Things to Think About If You Want to Be a Pediatrician

a pediatrician talking to mother and daughter in clinic exam room

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If you're interested in practicing medicine and you love being around kids (and don't mind dealing with snotty noses and poopy diapers), a pediatrician career may be the perfect choice for you. Here are some things to think about as you're mulling over the idea of becoming a pediatrician.

Educational Demands

To become a physician of any type requires four years of college, four years of medical school, and at least three years of an internship and residency. Some people considering a medical career worry about having to work exhaustingly long hours during a residency, and that has been a problem in the past.

In response to concerns about resident fatigue and patient safety, the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME) limits the number of hours a resident can work to no more than 80 per week, including on-call hours.

Prior to the enactment of the ACGME decree, it was not unheard of to have a resident book up between 136 and 168 hours per week.

The American Board of Pediatrics (ABP) awards optional certification in general pediatrics and several pediatric sub-specialties. To earn certification, you'll need a medical degree from an accredited medical school in the United State or Canada (or an international school accredited by the World Health Organization).

To qualify for the certification exam, you will need to be licensed and have completed three years of pediatric training. ABP certification is valid for seven years. You can renew your credentials by completing a recertification exam.

Specializing

Caring for children can be about much more than runny noses and ear infections. As a pediatrician, you can choose to focus on complex health issues such as diabetes or heart defects (this will likely require extra schooling). Specialists must pursue additional training involving one to three years in a fellowship program.

The ABM offers the following subspecialty certifications in pediatrics:

  • Adolescent medicine
  • Pediatric cardiology
  • Child abuse pediatrics
  • Pediatric critical care medicine
  • Developmental-behavioral pediatrics
  • Pediatric emergency medicine
  • Pediatric endocrinology
  • Pediatric gastroenterology
  • Pediatric hematology-oncology
  • Pediatric hospital medicine
  • Pediatric infectious diseases
  • Neonatal-perinatal medicine
  • Pediatric nephrology
  • Pediatric pulmonology
  • Pediatric rheumatology

And, remember, even as a general pediatrician your day-to-day practice won't be totally focused on medical care. You'll also need to work with moms and dads, for example, counseling them on any issues they may be having as parents.

Ultimately, the best way to decide if a pediatrician career is right for you is to get down into the trenches. Find a pediatrician who'll allow you to follow her around at her practice or as she does her hospital rounds to get a true idea of what a typical day is like.

Annual Salary

Pediatrics is the lowest-paying medical specialty. At the same time, pediatricians have relatively low malpractice costs. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that employment growth in the sector is projected to increase by 13% between 2016 and 2026, with around 29,000 board-certified pediatricians currently practicing in the United States.

As of May 2018, the average yearly salary for pediatricians in the United States was $170,560. Specialist pediatricians earned an average of $205,370 per year, while those working in outpatient care earned $198,680.

Of course, you won't start at that salary, and chances are by the time you finish your internship or residency you'll have racked up a considerable amount of student loan debt that you'll have to begin paying back, but in the long run, you should do very well financially.

A Word From Verywell

As a pediatrician, there are a number of ways to shape your career. You can start up your own practice and be your own boss or you can join a group of doctors and share the responsibilities.

If you don't want anything to do with running a business, you can work for a practice that has an office staff who will take care of things like dealing with managed care and health insurance companies.

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Article Sources

  1. Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education. The ACGME’s Approach to Limit Resident Duty Hours 12 Months After Implementation: A Summary of Achievements. Chicago, Illinois; June 11, 2002


  2. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2018: 29-1065 Pediatricians, General. Washington, D.C.; May 2018.


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