How to Become a Neonatologist

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A neonatologist treats the most serious problems affecting newborns like birth defects, diseases and injuries. Consultation with an obstetrician can occur before or after the birth and a neonatologist may even assist the delivery. You must love kids, in particular babies, and be fascinated by child development to enjoy this career in the medical field.

Skill level:


  1. 1

    Take undergraduate courses in the sciences or subjects requiring analytical skills like economics and architecture. You could also do a pre-med program but it's not necessary to be a successful neonatologist.

  2. 2

    Do well on the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT). Choose an accredited medical school from the Liaison Committee of Medical Education (LCME) list.

  3. 3

    Learn about taking care of children in medical school. Neonatology is a subspecialty of pediatrics.

  4. 4

    Complete a three year residency program in pediatric medicine. You'll spend time in clinics, inpatient wards and emergency departments treating kids under supervision. You'll also get exposure to neonatal care.

  5. 5

    Get a state license so you can legally practice medicine. Without this you can't take the certification exams administered by the American Board of Pediatrics (ABP).

  6. 6

    Acquire general pediatric certification by the ABP. It's given once a year in the fall. You need your medical license, degree from an accredited school and proof of training.

  7. 7

    Go through three years of training in neonatology. You do hands on work in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) and medical research in the field.

  8. 8

    Sit for your neonatologist certification from the American Board of Pediatrics.

Tips and warnings

  • Expect to practice in children's hospitals, medical centers and large general hospitals.
  • You may be called to consult on premature births.

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