How do I Become a Pediatric Orthopedist?

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  • Written By: wiseGEEK Writer
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 05 October 2018
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To become a pediatric orthopedist, also called a pediatric orthopedic surgeon, takes extensive time and study in which doctors will complete medical school, finish a five-year residency, and then participate in a pediatric orthopedic subspecialty. Including years to get an undergraduate degree, doctors in this area of medicine typically spend about 14 to 15 years before they can become board certified. For many, the trade-off of this extensive work and study is having the knowledge and expertise to treat children with serious bone injuries or illness.

Anyone who wants to become a pediatric orthopedist and actually all doctors in the US begin training for medical school by completing a bachelor’s degree first. Some countries have a slightly different training path to get to medical school and combine medical school with undergraduate studies. This is true in the UK, but the US/Canada model is very common.

In the US and elsewhere, a student who wants to become a pediatric orthopedist must consider college major. Most students take pre-med, but some may take biology, biochemistry, or microbiology instead. The major absolutely must prepare students to take the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT). The scores from this test with grades determine if students get accepted to medical school.


Students will complete four years of medical school, and the last year is an extensive internship where they may be able to work in rotations through different specialty areas. Those wanting to become a pediatric orthopedist may get some experience with this field in both the last year of formal medical school and the internship year. Once the internship is finished, people are licensed physicians and can apply to residency programs.

The residency program of choice for the person who wants to become a pediatric orthopedist is a residency in orthopedic surgery. This is an extensive training time, and most residencies take five years to complete. Finishing the residency and becoming a board certified orthopedist is not the endpoint. An orthopedic surgeon can then choose to specialize.

A person wishing to become a pediatric orthopedist applies for a fellowship in pediatric orthopedic surgery, which usually translates to an additional year to two years of training. Once this fellowship is completed, doctors apply to the appropriate board for certification and are considered fully trained to assist children with bone or skeletal injuries and diseases. Many of these specialists are employed in hospitals where their surgical expertise is required, and the occasional pediatric orthopedist runs a private practice. Such doctors also may teach, do research, or work in several different areas at once, perhaps directly treating patients and training new pediatric orthopedists, or contributing to research projects that improve patient care.



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