Pediatricians are also known as general pediatricians or primary care pediatricians. They examine children to assess their growth and health; often they will order, perform and interpret diagnostic tests, prescribe medication and administer vaccinations to promote good health.
Pediatricians care for individuals from newborns to young adults. They treat a variety of ailments, illnesses, injuries and diseases common to children. Often, these doctors will refer more serious injuries and illnesses to specialists for advanced treatment. Some pediatricians specialize in surgery or serious chronic ailments.
Consulting with other physicians is a typical activity for pediatricians. They also discuss their findings with patients and their parents or guardians, and recommend treatments. Pediatricians may advise parents and guardians on diet, exercise, immunizations and other factors important to children’s health.
Pediatricians Job Profile
- Pediatricians can be required to work long, irregular hours.
- Acceptance to medical school is very competitive.
- While earnings for physicians are among the highest of all occupations, education and training includes four years of undergraduate school, four years of medical school, and three to eight years of internship and residency.
- The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicts very good employment growth in this field, especially in rural and low-income areas.
Work Environment for Pediatricians
Most pediatricians work independently in private practice, group practice or for health care organizations. Group practices allow doctors to care for a number of patients while sharing administrative expenses, enjoying more time off and providing backup care for their patients.
Pediatricians are assisted by nurses, physician’s assistants and aides. They often supervise administrative staff, like medical secretaries or office administrators.
Many physicians work long days and irregular hours. In 2008, 43% of all physicians and surgeons worked 50 or more hours per week, according to the BLS. Many travel between their offices and hospitals. Pediatricians may be on call, answering patient concerns by telephone and handling emergencies.
Career Path - Education, Training and Licensing
Beyond high school, individuals interested in becoming pediatricians need to complete eight years of additional education, plus three to eight years of internship and residency. Continuing education is usually required throughout a pediatrician’s career.
To apply to medical school, a bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university program is usually required. Premed students typically take courses in mathematics, biology, physics, organic and inorganic chemistry, English, social sciences and humanities. Medical schools typically require at least three years of college, but most applicants have bachelor’s degrees; many have advanced degrees.
Being accepted to medical school is not easy — in fact, it is highly competitive. Applicants must submit transcripts, scores from the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) and letters of recommendation. Leadership, personality, character, and extracurricular activities are also examined. Interviews with an admissions committee are standard at most medical schools.
For the first two years, medical students take classes in classrooms and laboratories. Typically, anatomy, pharmacology, microbiology, physiology, psychology, pathology, biochemistry, medical law, and medical ethics courses are included in the curriculum. For the second half of a four-year program, students work with patients under a physician’s care.
Rotations in pediatrics, family practice, obstetrics and gynecology, internal medicine, surgery and psychiatry give students experience in the diagnosis and treatment of a variety of illnesses. After medical school, graduate MDs enter a residency in their specialty. This is a paid internship, usually in a hospital.
All 50 states and U.S. territories require physicians to hold licenses. Board certification in a specialty may take up to seven years in residency training, plus another exam. For certification in a subspecialty, physicians usually need another one to two years of residency.
Individuals planning on a career as a pediatrician must be self-motivated, committed to pursuing many years of education, and able to handle pressure and long hours. Physicians must also have a calm presence and excellent communication skills.
Job Projections, Outlook and Salary for Pediatricians
According to U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) records, the estimated employment for pediatricians in May 2009 was 29,460; most were employed in private practice. The remaining worked in hospitals, outpatient care centers, colleges and universities, and specialty hospitals.
The BLS predicts employment in this field will grow much faster than the average for all occupations. Job growth will occur as the growing general and aged population spurs demand for more healthcare services.
How much pediatricians earn a year? In May 2009, the average annual wage for pediatricians was $152,2401. The middle 50% earned between $146,367 and $191,8272. The highest-paid earned $208,2342, while the lowest-paid pediatricians earned $84,8401.
1Source: United States Bureau of Labor Standards (BLS)
2Source: Salary.com, September 2010