Pediatric surgeons specialize in operating on children, ranging from newborns who are born with congenital disabilities to adolescents. Pediatric surgeons will also work with the families of patients to counsel them on how to treat diseases, manage symptoms, and go through recovery.

Becoming a pediatric surgeon starts with graduating from high school and applying to a university.

Undergraduate Studies

Before medical school, aspiring pediatric surgeons must first earn a bachelor’s degree. There is no undergraduate major requirement for med school, but there are several degrees that give pre-med students the educational background they will need to succeed in their medical studies.

Potential undergraduate pre-med majors include:
  • Biology
  • Chemistry
  • Anatomy & Physiology
  • Psychology
  • English Literature
  • Math
Prepare for Med School

After earning a bachelor’s, students must apply to medical schools and pass the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT). Many factors influence a student’s acceptance to medical school, including their GPA, letters of recommendation, extracurricular activities, volunteer experience, and the admissions interview.

It is wise for students to begin preparing for the MCAT before graduation, so they can refine their studies and strengthen any academic weaknesses before taking the exam.

Earn a Medical Degree

Med school lasts four years; the first two years are comprised of coursework, while the final two are spent working in a hospital and laboratory settings. Students learn about different aspects of patient care, legal and medical ethics and practice rotations, gaining experience in all major medical fields including internal medicine, gynecology, family medicine, obstetrics, psychiatry, surgery and, of course, pediatrics.

Complete a Residency and Fellowship

After earning a general medical degree, a fellowship program will allow the student to become a specialist in pediatrics and surgery. Residency programs last between three to eight years; pediatric surgeons typically spend five years in a general surgery residency and an additional two concentrating on pediatric surgery.

Earn a License

After completing residency and fellowship, a doctor must earn a license to practice in their respective state. This is done by completing the three-step United States Medical Licensing Examination. There are also additional requirements set in place by each state medical board, which may include further examinations.

Become Board-Certified

Although it is not mandatory, many pediatric surgeons apply to become board-certified. Board certification is administered through the American Board of Surgery (ABS). To earn certification, applicants must pass a 300-question exam that lasts approximately eight hours. The pediatric surgery qualifying exam includes an additional 200-question exam, while the certification exam includes five 30-minute oral sessions.

This roadmap offers a complete overview of the academic and professional steps to becoming a licensed pediatric surgeon.