What Does a Pediatrician Do? Salary, Skills And Requirements

Updated July 9, 2023

Pediatrics is the medical treatment and care of infants, children and adolescents up to 18 years of age. Individuals in this field handle a variety of tasks to review patients' symptoms, provide them with diagnoses and facilitate adequate care. Understanding pediatricians' duties and responsibilities can help you determine if this career path is right for you.

In this article, we learn the answer to 'What does a pediatrician do?', and discuss details about their requirements, skills, salary, work environment and how you can become one along with an example job description.

A health care professional sits on a stool while talking to a young patient sitting on a medical exam table as an adult looks on. The professional in light green scrubs has a stethoscope and a medical file.

What does a pediatrician do?

A pediatrician is a doctor who specializes in caring for and treating children from birth until age 18. They're highly trained in assessing, preventing and treating health issues that might affect children. They focus not only on the physical health of infants, children, adolescents and young adults but also on their emotional and social health.

This may include treating children for common illnesses and infections, performing routine evaluations and well-child exams to identify developmental issues or talking to parents about behavioral issues. Some pediatricians may specialize to treat specific health issues in children, while others may prefer to provide general practice. Other specific responsibilities of pediatricians include:

  • Monitor and answer parents' questions about children's milestones in growth, behavior and skills

  • Diagnose and treat illnesses, infections, injuries and other health problems

  • Administer vaccines

  • Monitor, treat and manage chronic medical conditions

  • Provide preventive care

  • Educate parents with information about a child's health, nutrition, safety and fitness requirements

  • Maintain detailed patient medical records

  • Refer a specialist if the child requires expert care

  • Write prescriptions for medications

Related: Being a Pediatrician: Pros and Cons (Plus FAQ and Salary)

Pediatrician requirements

There are several qualifications required to obtain a position as a pediatrician, including:


A career as a pediatrician requires both a bachelor's degree as well as an advanced degree in medicine. A premedical undergraduate program, in addition to a major such as chemistry, biology or math, can successfully prepare students to enter medical school after graduation. After graduation and successfully passing the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT), students can enter medical school—either a Doctor of Medicine or Doctor of Osteopathy program—and spend four years learning medical and health care practices.

Some of the common courses students complete in medical school include biochemistry, anatomy, physiology, pharmacology, psychology, medical ethics and pathology. In the last two years, students focus on clinical training.


After completing medical school and clearing the United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE) to acquire a license to practice medicine in their state, doctors must complete a residency. This provides them with the necessary hands-on experience while working under the direct supervision of a pediatrician. Doctors who want to pursue a specialized area of pediatric medicine like pediatric surgery complete additional training after their residency, such as a fellowship. Residencies and fellowships typically last seven to 10 years after medical school, although they are paid positions.

Certifications and licenses

After finishing medical school, all graduates must pass the United States Medical Licensing Examination to practice medicine. Upon passing, students must then apply for their state's board of medical examiners. There may be additional state-specific requirements as well, particularly if you plan to practice medicine in more than one state. Also, there are several voluntary certifications that pediatricians can pursue:

American Board of Pediatrics Certification in General Pediatrics

Board certification is a voluntary process, but one that shows an ongoing commitment by physicians to expand their knowledge in the specialty of pediatrics. Once pediatricians are certified, they continue participating in a formal Maintenance of Certification program to remain certified. To become certified, the candidate must sit for a certifying examination by the American Board of Pediatrics (ABP). Once the candidate passes, they are designated as board certified.

Subspecialty Certification

In addition to a certification in general pediatrics, pediatricians can also pursue one of 13 subspecialty certifications in adolescent medicine, including:

  • Adolescent medicine

  • Child abuse pediatrics

  • Developmental-behavioral pediatrics

  • Neonatal-perinatal medicine

  • Pediatric cardiology

  • Pediatric emergency medicine

  • Pediatric endocrinology

  • Pediatric gastroenterology

  • Pediatric hematology-oncology

As with the general pediatrics certification, candidates must sit for the certifying examination after their training program director verifies to the ABP that they are competent in all areas of pediatrics. After passing the exam, the candidate is awarded the title of Diplomate of the American Board of Pediatrics and designated board-certified.

Please note that none of the companies, institutions or organizations mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed.

Skills needed to become a pediatrician

As a physician who specializes in working with children of all ages, pediatricians must have several skills to help them be successful in this role, including:

Communication skills

This includes written, verbal and nonverbal communication skills. While all doctors must be able to communicate clearly when giving directions to administrative and support staff as well as parents, nonverbal communication is also particularly important for this role, especially when dealing with children. Pediatricians must be able to read nonverbal cues when working with children before they start talking.

This can also be helpful when working with adolescents who may not be forthcoming about what they're really thinking or feeling. It's important for the pediatrician to ask direct questions and observe the way patients respond, whether they show signs of pain or anxiety or avoid direct eye contact. Written and verbal communication skills are also essential when communicating with other physicians or researchers.

Related: 10 Communication Skills for Your Life and Career Success

Organizational skills

These skills include things like meeting deadlines, managing time, planning and collaborating. It's important for pediatricians to be able to balance patient loads with paperwork, calls, study, research and lab results. It's essential for them to be able to understand and prioritize what tasks to complete first based on deadlines and importance. In some cases, pediatricians may supervise others, in which case they're responsible for helping the team manage and utilize time efficiently.

Related: Organizational Skills: 10 Types and How To Improve Them

Problem-solving skills

Children react to illnesses differently, so the pediatrician may require strong problem-solving skills to identify the source of a problem when a child is unwell. It's important for them to be able to research, analyze and make a firm and accurate decision regarding the diagnoses and when formulating a personalized treatment plan. It's also important for them to know when to refer the child to a specialist.

Related: What Are Problem-Solving Skills? Definitions and Examples

Interpersonal skills

Generally referred to as people skills, these skills help pediatricians cooperate well with others in a team environment, engage in healthy social interaction and practice empathy. Empathy and compassion are particularly important in this role, as the pediatrician needs to genuinely care for the well-being of the children they treat. Pediatricians in particular must be adept at dealing with children, as they may be anxious and fearful in a hospital setting, especially during assessments and treatment. Knowing how to relate to children is a skill that pediatricians must learn to develop.

Related: 9 Essential Skills for Pediatricians (Plus Job Duties)

Pediatrician work environment

Pediatricians work in health care environments such as hospitals, clinics or private practices with the following characteristics:

  • Standing for extended periods

  • Working directly with children, from newborns to teenagers

  • Communicating with patients and guardians as well as support and administrative staff

  • Potentially working long hours with possible travel between hospitals or clinics

  • Potentially referring patients to other doctors

  • Are typically expected to be on call during weekends or after hours

  • Using office equipment like computers, printers and fax machines

Related: 15 Pros and Cons of Being a Pediatrician To Consider

How much do pediatricians earn?

The national average salary of pediatricians in the United States is $140,072 per year. Salaries can range from $78,676 to $249,382 per year and can vary according to the geographic location and type of employer and a pediatrician's education and experience levels. Besides salaries, pediatricians can also earn several other benefits, such as bonuses, overtime pay and 401(k) matching.

Salary figures reflect data listed on Indeed Salaries at time of writing. Salaries may vary depending on the hiring organization and a candidate’s experience, academic background and location.

Related: What Is the Salary of a Pediatrician? With State Averages

How to become a pediatrician

These are the steps typically required to pursue a career as a pediatrician:

1. Pursue a medical education

To pursue a career as a pediatrician, you must complete an undergraduate degree and premedical coursework, including biology, physics, biochemistry and organic and inorganic chemistry. It's also important to complete four years in medical school and obtain an MD or DO to be eligible for a position as a pediatrician. If you're still in high school, taking advanced math and science courses can help prepare you for the courses you plan to take in college.

Related: Q&A: What Major for Doctors Should You Choose?

2. Obtain your license

Licensure is essential to qualify for a position as a pediatrician. This involves passing the United States Medical Licensing Examination and applying for your state's board of medical examiners. Research to determine if other requirements are necessary for your state as requirements can vary.

3. Complete a residency

After obtaining your license, it's essential to complete additional training in a residency program. If you're particularly interested in an area of pediatric medicine, you may also want to consider a fellowship program to complete additional training in that field. A residency program can equip you with the specialized knowledge and skills necessary to function as a pediatrician, while a fellowship is necessary to super-specialize in a particular specialty, such as pediatric neurology.

Related: How To Write a Residency Application CV (With Example)

4. Update your resume

Once you've completed the required education and training, update your resume, including your highest level of training and education, relevant work history, and skills. For each work-related entry, include the name of the employer, your position, the duration of your employment and the responsibilities you held. Consider including up to five duties as bullet points for your current or most recent job and three for previous jobs.

Related: 11 Ways to Update Your Resume

5. Apply for a job

Search for jobs in your geographic area and identify the positions for which you're most qualified. Consider browsing job boards and medical association websites, along with connecting with those in the industry. Apply with your updated resume and a cover letter customized to the specific role for which you're applying.

Pediatrician job description example

Here's an example of a job description for a pediatrician position:

Macon Pediatric Associates is seeking a full-time pediatrician who has experience working with children of all ages. We expect this person to work collaboratively with our experienced pediatricians, compassionate nurses and administrative staff to provide complete health care services. 

The primary duties for this role include providing primary medical care, consulting with specialists for unique cases and responding to emergencies as needed. The pediatrician can expect to be on call every other weekend, although we have a wonderful team of triage nurses who take the majority of after-hours calls. Candidates must be licensed in the state of Georgia. Experience with EHR is preferred.

Related careers

Here are some related roles to consider:

  • Doctor

  • Physician

  • Nutritionist

  • Dentist

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