What Does a Pediatrician Do?
Learn About the Salary, Required Skills, & More
Providing medical care for children and teenagers requires a special kind of physician. It is not enough merely to evaluate, diagnose, and treat health issues; pediatricians must be able to pick up on unusual trends in the child’s physical development. Pediatricians typically serve patients under 21 years of age and are often vital to identifying and diagnosing early signs of health issues.
Pediatrician Duties & Responsibilities
As a pediatrician, you would be responsible both for observing and treating growing children, as well as advising their parents and guardians on a course of action. A pediatrician's duties include, but are not limited to:
- Helping children and teens feel at ease during physical check-ups
- Advising parents/guardians on any unusual or exceptional developments
- Assessing symptoms
- Prescribing medication
- Ordering necessary tests to follow-up on symptoms
- Interpreting lab results
- Recommending specialized treatment or care
- Understanding and abiding by consent laws relevant to legal guardians
Pediatricians typically act as primary care physicians for children from birth to adulthood. As such, they may often provide routine check-ups or refer their patients to specialists.
Like most medical doctors, pediatricians are paid well. Here is a breakdown of pediatrician salaries in the United States:
- Median Annual Salary: $170,560
- Top 10% Annual Salary: $126,690
- Bottom 10% Annual Salary: $68,860
Education, Training & Certification
Qualifying to practice medicine for children is an arduous process and can take between 10-12 years.
On completing your training, you will be in high demand and practicing extremely rewarding work. The training is designed to help you feel comfortable with the most intricate of tasks that you would be expected to complete once you are operating your own practice.
- Education: Most pediatricians complete a minimum of seven years' training at the university level. Before applying to medical school, all doctors must complete a bachelor’s degree in a related field. Most often, aspiring pediatricians and doctors complete a pre-medical degree as an undergraduate. Other acceptable undergraduate degrees for pediatricians include most science degrees or a child psychology degree. Medical school typically takes an additional four years after completing an undergraduate degree.
- Certification: Before practicing medicine, all doctors (pediatricians included) must obtain a license to practice medicine. If specializing within pediatrics (such as cardiology or urology), you would need to obtain an additional license for your specialty. Licensing requirements vary by state.
- Training: Post-medical school training includes a residency for three years. You would operate under the supervision of a licensed, experienced physician in a formal apprenticeship, before beginning your own practice.
Pediatrician Skills & Competencies
Many of the same core skills required of the average physician are also required of pediatricians. Additionally, you would be expected to work with children and teens across broad ranges of age and development. As such, you would need to be especially interested in the following:
- Working with Children and Teens: Children and teens often have stronger anxieties about seemingly routine procedures. Additionally, you must be able to discern unusual activity in the child’s body or in their behavior that might indicate abnormal development.
- Problem Solving: Every patient is different. Whether seeking a complicated diagnosis of the child’s symptoms or convincing a child to do something that they do not want to do, you will need to be a calm problem-solver. At times, you may even have to deal with problematic parents.
- Service Orientation: A good pediatrician has empathy for how their patient is feeling and for what they need. In some circumstances, you will temporarily have to surrender meeting your own needs in order to serve your patients.
- Monitoring: Caring for the medical needs of children requires careful monitoring through their developmental years. You will need to know your patient well enough to notice anything unusual (in addition to watching your patient’s body respond to treatment).
While employment of all doctors is expected to grow by more than 10% over the next few years, the outlook for pediatricians is notably bright. Only pediatricians can serve minors and appropriately liaise between parents and children under treatment.
As advances in the medical field continue, the role of a pediatrician will become especially critical. More effective identification and treatment of major diseases and disorders will be possible in an individual’s early years. Therefore, pediatric specialists will be particularly vital to families in the near future.
While some pediatricians work in hospital settings, many operate their own practice with one or more additional pediatricians. Partnering with other physicians can give each doctor flexibility for time off, etc. Despite this flexibility, all doctors (pediatricians included) must typically work long hours on occasion, particularly if one of their patients is undergoing a difficult procedure or treatment.
Under normal circumstances, you may be working typical office hours alongside other physicians. However, most of your training and residency will demand long and unstable schedules. Medical emergencies do not have “business hours,” and you may be expected to respond to a medical emergency involving your patient.
How to Get the Job
Write a CV and Cover Letter: What is most important for those wishing to become doctors of any kind is that they complete their training with excellent grades. Be sure to include all your credentials on your curriculum vitae and write a custom cover letter highlighting your qualifications.
Get References: During your studies and training, letters of recommendation are especially helpful.
Apply: Often licensure and pediatric associations provide job boards specifically for physicians seeking employment. Additionally, employers will post job openings on online job boards such as Indeed or Monster.
Comparing Similar Jobs
There are a wide variety of specialists in healthcare. Here are the median incomes of a few similar jobs:
Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2018
American Academy of Pediatrics. "Age Limit of Pediatrics," Accessed Oct. 2, 2019.
U. S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. "Physicians and Surgeons," Accessed Oct. 2, 2019.
U. S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. "Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2018
29-1065 Pediatricians, General," Accessed Oct. 2, 2019.
U. S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. "How to Become a Physician or Surgeon," Accessed Oct. 2, 2019.
O*Net OnLine. "Summary Report for 29-1065.00 - Pediatricians, General," Accessed Oct. 2, 2019.
U. S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. "Physicians and Surgeons, Similar Occupations," Accessed Oct. 2, 2019.