What Is a Pediatrician?

Pediatricians are doctors who specialize in child healthcare. They must complete undergraduate degrees, 4-year Doctor of Medicine (MD) or Doctor of Osteopathy (DO) degrees and at least three years of residency, as well as get licensed and certified. Read on to learn more about pediatricians' job duties, educational requirements, career prospects and salary potential. Schools offering Health Science degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Job Description

Pediatricians are physicians who specialize in diagnosing, treating and preventing diseases and injuries in young children, teenagers and young adults. They monitor their patients' growth and development from infancy to young adulthood and usually provide routine healthcare treatments, such as physical examinations, immunizations and prescriptions for antibiotics to treat bacterial infections. Pediatricians can specialize in pediatric surgery or other fields to best treat their young patients.

These professionals need a lot of patience and must listen to their young patients' needs in order to adequately diagnose their symptoms. They must communicate effectively with children and their guardians in order to find the cause of the children's discomfort or illness and provide immediate, effective treatment. Pediatricians also provide healthcare advice to their patients, counseling on topics such as teen birth control, obesity problems, eating disorders and sex education.

They work long, irregular hours at hospitals and clinics and are supported by a staff of nurses and assistants. They may also need to respond to emergency calls and attend their patients at night when they are not scheduled to work. In May 2018, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that there were an estimated 28,490 general pediatricians employed in the country (www.bls.gov).

Important Facts About This Occupation

Licensure Required in all states; must pass the U.S. Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE)
Work Environment Private practice; children's hospital or pediatric centers
Key Skills Organization, leadership, communication, and problem-solving skills; physical stamina, patience, compassion, dexterity, and attention to detail
Similar Occupations Dentist, optometrist, physician assistant, registered nurse

Education Requirements

Pediatricians must hold 4-year college degrees in scientific fields of study. Following the completion of an undergraduate education, students enter medical school where they earn 4-year Doctor of Medicine (MD) or Doctor of Osteopathy (DO) degrees. The first two years of these programs usually include both coursework and lab work, while the second half of the program is spent doing supervised work in a medical facility. Some courses one might complete in a medical program include:

  • Medical law and ethics
  • Pharmacology
  • Anatomy
  • Psychology
  • Biochemistry

Residency and Licensure

Pediatricians then spend at least three years of residency training at hospitals or clinics where they gain hands-on training in a real world setting. The residency program provides students with opportunities to practice their skills on patients and learn more about pediatric medicine from an experienced pediatrician. Pediatricians must get a license to practice in all states and may choose to become certified by the American Board of Pediatrics. This certification may be required by certain employers for credentialing.

Job Outlook and Salary

The BLS expects faster-than-average employment growth at a rate of 13% for all physicians and surgeons over the 2016-2026 decade. Some factors sparking demand include a growing elderly population and increasing accessibility to health insurance. The BLS expects the best prospects for physicians treating the elderly, as well as those in rural areas that don't have enough physicians.

General pediatricians earned an average wage of $183,240 in May 2018, according to the BLS. However, the lowest-paid 10% of these physicians made $68,860 or less. Physicians' offices had the highest general pediatrician employment level and offered an average salary of $208,000. General hospitals came in second and paid these doctors $167,640 on average. General pediatricians earned the most working in specialty hospitals, where the average wage was $205,370. Local government also offered a competitive average wage of $203,130.

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