- A pediatrician is a physician who focuses on the health of infants, children, adolescents and young adults.
- One of the best things about the Pediatrician career is watching your patients grow and mature. You get to be a part of that process and develop meaningful relationships with the whole family.
- Typically, a board-certified practicing Pediatrician has gone through at least five years of postgraduate training.
- Competition for Pediatric residency spots is relatively low, and your probability of matching is relatively high.
- Pediatricians make $198,420 per year on average in the U.S.
Blood, sweat, and tears have gone into your education, and it's time to make a huge decision. Maybe the biggest decision of your life (so far). To help you feel even more confident in your choice, we interviewed board certified physicians who dish the details about their Pediatrician career. We'll cover 6 things you should know before you choose a career as a Pediatrician. To read our full interview with Joseph Choe, MD go to the Pediatrics: Career Focus section in your Medical Student Core.
1. Pediatrician career description
A pediatrician is a physician who focuses on the health of infants, children, adolescents and young adults. Pediatricians deal with a wide variety of issues in patients from newborn to approximately 18 years of age.
One of the best things about a career in pediatrics is watching your patients grow and mature. You get to be a part of that process and develop meaningful relationships with the whole family.
“Know what you’re getting into. Know the demands of a certain practice before you settle on it. Have outlets such as hobbies to channel your other energies. Practicing medicine in any form will take as much as you give it (even more sometimes). Learn what is enough for you, your family, and loved ones.” Joseph Choe, MD, Medical Student Core Contributor
In addition to treating acute illnesses and managing chronic ones, pediatricians spend a lot of time practicing preventive medicine. This includes growth and development, nutrition, safety and injury prevention, immunizations, and routine screenings. This is a rewarding aspect of pediatrics because you get to help your patients stay healthy.
There are many pediatrician career options. You can work at a small pediatric practice in a rural community or in a large group at a facility with multiple specialties. You can be in a practice that manages patients as both outpatient and inpatient or choose a practice that does one or the other. If you enjoy the academic side of things, there are many opportunities for general pediatricians in a teaching hospital.
2. How long does it take to become a pediatrician?
As you know, anyone entering into a medical field is in for quite a bit of schooling. It will take you at least nine years of schooling to become a pediatrician. That includes four years of undergraduate school, four years of medical school, and three years of a pediatric residency. If you want to go into a subspecialty—such as pediatric cardiology—you’ll spend an additional two to six years in training.
It is very difficult to become a pediatrician. You’ll need to graduate from medical school and enter into residency. Overall, competition for Pediatric residency spots is relatively low. Your probability of matching is relatively high compared to other specialties (as long as you pass the USMLE Step 1 exam).
Pediatrician education requirements
Typically, a board-certified practicing Pediatrician has gone through at least three years of training after medical school. The steps to become a Pediatrician include:
- Prepare for and take the MCAT
- Graduate from medical school
- Prepare for and take the USMLE and/or COMLEX exams
- Graduate from a Pediatric residency
- Pass the ABP or AOBP boards and state licensing exams.
Example Pediatrician career path
A typical pediatrician career path would be to enter into practice in general Pediatrics after residency. However, you can specialize your pediatric career with further training into subspecialties, including neonatology, pediatric cardiology, pediatric surgery, and more.
3. Why become a pediatrician?
Ultimately, the specialty you choose to enter into should align with your passion. You might choose Pediatrics because you love children and see an opportunity to make an impact on the world.
Pediatricians are often happiest in the career aspects that align with making a difference for children. As a pediatrician, you'll impact the lives and health of children every day and create relationships with the entire family.
“I chose pediatrics because I feel a special connection between myself and a child. The minute I walked into a pediatric ward, I knew it was the specialty for me.” Joseph Choe, MD, Medical Student Core Contributor
4. What are the advantages of being a pediatrician?
When you work with kids every day, you get to have fun! Pediatric offices are usually associated with bright artwork on the walls, fun-colored scrubs, and generally acting a little silly to keep your patients engaged.
Daily interactions will be anchored in good clinical practice, of course, but you’ll get to sprinkle in a bit of fun, too.
“In some ways, I get to be a kid again. It takes a specific type of empathy to identify with and to treat a child.” Joseph Choe, MD, Medical Student Core Contributor
5. Average pediatrician salary
According to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, General Pediatricians in the U.S. make $198,420 per year on average.
6. What are the most important qualities of a pediatrician?
- Pediatricians need to be good communicators. You need to be able to communicate with your patient—the child—as well as their parents.
- Pediatricians need a solid foundation of clinical knowledge. As a primary care provider, pediatricians need to have extensive knowledge on a range of health issues—including the signs, symptoms, diagnosis, treatment, and prognosis of the most common diseases. You’ll need to participate in regular CE activities to stay up-to-date with the latest guidelines throughout your career.
- Pediatricians should be patient. This one may feel obvious, but kids really can’t be treated the same way as adults. As a pediatrician, your patients will require patients, compassion, and empathy.
“A physician practicing in the pediatric emergency department must have a flexible and creative personality. Many situations are brand new and require thinking outside the box and doing what is best for the patient while still being anchored in good clinical practice.” Joseph Choe, MD, Medical Student Core Contributor
At the beginning of each section in the Medical Student Core is a Career Focus feature that outlines the details of a career in that specialty. You'll see an overview of the specialty as well as an interview with a specialist. Each of these paint a clear picture of what your future holds should you venture down that path.
Start studying with the Medical Student Core now to see the entire Pediatrics Career Focus section.
Read other specialty description blogs: