Pediatricians are doctors who provide medical treatment to children from the time of birth up until adulthood. These duties include providing routine examinations and treatment of children with minor illnesses. This applies to issues with growth and development, as well as health problems that are both acute and chronic. Parents typically select a pediatrician for their child and continue to utilize that same physician throughout childhood. As a result, most pediatricians operate in a private practice.
Pediatricians develop interpersonal skills because their patients are not adults. It helps to have a good rapport with children because the nature of the job is different from that of treating and communicating with adult patients. Pediatricians also communicate with parents and guardians, providing another facet to this occupation. Many pediatricians enter this field because of their affinity to children so dealing with younger patients is something that many of them openly embrace.
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While many pediatricians work in private practice, they are not limited to that setting. Pediatricians can also enter into the research field and work in clinical studies and trials. Pediatricians can also find work in a hospital, although this typically requires a specialty. A hospital setting is more common for pediatric cardiologists, neurologists and oncologists.
Pediatrician Education Requirements
The path to becoming a pediatrician starts out with earning a bachelor’s degree, during which time students take a required number of biology and organic chemistry courses. For medical school admissions purposes, it is almost a necessity to receive exemplary grades at the undergraduate level. Undergrad students considering a future as a pediatrician need to place a high priority on their academic standing. Since medical schools only accept top students, it is imperative for undergraduates to excel.
The exact major at the undergraduate level is not as important, just as long as students have enough biology and chemistry credits to prepare them for the rigors of medical school. Some universities have pre-med programs which designate specific courses to prepare students for medical school. Once undergraduate studies are completed, students must then gain acceptance to a medical school.
Medical schools are very selective during the admissions process. Many times, exemplary grades at the undergraduate level are not enough for admission. Medical school admission boards generally favor applicants who have some work experience in the healthcare field. Applicants must also take the MCAT (Medical College Admission Test). Because of the importance of these tests, applicants often spend extensive amounts of time preparing for the MCAT. Medical schools also interview candidates, and many applicants prepare for these sessions as well.
After an applicant is accepted to medical school, a rigorous four-year educational journey begins. The first couple years of medical school are devoted to classroom and laboratory work which covers physiology, medical sciences, neuroanatomy and much more. The final two years of medical school include a more hands-on approach as students become more involved in the clinical aspect.
It is during this time that students decide on an area of practice. Students become involved in different areas of practice during these final two years, which can help them decide on what area of practice they wish to pursue. Those who opt for the pediatric route will then obtain a pediatric residency after graduating from medical school and start working in that capacity. Residencies last three years and this time period allows graduates to work in a real hospital setting.
The overall journey to becoming a practicing pediatrician involves four years of undergraduate studies, four years of medical school and three years of residency. Upon completing medical school, graduates earn a Doctor of Medicine (M.D.). Those wishing to pursue a career as a pediatrician should be prepared for an extensive and intensive educational journey, but one that is extremely rewarding and fulfilling.
Pediatrician Salary and Job Prospects
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports the average salary of a pediatrician at $184,240 annually. There is the potential to earn more than that average as pediatricians have higher pay rates in certain parts of the country. The highest paying state for pediatricians is Mississippi as the average salary checks in at $270,430 per year. The top five paying states all exceed annual salaries of $237,000, although there is a much smaller number of pediatricians in those states, which consist of Alaska, Utah, Montana and South Dakota. The state of California is home to the most pediatricians, with more than 3,200 who report an average salary of $190,020 per year, Texas is second to California with 1,920 pediatricians, who claim an average income of $186,940 per year.
Pediatricians are experiencing faster than average job growth, with that population expected to increase between 9 and 13 percent by the year 2024. The continual increase in the overall U.S. population will raise the demand for pediatricians as more children will call for more doctors to treat them. Rural and low-income areas have the most urgent need for pediatricians, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Pediatricians cannot work without obtaining a medical license. In order to obtain a license, pediatricians must have completed a three-year residency program following the completion of medical school. Before being able to practice, pediatricians must first pass the United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE). That will allow pediatricians to apply for a license within their respective state. State medical boards determine the criteria for issuing licenses. Not all states recognize licenses from other states in the event that a pediatrician has moved locations.
Pediatricians also have the option of becoming board certified and there are 13 different pediatric specializations that pediatricians can pursue. The American Board of Pediatrics (ABP) is responsible for issuing these board certifications.
This organization provides news, updates and is deeply involved with pediatric research.
This website features an abundance of information dedicated to the health of all children, from education to policy to current events and seminars.
The resources on this website include publications, special interest groups, events and much more.
This association a wealth of information about the medical profession, in addition to practice news and more.