Become a Pediatrician

Pediatric physician examining child
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A pediatrician is a physician specializing in the treatment of children from birth through age 21. The medical specialty that focuses on the health care of children is called pediatrics.

Pediatricians are part of the primary care physician workforce, along with internal medicine physicians, (who treat adults and geriatric patients), and family medicine physicians (who treat patients of all ages, from birth through geriatrics).

Typical Work Schedule for Pediatricians

Most general pediatricians see the majority of their patients in a clinical office-based setting. Pediatric physicians would see patients from morning through about 5:00 or 6:00 pm, on average, Monday through Friday. Most pediatricians would see anywhere from 18-25 patients per day typically, but patient volumes may vary due to seasonal fluctuations and based on the surrounding population and availability of physicians in the area. Some pediatricians may hold office hours for a brief period of time over the weekend, say from 9-noon on Saturday, as a service to their patients and patients' parents, but it's optional.

Type of Care General Pediatricians Typically Provide

Pediatricians practice a lot of preventive care, in the form of "well baby visits" and check-ups, immunizations, etc. Additionally, pediatricians provide a lot of basic and acute care for minor conditions, such as coughs, colds, "lumps and bumps", and any ailments that are easily diagnosed and treated in an office-based setting. If a patient presents with a more complex problem, that is not typically handled by a general pediatrician, the physician would then refer the child to a pediatric sub-specialist.

Some pediatricians may also see patients in an inpatient setting, rounding on their patients who have been admitted to the hospital. Also, pediatricians may have to be on-call for patient emergencies.

Work Environment, Employment Structure, and Physical Requirements

As stated above, general pediatricians most often work in a medical office setting. However, they may also work in schools, government organizations, hospitals, or children's hospitals, or urgent care settings. Pediatricians may work for themselves as owners of their own private practice, or they may be employed by a hospital, healthcare system, clinic, or medical group.

Either way, the work environment should be well maintained, clean, sterile, and well-lit. Pediatricians must be able to stand for long periods of time and move about easily from office to office. They may also have to carry, move, or hold patients in certain circumstances.

How to Become a Pediatrician: Education and Training Requirements

Because pediatricians are medical doctors, they must obtain a four-year undergraduate degree and then obtain a four-year doctorate degree in medicine (M.D. or D.O.) from an accredited medical school.

After successfully completing medical school, prospective physicians can then apply to pediatric residency programs. Once matched with a pediatric residency, the newly minted M.D. or D.O. begins the three-year process of completing medical residency training in pediatrics. Once the necessary tests and licenses (state and federal), the physician may then practice pediatrics in the U.S. It is strongly recommended that the physician also become board certified in pediatrics as well, as board certification is required by most employers and hospitals.

Average Salary and Compensation for Pediatricians

The average income for a pediatrician is about $210,678, according to the Medical Group Management Association (MGMA), which conducts one of the largest reports on physician incomes each year. While this is a very competitive salary as compared to the average salary of the typical American worker, this places pediatricians among the lowest-paid physicians when compared to many other physician salaries, particularly that of specialists.

Other Career Options

For those would like to practice a more specialized type of pediatric medicine, there are many pediatric specialty career options, such as surgery, cardiology, oncology, and more. Often these pediatric subspecialists earn more than general pediatricians.

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