Can I major in psychology and become a pediatrician?

Pediatricians are doctors who specialize in treating infants, children, and adolescents.

Some pediatricians provide primary care to children in the general pediatric group or in individual practices, but others practice pediatric subspecialties such as allergy and immunology, anesthesiology, cardiology, intensive care, emergency medicine, endocrinology, radiology, and surgery.

In this post we are going to answer the question ‘’Can I major in psychology and become a pediatrician?’’ We will explain what a pediatrician is, what you need to become one and if a major in psychology can help you in your pediatric career.

Can I major in psychology and become a pediatrician?

Yes, you can major in psychology and become a pediatrician. To be a pediatrician you need to enter medical school and a major in psychology is common, you just have to make sure you meet the prerequisite courses.

Even at their residencies, pediatricians receive the same training as any other physician. Physicians must attend medical school, and a four-year graduate program, after completing all or most of a bachelor’s degree.

Applying to medical school is a rigorous process, and medical schools prefer candidates with high grades in science and math courses, a high score on the medical college entrance test, positive references and interviews, and experience working or as a volunteer in health care.

Students who are accepted into a medical school begin their medical training by learning about the scientific foundations of medicine. Most of the first two years of a typical medical school program are spent in the classroom.

Students take courses in anatomy and physiology, cell structure and genetics, pathology (study of the causes and effects of disease), immunology (study of immune function), and pharmacology (study of the uses and effects of different types of drugs).

Students also spend time learning about organ systems such as the cardiovascular, respiratory, musculoskeletal, renal, urinary tract, gastrointestinal, and endocrine systems. Neuroscience, psychiatry, and gynecology are also studied.

The medical school curriculum also focuses on the practice of medicine. Students learn how to establish relationships with patients and how to perform examinations, take medical records, interview patients, and make a diagnosis.

The second half of a medical school program is used to complete clinical rotations or internships. Students observe and treat patients under the supervision of experienced physicians, and each internship focuses on a certain area of ​​care, such as psychiatry, surgery, critical care, primary care, anesthesia, and pediatrics.

Medical students are free to choose electives in their area of ​​interest, and prospective pediatricians can study pediatric subspecialties such as pediatric cardiology, adolescent medicine, neonatology, or pediatric intensive care.

After graduating from medical school, training continues in the form of one or more residencies.

What are the steps to become a pediatrician?

University education

A college pre-medical degree is the first step to becoming a pediatrician. These are bachelor of science degrees that have a carefully selected course of work to meet the requirements of medical schools while still meeting the normal requirements of a well-built baccalaureate.

A typical medicine program covers basic physics, chemistry and biology, and calculus or statistics. Some programs offer courses in anatomy or medical terminology as electives, which can help students after they have moved to medical school.

Medical students must declare the specialty, as do other students, and prospective pediatricians may benefit from specialization in child psychology or another discipline that is closely related to pediatrics.

Medicine School

Before qualifying as pediatricians, physicians must first complete a four-year doctorate from a school of osteopathy or medicine.

Although individual schools vary in their presentation of material, as a rule the first half of the program focuses on theory in the classroom, while the second half is more heavily loaded on care practice in clinical settings.

The classes are based on the basic science courses of the medical degree, delving into pharmacology, physiology, behavior, genetics and organic chemistry. Medical ethics and medical law, both state and national, are also covered. Many electives and clinical rotations available will be child centered and future pediatricians should take these whenever possible.

Residency, scholarships and exam board

Although the students are doctors after graduating from medical or osteopathic college, they are not yet fully trained. Pediatrics requires a three-year residency in an approved program, treating children under the supervision of experienced pediatricians.

Candidates who wish to specialize in neonatology, medical genetics, critical care, or other pediatric subspecialties must spend another two to three years learning those disciplines in scholarship programs. At the end of this training period, the physician can write examinations administered by the American Board of Pediatrics.

If successful, the candidate is certified as a pediatrician. Subspecialties like neonatology require their own certification process.

Income and perspective

A review of medical salary surveys conducted by Modern Healthcare magazine in 2018 found that median salaries for pediatricians range from a low of $ 161,732 to a high of $ 229,041 per year. Specialists can earn more.

The same article cited average salaries as high as $ 480,000 per year for neonatologists in one survey and in the $ 300,000 range in others.

Forecasts from the Bureau of Labor Statistics call for a 24% growth for physicians in general between 2010 and 2020. The “birth boom” of children and grandchildren is now entering their first years of parenting, and the demand for Pediatricians should remain high for years to come.

Pediatricians who find success in private practice may eventually have their own individual practice or part of a group practice. Those who work in hospitals can become leaders in their department. Other pediatricians seek additional training and enter higher education and research.

Is psychology a good pre med major?

This is because Medicine is considered a career for graduate students and not for undergraduate students.

It is for this reason that if you want to study Medicine in the United States, you must first obtain your Bachelor’s Degree in a career related to natural or applied sciences such as Biology, Chemistry, Physics or pre-medicine.

Among pre-medical students, as well as those involved in other health-related fields, psychology is a common major. Global figures suggest that students who specialize in psychology are as probable as those who major in biology or chemistry to be accepted to medical school.

For those pre-medical students interested in neurology, neuroscience, pediatrics, or clinical medicine, psychology is particularly useful.

In addition to meeting all the requirements for the Psychology Major, Pre-Med students are expected to complete a variety of science courses: 3 biology semesters (with laboratories), 5 chemistry semesters (with laboratories), 3-4 physics semesters, and an extra trigonometry-based math class.

Students are Minor in Chemistry, which provides the most straightforward way to meet all qualifications for medical schools and fulfill particular minor requirements. 

Without a doubt, studying psychology will be a good tool for dealing with children, since it covers everything from psych pedagogy to the study of behavior, as well as theories of development. However, you should check if your major meets the premed requirements.

There are several institutions that offer the major in psychology with a pre-med concentration, this helps to meet all the requirements. You should find out and orient yourself with a student advisor to help you organize your undergraduate program.

Psychology in Medicine

It is known that psychology and medicine share the same goal: the well-being of people. We also know that the emotional state influences the physical state and vice versa; This direct relationship is what we call the “mind-body connection.”

This connection was postulated by Rene Descartes (1596-1650) in his theory of Cartesian dualism or dualism of substances; This theory tried to show that the mind through the pineal gland could exert control over the brain.

Although there are different theories about the mind and body connection, psychology is seen as an unscientific subject by many medical practitioners. We clearly cannot compare it to surgery, emergency medicine, and many other fields of medicine. But that does not mean that psychology is an irrelevant discipline.

Psychology-medicine relationship

Psychology, like medicine, uses scientific methods to learn about the various afflictions of our species and how to alleviate or cure them. For this reason, we believe that this should be taken as a real branch of medicine, since psychology relies on evidence and research to carry out its theories.

There is an intimate link between a person’s mental state and their physical health. In many cases, the two areas, the mind and the body, are inseparable for diagnosis, treatment and healing.

In the first half of the twentieth century, there were many opportunities for interaction between psychologists and the medical profession, and while psychologists won several battles over medical mental health conditions, they were still viewed by medical practitioners as unsystematic, stating that psychological methods lacked research.

Psychology, for most of the 20th century, was not considered a necessary part of medical education and psychologists were considered complementary in the practice of Medicine.

More and more medical schools have begun to recognize the importance of psychology within medicine; Their questions about the role of “psychic” factors in illness – especially mental illness – led some physicians and psychologists to conduct research, and on the basis of data from more than one clinical case of psychology they were able to argue that students from Medicine need to be informed about psychological issues.

An example of the psychology-medicine duality is the health-disease process, where the human being is approached in its complexity, trying to interrelate different levels of analysis and taking biological, psychological and also social aspects.

This process allows us to get out of dichotomous reductionism, where only the psychological, or the social or the biological is addressed separately.

Empathy and the doctor-patient relationship

It is necessary for a doctor to know how to approach different psychological aspects in his consultation, in addition to being clear about the necessary processes that help improve the well-being of his patient. Within these processes is empathy.

There are different statements about whether a doctor should be empathetic to his patient or not. Some positions emphasize the importance of not getting involved with their patients, the argument is that the independent doctor must be able to make objective decisions regarding the care of their patient.

Other positions emphasize that successful treatment of patients depends on interactions between the patient and the physician.

Empathy is a fundamental element for any type of human relationship. But what usually happens in the relationship between health professionals and patients is that the empathic bond develops depending on the natural capacities of each professional, since in general, they lack the necessary training to implement it.

Programs need to be in place that build a solid foundation for empathic doctor-patient interaction, and provide them with the necessary tools to be effective communicators and medical experts.

It is also important that the physician has sufficient communication skills to convey the sensation he is experiencing to the patient.

In this post we answered the question ‘’Can I major in psychology and become a pediatrician?’’ We explained what a pediatrician is, what you need to become one and if a major in psychology can help you in your pediatric career.

If you have any questions or comments please let us know!


American Psychological Association. (2016). Guidelines for the undergraduate psychology major: Version 2.0. The American psychologist, 71(2), 102-111.

Mensh, I. N. (1953). Psychology in medical education. American Psychologist, 8(2), 83.