How to Become a Neonatologist

November 23

Table of Contents

Neonatologists are critically important medical professionals who specialize in the care of newborns. They provide comprehensive care for infants during their first few months of life. They may be involved in various procedures and assessments. 

There is a significant difference between a neonatologist and a pediatrician.

Neonatal means "newborn" and refers specifically to a neonate (a baby younger than 28 days old), while pediatric covers all children up to age 18. Pediatricians may also refer to themselves as family physicians or primary-care doctors. 

Neonatal specialists often work together with other members of the health team to ensure that every newborn baby receives the best possible treatment.

Considering several noble and demanding aspects, you may have a quest to become a neonatologist. This article will provide you with the pathway to attaining your goal.

What is a Neonatologist?

A neonatologist is a medical professional specializing in caring for newborns and infants. This includes providing early diagnosis and intervention for conditions such as jaundicesepsispneumonia, and congenital heart disease (CHD)

Neonatologists also play a crucial role in educating parents about how to take good care of their babies at home so they can remain healthy and happy until adulthood.

Neonatal doctors are often on call around the clock to provide coverage for newborns. They also play an essential role in caring for premature and low birth weight babies. In some cases, they may be involved in providing surgery for congenital disabilities such as cleft palate.

A neonatologist usually offers the following services:

  • Antenatal consultation for women throughout their pregnancy. They carry some potentially threatening elements, such as compound births.
  • Neonatal nutrition.
  • Follow-up medications after the birth of the premature baby.
  • Responsible for evaluating and treating conditions that affect newborns, such as prematurity, birth asphyxia, SIDS, and oxygen deficiency.
  • Monitor the health and well-being of babies in the neonatal intensive care unit.

What are the Requirements to Become a Neonatologist?

To become a neonatologist, you must complete an undergraduate premedical or medical studies program and at least one year in pediatrics residency training. 

You will also need to pass the licensing exam for neonatology by satisfying all requirements set forth by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).

Requirements to become a neonatologist include a college degree in medical sciences or related fields, certification as a pediatrician-neonatologist by the American Board of Pediatrics (ABP), and two years of experience working as a doctor in neonatal intensive care units. Additional requirements may vary depending on the individual program.

Once certified, you can begin practicing as a neonatologist in any area of pediatrics:

  • General Pediatrics
  • Pediatric Cardiology
  • Pediatric Neurology
  • Reproductive Endocrinology
  • Diabetes Mellitus

How Much Does It Cost to Become a Neonatologist?

The amount of money you will need to spend on education and training varies depending on the location you plan to practice in. However, the average cost can be $3,000 to $28,900 USD annually. Besides that, you may have to spend around $2000 on books and other necessities.

After that, you may enroll for the MCAT exam administered by the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC)The application fee is $325

The most crucial course for a neonatologist is to have a Doctor of Medicine in Neonatology. This certification course can range from $2,000-$10,000.

Finally, you can get a Certification in Neonatal-Perinatal Medicine from the American Board of Pediatrics (ABP).  The cost will be around $3500. 

In addition, you should be ready to bear some additional expenses during your studies in neonatology. But, those expenses will not be so high.

How to Become a Neonatologist

Becoming a neonatologist may be the perfect career for you if you have a passion for helping newborns and infants, dealing with complex medical cases, and are willing to devote your full time to this profession. 

To become a neonatologist, you will likely need to cover the following steps successfully:

  • Step 1: Complete a bachelor’s degree
  • Step 2: Score well on the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT).
  • Step 3:  Complete medical school
  • Step 4: Complete a residency program
  • Step 5: Licensure

Let’s know more details about each step.

Step 1: Complete A Bachelor’s Degree

A bachelor's degree is required for many positions as a neonatologist. This field of medicine specializes in caring of infants from birth up to 6 months old. 

A diploma or equivalent in this area will give you the foundation you need to pursue other advanced degrees if you feel motivated to do so.

It might take 4 years to obtain a bachelor’s degree. Still, it may take longer depending on your individual coursework schedule and your ability to complete courses typically include biology, neurology, and pharmacology.

Step 2: Score Well On the The Medical College Admission Test

The Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT) is a required exam for students who are interested in attending medical school.

The main focus of the test continues to be research skills, with questions that cover biochemistry, genetics, pharmacology-pharmacodynamics, physiology, and more. 

Here’s some additional information about the MCAT:

Step 3:  Complete the Medical School

Becoming a medical doctor starts with undergraduate study at an accredited university. Once you complete your undergraduate studies, you will need to apply and be accepted into one of the many medical schools across the United States. Here, you have to complete your Doctor of Medicine in Neonatology.

Upon successfully completing your 4 years medical degree, you will have to complete additional training to become board certified in neonatology by passing the American Board of Pediatrics.

Step 4: Complete a Residency Program

A neonatologist is a medical professional specializing in caring for premature and newborn babies. 

Most importantly, a neonatologist has to complete the residency program for three years. The physician will focus on hospital management, emergency, and handling the baby's treatment during this time.

Step 5: Licensure

As an upcoming neonatologist, you will probably face the challenge of completing a licensing exam. While there are many methods to become a neonatologist in the USA.

The most common route is completing an undergraduate degree and then apply for an internship program at a pediatric hospital with standardized certification.

In the licensing process, you must  cover the mandatory process of the United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE). This licensing process is authorized by the Federation of State Medical Boards (FSMB). It is essential to practicing medicine or neonatology.

Important Qualities Needed to Be a Neonatologist

Neonatologists are experts in infant care. They work mainly in hospitals but may also do outpatient or home visits. 

To be a successful neonatologist, you must possess several qualities, such as :

  • Outstanding Communication Skills: A neonatologist should have communication skills to communicate effectively with patients and their families. This is essential for providing care and educating the public about newborn health.
  • Stress Management Skill: Stress management skill is vital because being a neonatal doctor is one of the most demanding and challenging jobs. Neonatologists often work long hours under high pressure. They must learn how to manage their stress levels to provide quality patient care.
  • Patience: In addition to these essential qualities, being a neonatologist requires an outstanding sense of detail and patience. This is because high-risk pregnancies can sometimes result in premature babies who require intensive treatment from experienced professionals.
  • Positive Attitude: A neonatologist should have a positive attitude because they care for newborns and infants. This is important because their work will impact these children's short-term and long-term health.
  • Problem Solving Skills: Neonatal problems can be very complex and require a lot of creativity and logic to figure out a solution. A neonatologist must be able to assess the situation and then come up with an appropriate plan of action.

How Much Do Neonatologists Make?

The salary range of neonatologists is typically $299,000 to $355,000 per year. As one of the most specialized fields in medicine, neonatal doctors must have a great deal of experience and training before qualifying to work as one.

The typical salary for a neonatal doctor largely depends on the area they practice in, urban or rural. Besides, the qualification, experience, and goodwill impact the salary.

Final Thoughts

The neonatal stage is critical for the healthy development of a newborn. Therefore, it is important that doctors have the skills necessary to identify problems early on and provide appropriate care. 

If you believe you would be perfect for this career path as a neonatologist, then use this article as your guide to pursuing your career in this field.

Additional FAQs – Becoming a Neonatologist

Is Neonatology a Good Career?

Yes, neonatology is definitely an excellent and rewarding career. The profession involves the care and treatment of newborns and infants; it can be fulfilling to those who work in it. 

Besides, neonatologists often make an above-average income ($299,000 to $355,000 per year.). 

The professionals who decide to pursue a career in this field must know that it is one of the noblest of all medical careers.

Do Neonatologists Work Long Hours?

Yes. Neonatologists work 12-hour shifts, but sometimes, they must work beyond the required shift time. 

In addition, due to the sensitive nature of the profession, often involving newborns and infants – they might have to be on-call to ensure proper treatment and attention to their patients and families.

You're no longer alone on your journey to becoming a physician

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