Learn About Being a Pediatrician

By Indeed Editorial Team

April 27, 2022

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 issues that might affect children. They focus not only on the physical health of infants, children, adolescents and young adults, but also on emotional and social health. This could include treating children for common illnesses and infections, performing routine evaluations and well-child exams or talking to parents about behavioral issues. Other specific responsibilities of pediatricians include:

  • Monitoring and answering parents’ questions about children’s milestones in growth, behavior and skills

  • Diagnosing and treating illnesses, infections, injuries and other health problems

  • Educating parents with information about a child’s health, nutrition, safety and fitness needs

  • Referring a specialist if the child needs expert care

  • Writing prescriptions for medications

Average salary

Salaries vary according to the geographic location and experience levels of the pediatrician.

  • Common salary in the U.S.: $180,595 per year

  • Some salaries range from $56,000 to $375,000 per year.

Pediatrician requirements

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

Education

A career as a pediatrician requires both a bachelor’s degree as well as an advanced degree in medicine. A premedical program, in addition to a major such as chemistry, biology or math, can successfully prepare students to enter medical school after graduation. After graduation, 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, pharmacology, psychology, medical ethics and pathology. In the last two years, students focus on clinical training.

Training

After completing medical school and acquiring 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 will need to complete additional training after their residency, such as a fellowship. Residencies and fellowships typically last between seven and 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 of the 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, such as developmental-behavioral pediatrics, pediatric cardiology or neonatal-perinatal medicine. 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.

Skills

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 direction to administrative and support staff as well as parents, nonverbal communication is also particularly important for this role. 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. The pediatrician needs 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.

Organizational skills

These skills include things like meeting deadlines, managing time, planning and collaborating. Pediatricians need to be able to balance patient loads with paperwork, calls, study, research and lab results. It is essential to be able to prioritize what tasks need to be completed first based on importance. In some cases, pediatricians may need to supervise others, in which case they will need to help the team utilize time efficiently.

Problem-solving skills

Children react to illnesses differently, so the pediatrician needs strong problem-solving skills to identify the source of a problem when a child is unwell. They need to be able to research, analyze and make a firm and accurate decision regarding the diagnoses and treatment plan.

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.

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 sharing patients with other doctors

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

  • Using office equipment like computers, printers and fax machines

How to become a pediatrician

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

1. Pursue an education

To pursue a career as a pediatrician, you must complete an undergraduate degree and premedical coursework, including biology, physics, and organic and inorganic chemistry. You will also need to complete four years in medical school and obtain an MD or OD to be eligible for a position as a pediatrician. If you are still in high school, taking advanced math and science courses can help prepare you for the courses you will take in college.

2. Obtain your license

To obtain a position as a pediatrician, you will need a license. You will be required to pass the United States Medical Licensing Examination as well as apply for your state’s board of medical examiners. Research to determine if other requirements are necessary for your state.

3. Complete a residency

After obtaining your license, you will need to complete additional training in a residency program. If there’s an area of pediatric medicine you are particularly interested in, you may want to also consider a fellowship program to complete additional training in that field. 

4. Update your resume

Once you have 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 and the responsibilities you held.

5. Apply for a job

Search for jobs in your geographic area and identify the positions for which you are most qualified. Apply with your updated resume and a cover letter customized to the specific role for which you are applying.

Pediatrician job description example

Macon Pediatric Associates is seeking a full-time pediatrician who has experience working with children of all ages. This person will work collaboratively with our experienced pediatricians, passionate 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 will 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.

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