For those interested in joining the medical field and working with children, becoming a pediatrician is a great choice. It is a highly rewarding profession, and not just in the sense of the fulfillment it brings.
This article will cover those benefits and also go over all details you need to decide whether the job is right for you. This includes everything from the education involved to the average pediatrician salary.
Let’s dive right in!
What Is A Pediatrician?
Pediatricians are doctors who provide medical care to children. Their patients include infants just out of the womb up to teenagers right on the cusp of adulthood.
The pediatrician’s day-to-day duties include medical examinations and the treatment of illnesses. Pediatricians largely deal with issues related to growth and development, but they also treat acute and chronic conditions.
Pediatricians are trained to diagnose conditions and practice preventative care. Many pediatricians also receive special training to perform pediatric surgery.
In most cases, pediatricians will serve their patient's long-term, throughout much or all of their childhood. This allows them to develop strong relationships with their patients and monitor their development over the years.
To facilitate this, most pediatricians will work in a private practice. However, they are by no means limited to this setting. You can find pediatricians in a wide variety of places, including hospitals, out in the field, or in a lab.
Pediatricians must have particularly strong interpersonal skills. This is because they must interact with both parents and their children. They should have the ability to navigate that relationship to serve both parties professionally and competently.
Education & Certification
Becoming a pediatrician can be a long, difficult process. This is only natural, as it is a profession requiring a highly specialized skill set and performing an essential societal service. The payoff is excellent, however, as you will see once we go over the average pediatrician salary.
To start off, a pediatrician must earn a bachelor’s degree. While earning this degree, students aiming to become pediatricians must take the required courses. The exact requirements may vary depending on the medical school. That is why it is essential for students to monitor their education carefully to ensure they are taking the right steps.
For the most part, undergraduate students will need to take a large number of biology and organic chemistry courses. Not only that, but they will also need to earn excellent grades. The path to medical school, after all, is a highly competitive one.
There is some degree of flexibility, though. Undergraduate students are free to pick whatever major they like, so long as they take the biology and chemistry courses that their medical school of choice requires. To simplify matters, many universities offer specific pre-med programs, covering all the traditional requirements for medical school. Following an undergraduate education, students must gain entry into medical school.
As you may have guessed, medical schools are highly selective. To be accepted, students must have topnotch grades, a high MCAT (Medical College Admission Test) score, and a certain amount of experience working or volunteering in the healthcare setting. In the application process, students will also need to perform well in interviews.
It is common for pediatric hopefuls to take time off between college and medical school to meet the necessary prerequisites. During this time, they work and study for the all-important MCAT. They may also retake certain undergraduate courses to raise their GPAs or meet missed requirements.
Medical school itself takes four years of rigorous study to complete. In the first couple of years, medical students devote their time to mostly classroom and lab work. They learn physiology, medical sciences, neuroanatomy, and much, much more.
In their last two years, medical students transition into the more practical phase of their education. This is the point at which students must decide their area of practice. Upon completion of medical school, graduates finally earn their M.D., or Doctor of Medicine.
Students hoping to become pediatricians will then need to gain entry into a pediatric residency. Residencies take three years. During this time, medical school graduates work in actual hospitals, receiving the necessary practical experience while on the job.
Pediatric residents will gain hands-on experience working with actual patients during clinical rotations. They will assess their own work and case studies during meetings specially designed for residents.
The time spent as a pediatric resident can be a difficult one. The lifestyle is hectic, often more than is the case during medical school. Residents must often sacrifice sleep, exercise, and their social lives in order to succeed. This, of course, does not always have to be the case and can depend on the resident’s ability to manage and organize their time.
In addition to the residency, many employers may require pediatricians to earn board certification from the American Board of Pediatrics (ABP), which is one of the certifying boards of the American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS).
Due to the difficulty of entry, it is usually important for candidates to find motivation in more than just the pediatrician salary. The path to becoming a pediatrician takes around eleven years. This includes four years of undergraduate work, four years of medical school, and three years of residency. Often, the process takes even longer, as many people take time off in between the various phases to study, fill various requirements, or simply take a break from the rigors of the process.
Time is not the only cost, however. The pediatric path can also be quite expensive, which often means the high pediatrician salary is more a necessity than a luxury.
Pediatricians work in a variety of settings. They work in health care facilities, community health centers, schools, medical groups, HMOs, public clinics, and hospitals. They often work in single- or multi-specialty private practices.
In addition to providing medical care, pediatricians can take on a number of different roles. Often, they become supervisors, especially in hospitals, where they can become in charge of heading up an entire pediatric ward. They also often work as educators in medical schools or as researchers.
Pediatricians have many options when it comes to advancing their career.
During their career path, many pediatricians will join a relevant group, such as an association or society. This is not only impressive to employers, but also a great way to find networking opportunities and professional resources.
Many pediatricians will also seek training in a subspecialty, like neonatology, in which physicians care for premature babies.
Some pediatricians will even become published as they climb their way up through their careers. They become an authority on a certain pediatric subject, and they boost their employment potential by publishing reference books, personal accounts, articles in scientific journals, or their own research.
If they aim to work independently, pediatricians may also end up starting their own private practice, where they provide general care or services related to a certain specialty.
There are a number of advantages to starting one’s own private practice. With a private practice, pediatricians gain a greater degree of work freedom. They can choose for themselves a more flexible work schedule. In addition, a private practice generally entails a higher pediatrician salary.
On the flip side, however, a private practice comes with its own host of responsibilities. Pediatricians running a private practice must take on management responsibilities and have top-notch organizational skills. They will need to work outside the scope of medicine, making financial decisions, laying out policies, and supervising workers.
As you can see, the profession offers many different career paths. For many, the career flexibility is just as attractive as the pediatrician salary.
Average Pediatrician Salary
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the average pediatrician salary as of May 2015 is $183,180 per year.
The salary can vary depending on the precise work setting. Pediatricians working in physicians’ offices, for example, earn an average of $188,420 per year. On the other hand, pediatricians working in specialty facilities make as much as $228,440 per year.
The salary will also change location to location. The highest paying state for pediatricians is Mississippi, where the average salary is $270,430 per year. The other members of the top five include Alaska, Utah, Montana, and South Dakota. In these states, the annual salary reaches $237,000 and above.
To give you an idea of just how much state-by-state variance there can be, let’s take a look at the state of California. The state has the highest number of pediatricians, yet the average salary is much lower at $190,020.
In terms of growth prospects, pediatricians have much to be happy about. The profession is currently experiencing above-average job growth. With the growing population in the U.S., it is expected that demand will for pediatricians will grow.
The road to becoming a pediatrician is difficult and often expensive, but at the end of it is a high salary and a career with several professional opportunities. Many will find the work to be rewarding in non-monetary ways too, as it involves helping children and families. In today’s job climate, despite the educational rigor, becoming a pediatrician is an excellent career choice.