Pediatrician: Career Summary, Job Outlook, and Educational Requirements

Research what it takes to become a pediatrician. Learn about job duties, job outlook, education and licensing requirements to find out if this is the career for you. Schools offering Health Science degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is a Pediatrician?

Pediatricians are medical doctors who diagnose, treat, examine and prevent diseases and injuries in patients from infancy to young adulthood. They perform many of the same tasks as a general physician, such as recording medical history, ordering diagnostic tests if needed, recommending treatment plans and addressing other health concerns. In addition to these responsibilities, pediatricians are trained in diagnosing and treating problems specific to young patients. They will try to prevent any health issues by administering vaccinations and talking with parents about proper health and preventative care. Some pediatricians may further specialize in pediatric surgery or medical conditions typically specific to their young patients. The following chart provides an overview about becoming a pediatrician.

Degree Required Doctor of Medicine (M.D.) or Doctor of Osteopathy (D.O.)
Training Required 3-year residency
Licensure or Certification Licensure is required by all states; board certification is available
Key Responsibilities Examine patients; diagnose and treat medical conditions unique to children and adolescents; provide vaccinations and prescribe medication; order and analyze diagnostic tests; perform well baby and child physical examinations and document progress
Job Growth (2014-2024) 10% for pediatrics*
Median Salary (2014) $226,408 for pediatrics*

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

What Job Duties Will I Have as a Pediatrician?

As a pediatrician, your primary focus is providing quality healthcare for infants, children and adolescents. Not only do you examine young patients and diagnose and treat their injuries and illnesses, you also monitor their development over the years to ensure proper physical and mental growth. Due to the nature of this role, you must develop your interpersonal skills so that you can communicate effectively with children and their guardians in order to determine the source of their discomfort or pain and select the proper treatment. Additional responsibilities include obtaining and documenting patient medical history, discussing exam results with patients and guardians, and counseling patients on proper diet, nutrition, hygiene and lifestyle.

What is the Job Outlook?

According the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) the job outlook for physicians in general is very good for the coming years (www.bls.gov). The BLS projected a 10% growth in employment for all pediatric physicians and surgeons from 2014-2024, which is faster than the average for all occupations. As a pediatrician, your compensation will vary by industry, location and experience, but the BLS reported a median annual salary of $226,408 in 2014.

What Education Do I Need?

In order to become a pediatrician, you will need to complete a 4-year college degree prior to entering medical school. You will then spend four years working toward a Doctor of Medicine (M.D.) or Doctor of Osteopathy (D.O.) degree. The first two years of medical school are largely comprised of classroom and laboratory learning, while the last two years involve clinical experience under the supervision of licensed physicians. Upon graduation, you'll spend a minimum of three years in residency training where you'll gain hands-on experience in your specialty prior to obtaining a license to practice. Additionally, many employers require you to receive board certification through the American Board of Pediatrics (ABP), one of the certifying boards of the American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS).

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Veterinarians are a related option for those interested in pursuing a doctoral or professional degree. These professionals diagnose and treat injuries and illnesses in a variety of animals, including pets and livestock. Some other, perhaps more closely related careers in the medical field, include chiropractors and optometrists. These positions also require a doctoral or professional degree. Chiropractors help patients manage back or neck pain through spinal adjustments and treatment of the neuromusculoskeletal system, which includes nerves, muscles and tendons. Optometrists examine, diagnose and treat any health concerns with a patient's eye and visual system. They may also prescribe eyeglasses to improve vision.

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