focus solely on performing surgery on children. They learn to address the unique problems seen in the pediatric population, including congenital abnormalities and growth problems. After completing the two-year fellowship, the prospective pediatric surgeon must take a test in order to become a fully certified practitioner in this field.