Pediatrics is an area of medical practice that primarily focuses on the diagnosis, treatment, and care of children from 0 to 21 years of age. Becoming a pediatrician requires fulfillment of several years of education, including completion of a bachelor's degree, intensive study in the preclinical sciences, and medical school. At the end of medical training, examination, and licensing, completion of pediatrician qualifications ends with specialty training as a resident physician. Healthcare to children is also given by other professionals, commonly referred to as primary healthcare providers, which is an alternative to the pediatrician career path.
Educational pediatrician qualifications generally include a four-year undergraduate degree, followed by an additional four years of postgraduate school. Medical school curriculum and structure does vary depending on the country, as some last six years and require a one-year internship. Other schools provide medical training even at the bachelor's degree level and award the Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery (MBBS) degree. Commonly referred to as residency, specialty training in pediatrics is undertaken once medical school is finished.
Medicine in any specialty requires an in-depth knowledge of the natural sciences, especially the life sciences taken in medical school. While pediatrician qualifications permit any undergraduate major, certain courses must accompany its study, including one year each of organic chemistry, biology, and physics. The first year in medical school requires completion of preclinical science courses such as physiology, biochemistry, and pathology, which focus on disease conditions and diagnosis. Study in later years provides clinical application of scientific study to actual patient cases, typically called clerkships. Providing training and exposure to all areas of medicine, clerkships allow medical students to rotate among various healthcare settings and give them the opportunity to develop a specialty interest.
To be permitted to pass on to the specialty phase of training, pediatrician qualifications stipulate that medical students must obtain licensing to practice medicine in their regions, which is accomplished by a thorough examination at the culmination of medical studies. In the U.S., passage of a total of four examinations are necessary, collectively referred to as the United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE), which can qualify doctors to pursue practice in several other countries including Canada, Australia, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Medical licensing examinations for the United Kingdom are handled through the General Medical Council.
Many occupations exist within the field of pediatrics which do not require qualifications to the extent of those which pediatricians must accomplish. Other areas in healthcare emphasizing the provision of care to children might include the physician assistant (PA) who, while not a physician, is permitted to practice medicine and can assume many duties of a medical doctor under his or her supervision. Another primary care provider that can specialize in the care of children is the nurse practitioner (NP), a nurse at the advanced practice level who can diagnose, treat, and prescribe independently of medical doctors.