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Pediatrician Job Description
What is a pediatrician? A pediatrician is a doctor who specializes in the care of children. More U.S. children receive health care from pediatricians than from any other kind of doctor. Experts in age-appropriate care, general pediatricians are considered primary care physicians for a large section of the population.
Educated in a broad range of medical issues, they can often operate independently of the numerous specialists other doctors must consult with daily. Pediatricians are already specialist medical care providers, but those that take on an additional subspecialty can often earn higher pay.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) says that general pediatricians report more satisfying patient relationships than any other medical specialist. Recognizing the critical importance of early environments and experiences, pediatricians regularly have the chance to make a major positive difference in people's lives.
What does a pediatrician do from day to day? In a typical work week, a pediatrician might:
- Examine children for proper growth and development
- Maintain cumulative medical histories, reports, and test results
- Treat children with minor, acute, and chronic health problems
- Prescribe medication or therapy as part of treatment plans
- Counsel families in times of crisis
- Monitor progress for treatment effectiveness
- Supervise nurses and other assistive personnel
How To Become A Pediatrician
Pediatrician schooling is extensive. Becoming a pediatrician takes dedication and an ability to see through long-term commitments. Before specialist pediatric training even begins, it's necessary to complete an undergraduate education and then go through medical school.
Afterwards, physicians go on to residency, where they work under the supervision of practicing pediatricians treating children in real clinical settings. A pediatric residency typically lasts three years.
Successful completion of the residency means students are eligible to take the certification examination in general pediatrics with the American Board of Pediatrics (ABP). To become a pediatric subspecialist, however, residents transition to a fellowship and afterwards pursue subspecialty board certification. Finally, all pediatricians will need a state license to actually practice.
How Long Does It Take To Become A Pediatrician?
It takes 4 years of undergraduate education, 4 years of medical school, and 3 years of pediatric residency to become a general pediatrician, totaling at least 11 years. Further, most fellowship subspecialties last 3 years, increasing the time spent in training to about 14 years overall.
As undergraduates, aspiring pediatricians need to take ‘pre-medical’ coursework to prepare for medical school. While there is no specific undergraduate major corresponding to a pediatrician education, medical schools look for the completion of certain classes considered to prepare students for the rigors of advanced study in medicine. These include biology, biochemistry, organic and general chemistry, physics, and calculus, as well as statistics and introductory humanities.
General certification for M.D. pediatricians in the United States is organized by the ABP. The American Osteopathy Board of Pediatrics also offers certifications to Doctors of Osteopathy (D.O.s) who complete the requisite training.
Additionally, pediatricians pursuing subspecialty become further certified with the relevant APB board. Pediatric subspecialists often earn higher incomes than general pediatricians, making the added 3 years of fellowship training worth it. Subspecialty certifications range from Adolescent Medicine and Child Abuse to Dermatology and Genetics.
Pediatricians must be licensed in all states. Licensing requires much the same criteria as certification, including completion of an accredited medical program, 1 to 3 years of postgraduate residency training, and a licensure exam. For M.D.s, the test is the United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE); for D.O.s, it is the Comprehensive Osteopathic Medical Licensing Examination (COMLEX).
Each of the USMLE's three test phases must be mastered before a pediatrician can legally practice in any state. The testing process begins at the end of Year 2 of medical school and can be completed after one year of residency.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics has predicted that physicians, including pediatricians, will see rapid job growth at least through the end of the decade at a rate of 24 percent. Job opportunities for this profession should continue to grow as the American population expands and as existing practitioners retire. Detailed Pediatrician salary data is available here.
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