How To Become A Pediatrician

How To Become A Pediatrician [Ultimate Guide]

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Want to know how to become a pediatrician? In this post, we’re going to cover every aspect of the job of being a pediatrician so you can decide if it’s the right career path for you!

Many of us know that pediatricians attend to the physical health and medical needs of young patients. Yet fewer people are aware that pediatricians are also concerned with their emotional and social health.

If you’re someone aiming to become a pediatrician, you should know all these different aspects to thrive in the profession. Having this understanding can also help you decide the specialty you’d like to pursue based on the type of care you want to provide your patients. 

In this article, I’ll help you understand the things you need to become a pediatrician from college, med school, residency, and beyond. 

So, let’s get right into it!

What Is A Pediatrician

What Is A Pediatrician

Pediatricians are doctors who provide medical care to babies, children, teenagers, and young adults often up to age 21 (Yup! Not a typo.😄).

Their key responsibilities are to examine, diagnose and treat various conditions including infections, diseases, injuries, genetic defects, behavioral difficulties, and functional problems. They also prescribe medications, administer vaccinations, perform medical procedures, do annual check-ups, and provide preventative care. 

Pediatricians are also liable for maintaining patient medical records, making medical referrals, developing treatment plans, and giving counsel on patient wellness (A whole lot of things right?). 

The physical well-being of their patients is a major concern to pediatricians. So, if a child gets sick, they provide not only the prescriptions but also some form of counseling that taps into the patient’s hygiene, diet and exercise. 

But any other issue that can affect the growth and development of their patients is also a concern of pediatricians (social stresses, anxiety, and depression included).

With all these diverse roles and responsibilities, it makes total sense that pediatricians need to hone their skills and abilities through education and training. 

If you’re now itching to know what goes into the years to become a pediatrician, that’s what we’re discussing next!

How To Become A Pediatrician

How To Become A Pediatrician

Pediatricians spend an average of 13 years of education and training to become one. But this can even be longer depending on the chosen specialty. 

Here is the breakdown:

1. College (3-4 years)

Med schools don’t actually require applicants to complete a specific undergraduate degree for pediatric-aspirants. But most students take a degree in biology, sometimes with their schools offering a structured pre-medical program to prepare them for med school.

If you have a clear goal of becoming a pediatrician, you should take pre-medical courses that include math, biology, physics and chemistry as most med schools prefer applicants who earned them.

You can also benefit from having volunteer experiences and other extracurricular activities where you can take on leadership positions and gain experience working with young people.

During your last months in college, you will also need to prepare for the Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT) which will be required to enter med school.

2. Med School (4 years)

To become a pediatrician, you need to earn either a Medical Doctor (M.D) degree or a Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (D.O) degree in med school. 

The first two years will look a lot like your university or college years where you’ll take lecture and laboratory courses in the basic sciences (e.g. anatomy, physiology, microbio, biochem, etc.). Often by the end of year two, you’ll take USMLE Step 1 which is one of the most important tests in your med school years. 

Note: step 1 has now taken a new pass/fail system. If you want to learn what this means for you, check out this post right here!

The second half of med school is probably the most challenging and exciting years! You will now be doing clinical rotations and given your first hands-on experience working with patients under the supervision of a licensed doctor. 

Then again, before you finish med school, you’ll take another test called USMLE Step 2 which comes in two parts- Step 2 CK (knowledge-based) and Step 2 CS (skills-based). For the last step, you may be able to take it after med school during residency.

Most med students also use the last two years to prepare and apply for residency, schedule interviews, and eventually take on residency assignments.

3. Residency (3 years)

After graduating from med school and getting your MD or DO license, you will now need to complete residency training which usually takes three years. 

During this time, you will receive focused instruction and will be working hands-on with patients during rotations to learn general pediatrics and newborn care in-depth. 

Pediatricians also use this time to conduct case studies and build a network of like-minded professionals who will help them adjust to the new environment and workload (You’ll need a circle yourself!✌).

4. Sub-specialties (2-3+ years)

Pediatric Subspecialties

The field of pediatrics is very diverse, so you have several options for sub-specialties should you wish to undergo additional training. 

Here are some sub-specialties you can consider:

  • Pediatric Hematology/Oncology– care for children who have cancers or blood disorders
  • Pediatric Critical Care– treating various conditions of critically ill children
  • Neonatologycare for newborns with abnormalities and life-threatening conditions
  • Pediatric Cardiology– treating children’s acquired or congenital heart conditions
  • Gastroenterology care for children with digestive problems

Note: Check out the Council on Pediatric Sub-specialties for a variety of other options. 

Potential Salary

Pediatricians are among the highest-paid doctors. In 2018, the
Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) estimated the average wage for this occupation to be $183,240 annually. 

Two years later, the average jumps to more than $200,000 per year for both General and Critical Care Pediatricians. 

Below are the estimates from

SpecialtyAverage Annual Salary:RangeAverage Hourly Rate:Range
General Pediatrician$201,700$152,028-$276,972$97$73-$133
Critical Care Pediatrician$230,467$173,823-$316,519$111$84-$152

Job Outlook

BLS tells us that physician and surgeon careers as a whole will experience a
7% growth in the years 2018 to 2028. 

With the growing population and current technological advancements, this is highly expected as more and more people (children and adolescents in this case) will likely seek high-level care of all sorts.

So for you, aspiring pediatricians, the opportunities are sky-high. This is a good time to chase your dreams!

Note: If you have a low MCAT score, don’t think you’re over just yet. Read this post to learn what you can do. 

What Does The Typical Day Of A Pediatrician Look Like?

What Does The Typical Day Of A Pediatrician Look Like

What actually happens to a pediatrician’s life on a day to day basis?

To cut it short, there’s lab work and charts, checking in with residents, conferences, and a whole lot of patient rounds! 

Let’s peek into Dr. Williams’ and Dr. Thomas’ daily schedules. 

Dr. Don Williams starts his day early at 7:30 am, drops his kid to school and, from 8:00 am, begins his workday at the hospital. 

The first thing he does is to conduct a ‘sign-out’ session with other pediatricians who took care of patients overnight. This is followed by some educational conference with case managers to ensure that everyone’s on the same page. 

From 9:00 am- 11:30 am he does his morning rounds and sees his patients who suffer from a variety of illnesses including bronchiolitis, asthma, and urinary tract infections.

Then, there’s a short lunch break where he and other colleagues do some informal conferences (And yes, some socialization too!).

In the afternoon, he finishes up some notes from the morning rounds, guides and evaluates resident doctors’ work, and works on some business stuff as a member of the Pediatric Leadership Board in his hospital.

At around 3:00 pm, he does his ‘sign-out’ session leaving the care of his patients to the night-shift pediatricians. He typically heads back home at around 4:30 pm, but if it’s his turn for the night shift, it’s just the beginning of the day for him.

There too are times when pediatricians work from morning until late evening (up to 9:30 pm!).

And that was the case with one of Dr. Paul Thomas’ days who recorded his busy pediatrician life in this YouTube video (Check it out!).

Throughout the day, he sees, checks and treats children with mostly ear, throat, eye and skin problems. And as a Board Certified Addictionologist, he also occasionally tends to addiction patients. 

There are also times when Dr. Thomas tends to patients of other pediatricians for urgent care (typically at night). Then, in between rounds and before he calls it a day, he does some paper work and charting. 

That’s how the typical day of a pediatrician looks like. Something you should definitely know as an aspirant.👍 

Top Pediatricians On Instagram!

If you’re looking for a daily dose of instagram inspiration, look up these pediatricians below and get involved. You might just be in their shoes someday. 😉

Top Books About Pediatrics

If you’re a bookworm, here are some resources authored by pediatricians you don’t want to miss out on!

  1. Zitelli and Davis’ Atlas of Pediatric Physical Diagnosis by Basil J. Zitelli, MD, Sara C. McIntire, MD, Andrew J. Nowalk, MD, Jessica Garrison, MD 
  2. Nelson Essentials of Pediatrics by Karen Marcdante, MD, Robert M. Kliegman, MD, Abigail M. Schuh, MD
  3. Hurwitz Clinical Pediatric Dermatology: A Textbook of Skin Disorders of Childhood and Adolescence by Amy S. Paller, MD, Anthony J. Mancini, MD 
  4. 5-Minute Pediatric Consult by Michael Cabana MD MPH 
  5. The Real Life of a Pediatrician (Kaplan Voices: Doctors) by Perri Klass, MD

Whenever you’re ready, there are 4 ways I can help you:

1. The Med School Handbook:  Join thousands of other students who have taken advantage of the hundreds of FREE tips & strategies I wish I were given on the first day of medical school to crush it with less stress. 

2. The Med School BlueprintJoin the hundreds of students who have used our A-Z blueprint and playbook for EVERY phase of the medical journey so you can start to see grades like these. 

3. Med Ignite Study ProgramGet personalized help to create the perfect study system for yourself so you can see better grades ASAP on your medical journey & see results like these. 

4. Learn the one study strategy that saved my grades in medical school here (viewed by more than a million students like you). 

That’s it for this post on how to become a pediatrician!

I hope you enjoyed it and if you did, you may also want to check out the following:

How To Study in Medical School [Ultimate Guide]
Which Medical School Should I Apply To? [4 Things To Consider]
Top 20 Books For Pre-Med Students
How To Become A Doctor [5 Tips For High School Students]
How Long Does It Take To Be A Doctor? [Detailed Breakdown]

Until the next time, my friend…

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