Interested in paediatrics? Guidance for school students

To become a paediatrician you will need to complete a medical degree at a university medical school to become a fully qualified doctor. There are a number of medical schools in the UK. When choosing a medical school you will need to think carefully about the location and the entry requirements. It takes five to six years to complete a full medical degree.
Last modified
9 September 2019

Looking for other guidance?

For medical students

For foundation doctors

How do I get into medical school?

Medical schools have different qualification types and grade requirements. Most require at least three A levels, including chemistry with another science or maths. Check with the university.

Don't have the right A levels? You may like to apply for a foundation course or pre-medical course first.

This course will help students without different academic backgrounds (eg. those without an A level in chemistry, science or maths) to prepare to start a degree in medicine. Please note, not all universities offer pre-medical courses, and the requirements may vary. Please consult your chosen university for more information.

Already completed your degree? Some medical schools offer graduate medical degrees, which take four years instead of five. These have specific entry requirements - you can check these with the university.

Find out more:

How do I get work experience?

Entry into medical school is very competitive. It is not just academic achievements that universities look for in applicants. What can you do to gain some experience?

  • Contact hospitals, hospices, GP surgeries to ask about any work opportunities. Give plenty of notice! You may not be able to work with children - but all experience is helpful.
  • Ask about volunteering in a local medial centre. You may be able to do some non-clinical work, and provide a valuable service, too!
  • See if you can get involved with a local children's club or nursery. You may be able to volunteer after school, at weekends or in your summer break. This will give you great experience working with children.
  • Learn first aid. Organisations such as St John's Ambulance have programmes for young people.

Find volunteering opportunities on Do it or Volunteering England.

Work experience in a hospital is a good way to establish your interest in paediatrics - but it can be hard to come by. Lots of paediatricians spent some time before university volunteering with children's charities or helping on summer camps - I think it helps to know that you enjoy working with children.

Junior doctor

What happens after medical school?

  • Once a medical student graduates, they are a qualified doctor.
  • In the UK, all doctors complete two years of generic medical training after medical school. This is called the Foundation Programme.
  • A Foundation Doctor is paid a salary.
  • After completing the Foundation Programme, a doctor can apply to train in a specialty, such as paediatrics. S/he starts a training pathway, which normally takes eight years.

What else might I do after medical school?

Other health professionals work with children but are not paediatricians. They have a different training pathway.

  • Paediatric surgeons train as surgeons and then specialise to treat children.
  • Nurses can specialise to work with children. They may work in a hospital or in the community, such as a day care centre or homes. You can find out more about children's nursing on NHS Careers nursing careers.
  • Allied Health Professionals is a term for lots of different roles. For example, art, drama and speech therapists help children develop their physical, mental or emotional wellbeing. Dietitians and nutritionists support children with special dietary requirements. And, physiotherapists help patients with learning disabilities. Most of these careers need formal training. For more examples of AHPs and how to train in these areas visit NHS Careers.