How Can I Become a Pediatrician?

Explore the career requirements for pediatricians. Get the facts about education, salary, licensure requirements and job growth to determine if this is the right career for you. Schools offering Health Science degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is a Pediatrician?

Medical doctors who focus on the diagnosis and treatment of children are called pediatricians. They treat illness, injuries and diseases, as well as give vaccinations. Pediatricians update charts, order tests, review results and come up with a plan for treatment. They also answer questions that patients or guardians may have and give advice on health topics. Some pediatricians specialize so they can perform surgeries on young patients as well.

The following chart provides an overview about a career as a pediatrician.

Degree Required Doctor of Medicine or Doctor of Osteopathy
Required Training 3-8 year residency
Job Duties Examine, diagnose and treat children's injuries, illnesses and diseases; provide vaccinations; prescribe medication; conduct or order diagnostic tests and review results
Licensure or Certification All states require doctors to be licensed; board certification in pediatrics is available
Job Growth (2014-2024) 10%*
Median Salary (2015) $170,300*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)

What Does a Pediatrician Do?

Pediatricians are trained physicians who specialize in treating children aged from infants to young adults. As a pediatrician, you would deal with routine healthcare issues, such as minor injuries, immunizations and common illnesses. You'd also monitor a child's growth and development, conducting tests and explaining the results. Opportunities may be available to concentrate in a certain area, such as pediatric surgery or autoimmune disorders. You'll have the opportunity to work in a variety of places, such as small clinics, hospitals or private offices.

What Education Would I Need?

You might consider majoring in one of the sciences, such as biology or chemistry, at the bachelor's degree level. You can expect to devote four years towards the completion of a bachelor's degree program. During the final year, you'll need to take the Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT) and apply to medical school.

Medical school lasts four years and can lead to a Doctor of Medicine (M.D.) or Doctor of Osteopathy (D.O.). A D.O. particularly focuses on preventative medicine and holistic care, but both types of medical doctors can specialize in pediatrics. The first two years of an M.D. curriculum focus on foundational coursework in anatomy, physiology, cell structure, genetics and human biochemistry. The final two years involve clinical rotations in a number of areas of medicine, such as obstetrics and gynecology, internal medicine, surgery, psychiatry and pediatrics.

What Happens After Medical School?

After medical school, you'll need to enter a residency program in pediatrics, which generally lasts three years. During the program, you can go on rounds with attending physicians, assist on actual cases and attend topic-focused workshops. You will have the opportunity to work closely with faculty as you acquire a broad base of knowledge in pediatric medicine and develop a congenial bedside manner. Residency is the last formal educational requirement.

All 50 states require practicing physicians to pass the United States Medical Licensing Examination. You'll want to check your state board for any other requirements. Also, board certification is considered a highly desirable professional distinction. You can apply for certification in general pediatrics or a subspecialty through the American Board of Pediatrics, which requires three years of pediatric training (

How Much Can I Expect To Earn?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), general pediatricians earned a median salary of $170,300 in May 2015. Specialty hospitals were the top-paying industry for this field at the time. The BLS also projected 10% employment growth for physicians and surgeons between 2014 and 2024 (

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

If a pediatrician isn't exactly what you would like to do, there are several similar occupations that you can look into. There are a number of different types of physicians, such as family doctors, obstetricians, gynecologists, psychiatrists, and anesthesiologists. Family physicians treat many illnesses and injuries for patients of all ages. Obstetricians and gynecologists work with women during pregnancy, childbirth and provide care for other women's health issues. Psychiatrists treat mental illnesses through therapy, counseling, medications and psychoanalysis. Anesthesiologists administer drugs to patients to relieve pain during a medical procedure.

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