How to Become a
Pediatrician

Doctor examining little girl's tonsils

If you’ve been considering a career as a Pediatrician, you’ve come to the right place. This guide is full of important information, including educational requirements, necessary skills and more.

What Does a Pediatrician Do?

Pediatricians are doctors who exclusively work with children, including babies, toddlers and adolescents. Pediatricians typically work at either a children’s hospital or a private clinic, and can also establish their own private practice.

In addition to knowing how to identify and treat a wide array of both common and uncommon childhood illnesses, Pediatricians must also track the growth and development of each patient in order to provide the most comprehensive treatment possible. Common Pediatrician duties and responsibilities include:

  • Systematically monitor and record each patient’s general physical condition

  • Administer vaccines according to a specific schedule

  • Refer patients to specialists when necessary

  • Clearly explain treatment plans and options to patients as well as patient family members or guardians

Pediatrician Skills

Being able to identify and treat a number of conditions is an essential skill of every Pediatrician, but it’s not the only necessary skill. Pediatricians must also be able to communicate with both children and adults in a clear and reassuring manner, whether that involves calming an anxious child before administering a shot or going over a complex treatment plan with concerned parents. And, since monitoring growth and development is such a big part of being a Pediatrician, Pediatricians also need to have excellent organizational skills and a firm understanding of record-keeping protocol.

Other key Pediatrician skills include:

  • Excellent bedside manner

  • Attention to detail

  • Ability to proactively implement disease prevention plans

  • Effectively supervise nurses, assistants and other personnel

How Do You Become a Pediatrician?

Education and Training

Like all other types of doctors, Pediatricians must complete a series of rigorous educational programs in order to start practicing. Our analysis of online job listings revealed that employers are seeking Pediatricians with either an MD (Doctor of Medicine) degree or a DO (Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine) degree. There are fewer DO schools than there are MD schools, but other than that there aren’t very many differences. While MD’s are trained with a classic approach to medicine and DO’s are trained with a more holistic approach to medicine, both require the same amount of education, yield near-identical salaries and can practice as board certified Pediatricians. When it comes to choosing which path you take towards becoming a Pediatrician, the kind of doctorate you decide to get depends entirely on personal preference.

Once you’ve obtained your undergraduate degree, it’s time to start working towards earning your doctorate. To find medical schools in your area, click here. Depending on which doctorate you’d like to earn, select either MD or DO from the “Programs Offered” dropdown list on the left side of the page.

After finishing medical school, it’s time to join a residency program. These can take anywhere from 3-8 years, depending on whether you choose to pursue a more specialized aspect of pediatrics. To find a residency program near you, click here.

Once you’ve completed a residency program, the final steps in becoming a practicing Pediatrician are taking the United States Medical Licensing Examination and becoming certified by the American Board of Pediatrics. For more information on the licensing exam, click here. For more information on board certification, click here.

Finding a Job

According to findings published by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, demand for physicians and surgeons, which includes Pediatricians, is rising at a rate of 14%, and will result in the opening of 99,300 positions between 2014 and 2024. This faster-than-average rise in demand can be attributed to a growing and aging population in need of more healthcare.

Before starting your job sure, make sure you have a well-polished resume. Look through JobHero’s library of Pediatrician resume samples for fresh ideas.

Once your resume is complete, conduct an online job search to find open positions. Before applying to any of those positions, however, consider writing a compelling cover letter to include with your resume. A great cover letter can express your motivations for seeking the position, as well as your own particular areas of expertise. Check out our Pediatrician cover letter sample for some inspiration.

Insights from a Pediatrician

To get an insider’s perspective on how to become a Pediatrician, we got in touch with Kevin M. Grassi, MD, a practicing Pediatrician at Glen Falls Hospital as well as the Chief Medical Officer at PatientBank.

What is the common career path for Pediatricians?

Obviously, medical school is the first step. Even if you are interested in a career as a pediatrician, you want to go into medical school open minded and experience different fields including internal medicine and surgery. Many students enter medical school with a career path plan only to fall in love with another specialty. Before medical school I shadowed and worked for my pediatrician. This gave me good insight into the day-to-day life of a pediatrician. I think it is very important to understand the day-to-day life and enjoy treating the most common patients, so-called bread and butter patients -- in pediatrics this is healthy children.

What should someone consider before becoming a Pediatrician?

One common misconception is that a pediatrician's life resembles the movie Patch Adams; that you get to play with children all day. While being “good with kids” is helpful, it is more important to be able to work with parents and make difficult treatment or lifestyle adjustment recommendations. It is also important to understand that primary care pediatricians have patient populations that are mostly healthy - as opposed to adult medicine practitioners who have large populations of patients with chronic disease. Many see this as a positive as it can be frustrating to treat patients with chronic diseases. However, you might not see a large range of pathologic conditions as a primary care pediatrician.

What type of person excels in this job?

A good pediatrician has excellent communication skills and can clearly and persuasively articulate the importance of preventive medicine. Primary care pediatrics, as opposed to internal medicine (adult medicine), treat mostly healthy children and families and focus on preventive measure that build the foundation for healthy adult lives. Pediatricians need to be persuasive when advocating for appropriate vaccines and lifestyle changes including family diet and exercise recommendations while supporting parent autonomy.

What are some of the most important skills for Pediatricians to have?

Pediatricians, like all physicians, need to have strong analytical abilities. Medical school teaches physicians clinical skills, deductive reasoning and how to stay informed about best practices in clinical medicine by reviewing primary literature. However, the best pediatricians are empathetic to the patient/family’s needs, have the ability to develop trust and use these skills to recommend treatments and preventative measure that set the patient up for a long, healthy life.

What do you find to be the most rewarding aspect of being a Pediatrician?

A pediatrician has one of the lowest stress level among physicians. While pediatricians are paid much lower on average than other physicians, they rate their quality of life as much better than other specialties. You get to develop strong bonds with patients and families and they are often very grateful for the care you provide. Developing these relationships with families is the most rewarding part of the job for me.

How Much Do Pediatricians Get Paid?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median hourly wage for a Pediatrician is $81.87, with the lowest-paid earning $43.73 per hour and the highest-paid earning $90.00 per hour or more.

Top Ten States for Pediatrician Salary

Pediatricians in the following ten states make the highest median hourly wage in the U.S.

    Colorado

    $90.00

    California

    $89.16

    Nevada

    $88.65

    Wisconsin

    $87.91

    Oklahoma

    $87.71

    North Carolina

    $87.43

    South Carolina

    $87.32

    Washington

    $87.26

    Arkansas

    $87.17

    New Hampshire

    $85.33

    Pediatrician Resources

    We put together this list of helpful resources to help you continue exploring your career as a Pediatrician.

    Professional Groups

    American Academy of Pediatrics
    The AAP is an organization made up of 66,000 Pediatricians. It provides multiple publications, up-to-date research, webinars, certification maintenance opportunities, live activities and online courses. Discounted membership rates are offered for medical students, residents and fellowship trainees.

    American Pediatric Society
    The APS is focused on advancing academic pediatrics. It has four regional societies across the U.S., hosts multiple events per year, publishes the journal Pediatric Research and provides various volunteering, philanthropic and career opportunities.

    Pediatrician Blogs

    Seattle Mama Doc
    This blog is written by Wendy Sue Swanson, MD, a practicing Pediatrician in Washington. It includes interesting posts on industry news, newly published data and parenting tips.

    Thriving
    This blog is published by the Boston Children’s Hospital, and features posts written by various members of the hospital staff. It includes poignant accounts of pediatric patients, personal experiences with various conditions and industry news.

    Pediatrician Books

    The Harriet Lane Handbook
    This medical reference book contains easily accessible pediatric information, including drug dosages, test tables, treatment guidelines and a wealth of online-only content.

    Case Files Pediatrics
    This collection of case files is designed to help pediatric medical students study for the shelf exams. It aims to improve students’ analytical and problem-solving skills by familiarizing them with real-life cases and their solutions.

    The information in this article comes from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, job postings and other online sources.