Education for a pediatrician

What Is a Pediatrician?

In addition to the physical well-being of children, pediatricians are also concerned with their social and environmental influences.

Pediatricians are doctors who focus on the physical, mental, emotional, and social health of children from the time they’re born until they become young adults — usually up to age 21.

They provide preventive healthcare for children who are healthy, as well as medical care for those who have short-term illnesses or chronic illnesses.

The goals of a pediatrician include:

  • Reducing infant and child mortality
  • Controlling infectious diseases
  • Promoting healthy lifestyles

While pediatricians typically work in healthcare settings such as doctors’ offices, clinics, and hospitals, they may also be involved in the community by advocating for health-related concerns and issues affecting children.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that in May 2012, there were about 31,000 pediatricians in the United States. Their median annual salary was $175,400.

What Do Pediatricians Treat?

Pediatricians diagnose and treat numerous conditions, including:

  • Infections
  • Injuries
  • Genetic conditions
  • Cancerous growths
  • Physical diseases and dysfunctions

Pediatricians are also concerned with the biological, social, and environmental influences on children, and take part in the prevention, detection, and treatment of:

  • Behavioral issues
  • Developmental disorders
  • Functional problems
  • Social stresses
  • Depression
  • Anxiety disorders

When necessary, pediatricians often work with other medical providers to best serve the needs of their patients.

Pediatricians also have to interact closely with their patients’ parents or guardians.

Pediatrician Training and Education

After earning their undergraduate degree, aspiring pediatricians go on to complete four years of medical school.

They must then spend three years at an accredited pediatric residency program, where they learn about caring for infants, children, adolescents, and young adults.

Once they’ve finished their residency, pediatricians can become board certified by passing an examination given by the American Board of Pediatrics. They must recertify every seven years to maintain this credential.

Pediatrician Subspecialties

While most pediatricians focus on the primary care of children, some go on to obtain more education in a subspecialty of pediatrics. These subspecialties include:

Neonatal/perinatal medicine: Care of newborn babies, including those born at a low birth weight or with a condition that requires special treatment.

Conditions that neonatologists treat include premature birth, breathing difficulties, congenital (present-at-birth) heart disease, and genetic syndromes and disorders.

Adolescent/young adult medicine: Focuses on young people between the ages of about 12 and 21, with some doctors extending the range as high as 24.

Issues and conditions that frequently arise include physicals for school, work, or sports; chronic conditions like diabetes, asthma, and frequent headaches; birth control and prevention, screening, and treatment of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs); and distress caused by pregnancy, STDs, substance abuse, or depression.

Pediatric critical care medicine: Focuses on acute problems in children, including lung and heart problems, severe infections, liver failure, blood problems, and neurological disorders.

Pediatric emergency medicine: Focuses on stabilizing emergency conditions, such as trauma and injury, pneumonia, severe asthma attacks, smoke inhalation, near drowning, and intoxication or poisoning.

Pediatric cardiology: Covers care of children with heart disease, which often results from birth defects and genetic syndromes.

Pediatric endocrinology: Covers disorders of the endocrine system (hormones and other natural chemicals in the body), such as diabetes, growth deficiencies, thyroid disorders, high cholesterol or triglycerides, and hirsutism (excess body hair due to hormonal abnormalities).

Pediatric gastroenterology: Focuses on disorders of the digestive tract, including inflammatory bowel disease, food allergies, celiac disease and gluten intolerance, and bowel problems such as constipation and diarrhea.

Pediatric infectious diseases: Focuses on treating potentially complicated infections, such as Lyme disease, methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), and unknown infections or unexplained fever.

Pediatric nephrology: Covers diseases and disorders of the kidneys, including congenital kidney malformations, kidney failure, proteinuria (excess protein in the urine), electrolyte disorders, and kidney stones.

Pediatric pulmonology: Covers breathing disorders and allergies, including asthma, eosinophilic esophagitis (soreness and swelling of the esophagus), chronic lung disease, eczema, and latex, food, drug, or pollen allergies.

Pediatric rheumatology: Focuses on disorders of the joints, muscles, and ligaments, including lupus and juvenile rheumatoid arthritis.

Pediatric hematology/oncology: Covers childhood cancers and blood diseases, including leukemia, brain and other organ tumors, anemia (low red blood cell count), and blood cell abnormalities.

What college degree is needed to be a pediatrician?

Becoming a pediatrician is a long process that can take over a decade to complete. Unlike other careers, there is a specific route that aspiring pediatricians need to follow in order to become licensed to work in their field. While there can be some variations, pediatricians have to go through each of these steps in order to get to their goal.

To start, an aspiring pediatrican must obtain a four-year degree with a pre-med set of classes. These are usually eight different classes that cover basic subjects such as Organic Chemistry and Anatomy. These classes must be taken in addition to or as part of a Bachelor’s degree, but the Bachelor’s degree can be in any field. Because each pre-med student will have to apply for medical school, however, it is generally recommended that the Bachelor’s degree is somehow related to their future studies. In the case of pediatricians, a degree in Child Development, Child Psychology, or any type of medical related science such as Chemistry or Biology are good choices. Liberal Arts degrees such as English used to be very common, but as more people have competed for dwindling medical school spots, students have tended not to choose these types of degrees.

Another option that is starting to become more popular is to pic a degree in a field that makes the student immediately employable in the medical field. For example, a four-year degree in Nursing or Medical Administration allows the student to get a job with a hospital or clinic. This can allow the student to work and earn money while attending medical school. For students facing the prospect of years of student loans, this gives them the opportunity to cut down on costs and future loan payments. It also allows students to get a foot in the door with a hospital or clinic where they would want to eventually work as a doctor. These degrees also give medical school candidates something to distinguish themselves from other applicants and gives them the ability to try out the field before making a huge commitment of time and money at medical school.

After graduating, students will need to apply to medical school. This graduate program can take between four to five years for a pediatrician depending on the schedule of classes. The final year or two of school is spent as an intern. After graduating from medical scchool, aspiring pediatricians will spend about three years as a resident at a teaching hospital or large clinic. After this, they will be ready to apply for jobs as a pediatrician.

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If you already have a degree in a science subject (minimum upper second), you could take a 4-year graduate entry programme into medicine.

You may be able to join a 6-year degree course in medicine if you have no science qualifications. This includes a one-year pre-medical or foundation year.

You could be asked to take the University Clinical Aptitude Test or BioMedical Admissions Test, when you apply for a course. They test the skills you’ll need on the course like critical thinking, problem solving, data analysis, communication and scientific knowledge.

Medical schools will also expect you to have some relevant paid or voluntary work experience. The Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health has information on finding a placement.

Entry requirements

You’ll usually need:

  • 7 GCSEs, including sciences, with 5 subjects at grades 9 to 7 (A* or A) and English and maths at least grade 6 to 5 (B)
  • 3 A levels at grade A in chemistry and either biology, physics or maths, plus another academic subject

More information

  • equivalent entry requirements
  • student finance for fees and living costs
  • NHS funding for fees and living costs
  • university courses and entry requirements
  • University Clinical Aptitude Test
  • BioMedical Admissions Test

Pediatrician Career

Pediatricians are doctors who provide medical treatment to children from the time of birth up until adulthood. These duties include providing routine examinations and treatment of children with minor illnesses. This applies to issues with growth and development, as well as health problems that are both acute and chronic. Parents typically select a pediatrician for their child and continue to utilize that same physician throughout childhood. As a result, most pediatricians operate in a private practice.

Pediatricians develop interpersonal skills because their patients are not adults. It helps to have a good rapport with children because the nature of the job is different from that of treating and communicating with adult patients. Pediatricians also communicate with parents and guardians, providing another facet to this occupation. Many pediatricians enter this field because of their affinity to children so dealing with younger patients is something that many of them openly embrace.

While many pediatricians work in private practice, they are not limited to that setting. Pediatricians can also enter into the research field and work in clinical studies and trials. Pediatricians can also find work in a hospital, although this typically requires a specialty. A hospital setting is more common for pediatric cardiologists, neurologists and oncologists.


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Pediatrician Education Requirements

The path to becoming a pediatrician starts out with earning a bachelor’s degree, during which time students take a required number of biology and organic chemistry courses. For medical school admissions purposes, it is almost a necessity to receive exemplary grades at the undergraduate level. Undergrad students considering a future as a pediatrician need to place a high priority on their academic standing. Since medical schools only accept top students, it is imperative for undergraduates to excel.

The exact major at the undergraduate level is not as important, just as long as students have enough biology and chemistry credits to prepare them for the rigors of medical school. Some universities have pre-med programs which designate specific courses to prepare students for medical school. Once undergraduate studies are completed, students must then gain acceptance to a medical school.

Medical schools are very selective during the admissions process. Many times, exemplary grades at the undergraduate level are not enough for admission. Medical school admission boards generally favor applicants who have some work experience in the healthcare field. Applicants must also take the MCAT (Medical College Admission Test). Because of the importance of these tests, applicants often spend extensive amounts of time preparing for the MCAT. Medical schools also interview candidates, and many applicants prepare for these sessions as well.

After an applicant is accepted to medical school, a rigorous four-year educational journey begins. The first couple years of medical school are devoted to classroom and laboratory work which covers physiology, medical sciences, neuroanatomy and much more. The final two years of medical school include a more hands-on approach as students become more involved in the clinical aspect.

It is during this time that students decide on an area of practice. Students become involved in different areas of practice during these final two years, which can help them decide on what area of practice they wish to pursue. Those who opt for the pediatric route will then obtain a pediatric residency after graduating from medical school and start working in that capacity. Residencies last three years and this time period allows graduates to work in a real hospital setting.

The overall journey to becoming a practicing pediatrician involves four years of undergraduate studies, four years of medical school and three years of residency. Upon completing medical school, graduates earn a Doctor of Medicine (M.D.). Those wishing to pursue a career as a pediatrician should be prepared for an extensive and intensive educational journey, but one that is extremely rewarding and fulfilling.

Pediatrician Salary and Job Prospects

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports the average salary of a pediatrician at $184,240 annually. There is the potential to earn more than that average as pediatricians have higher pay rates in certain parts of the country. The highest paying state for pediatricians is Mississippi as the average salary checks in at $270,430 per year. The top five paying states all exceed annual salaries of $237,000, although there is a much smaller number of pediatricians in those states, which consist of Alaska, Utah, Montana and South Dakota. The state of California is home to the most pediatricians, with more than 3,200 who report an average salary of $190,020 per year, Texas is second to California with 1,920 pediatricians, who claim an average income of $186,940 per year.

Pediatricians are experiencing faster than average job growth, with that population expected to increase between 9 and 13 percent by the year 2024. The continual increase in the overall U.S. population will raise the demand for pediatricians as more children will call for more doctors to treat them. Rural and low-income areas have the most urgent need for pediatricians, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Pediatrician Licensing/Certification

Pediatricians cannot work without obtaining a medical license. In order to obtain a license, pediatricians must have completed a three-year residency program following the completion of medical school. Before being able to practice, pediatricians must first pass the United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE). That will allow pediatricians to apply for a license within their respective state. State medical boards determine the criteria for issuing licenses. Not all states recognize licenses from other states in the event that a pediatrician has moved locations.

Pediatricians also have the option of becoming board certified and there are 13 different pediatric specializations that pediatricians can pursue. The American Board of Pediatrics (ABP) is responsible for issuing these board certifications.


American Pediatric Society

This organization provides news, updates and is deeply involved with pediatric research.

American Academy of Pediatrics

This website features an abundance of information dedicated to the health of all children, from education to policy to current events and seminars.

American Pediatric Association

The resources on this website include publications, special interest groups, events and much more.

American Medical Association

This association a wealth of information about the medical profession, in addition to practice news and more.

Career As Pediatrician

How many hours does a pediatrician work?

To become a successful pediatrician, student has to be physically & mentally fit for working hours. Each pediatrician has different working hours according to their job profile. On average base, a pediatrician can work 50 hours per week.

Salary & Payscale

Starting salary of the Pediatrician depends upon the qualification of the candidate, experiences and standard & level of the Hospital & organization with which they associated. In the government sector, Pediatrician can earn Rs. 45,000 to Rs. 50,000 as a beginner level practitioner. Those working at the senior level, they will earn a salary between Rs. 11 lakhs to Rs. 12 lakhs per year.

In Private sector, the starting salary of the Pediatrician is Rs. 7 lakh to Rs 8 lakh per annum. At the senior level, pediatricians can earn a salary package of Rs. 20 lakh to Rs. 35 lakh every year.

Beside this, one can set-up their own dispensary or child care centre.

Books & Study Material

  • Becoming a Pediatrician by Daniel Schumacher
  • Child Injury Prevention by David C. Schwebel
  • Autism Spectrum Disorder by Michael Fitzgerald
  • Babies A to Z by Warwick Carter
  • Pediatric Oral Pathology by Kavita Kholi
  • Paediapaedia: An Imaging Encyclopedia of Pediatric Disease by Michael P. D’Alessandro
  • Pediatric Common Questions Quick Answers by Donna M. D’Alessandro, Lindsay Huth, Susan Kinzer

For more information about Pediatrician, you can ask your questions below.

How long does it take to become a pediatrician?

Hi Linda,

A lot of students have asked about the path to becoming a pediatrician so I thought I’d share some of what professionals had to say with you here.

It takes at least 13 years post high school to become a pediatrician (4 years in college to get an undergraduate degree, 4 years in medical school, and 5 years of residency).

Mark Lester (General Pediatrics and Pediatric Emergency Medicine) in Lutherville-Timonium, Maryland gave another student great advice on a similar question, he said:

I am a practicing pediatrician and I remember high school like it was yesterday. Four years of college is needed. But every year is different because you are taking different classes every semester. You are learning about the world and yourself and you are setting goals and achieving them which builds your confidence. Then medical school. The first two years are mostly in a classroom so its a lot like college except you learn exclusively things in the medical field. The third year you will be learning how to see patients and apply the knowledge you gained in the first two years. Your classroom is the hospital or office where you and a trained doctor will see patients together. And the fourth year you are more independent to care for patients yourself while still learning. After you graduate medical school you are a doctor. In medical school we learn about every major specialty (Surgery, Pediatrics, Adult Medicine, etc) but after we graduate we now pick a specialty and work in that field exclusively for 3 years or more. A surgeon has at minimum 5 years of training whereas pediatrics or adult medicine is 3 years. During these years after medical school you DO get a paycheck. Technically you are now working in medicine. But we call it extra training because there is still so much to learn. Frankly, in medicine, we practice life-long learning. We learn from every patient even after training is complete. Pediatrics is 3 years of training but if you want to become even more specialized it could be longer. So yes, 4 years of college plus 4 years of medical school plus 3 years of training but believe me each year is completely different and you will never have a more impactful job than helping sick children regain their health.

And according to Carol (Physician, Pediatrician, Owner at Shady Grove Pediatric Associates) in Washington:

If you want to do general pediatrics you then get a job. If you want to sub-specialize in something like cardiology or gastroenterology then you do a fellowship which may be anywhere from 2 to 4 years. During medical school and residency you take various national tests to qualify for licensure in the state you want to work. Read more of her advice here:

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