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Pediatricians specialize in being a doctor for kids. Like other doctors, they have completed several years of college and on-the-job training along with specialized training for treating the medical conditions and illnesses specifically related to children. Pediatricians must be understanding and have the ability to explain medical procedures to young family members as well as their potentially distraught parents. Pediatricians work in private offices, hospitals and clinics.
A pediatrician has to finish a four year college pre-med course, then four years of medical school followed by four to five years of internship and residency to become a licensed pediatrician. Pre-med college courses include biology, physics, chemistry, mathematics and English. Applicants to medical school must have at least three years of college, and most have a bachelor’s degree or an advanced degree.
Acceptance into medical school is very competitive, and students will need high scores on medical school admission exams, letters of recommendation and transcripts. In the first two years of medical school, students learn to take medical histories, examine patients, and diagnose illnesses as well as learn biochemistry, pharmacology, physiology, anatomy and medical ethics. In their last two years, they work with patients under other physician’s supervision to learn preventive, acute, chronic and rehabilitative care. By rotating through the various hospital departments, they gain experience diagnosing and treating patients.
After graduating from medical school, students take the United States Medical Licensing Examination for their license to practice medicine. Upon passing the examination, doctors will enter a residency or graduate medical specialty education that consists of paid on-the-job training in a teaching hospital; the training may last as long as seven years. Following completion of residency training, a doctor will take another examination to be board-certified as a pediatrician.
Pediatricians treat and diagnose illnesses and injuries in infants, children, teenagers and young adults. Most pediatricians work in clinics or group practices and specialize in the day-to-day treatment of infectious diseases, immunizations and minor injuries specific to young people. They work with other doctors and nurses to provide the best possible care for their patients. Some pediatricians specialize in the treatment of chronic diseases in young people or become pediatric surgeons. Pediatricians work especially hard at understanding their patient’s problems, as they often cannot communicate directly and must depend on parents or other caregivers for help in their assessments. They perform lab work, blood tests, and attend consultations to reach a diagnosis. Pediatricians administer immunizations and other medications, and perform extensive care when necessary. They also write reports and prescriptions, and keep charts on their patients.
Pediatricians advance their careers by gaining an excellent reputation among their peers and becoming experts in their specialty. They also open their own practice or join a group practice. Some advance to managerial or supervisory roles in hospitals. Pediatricians often teach medical students either as residents in teaching hospitals or in medical schools.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of pediatricians was expected to increase by 22 percent from 2008 to 2018. The increased demand for higher levels of care and an aging population will result in an increased demand for high quality service. Employment opportunities should be very good in rural and low-income areas.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median hourly wage for a pediatrician was $77.60 and the median annual wage $161,410 in May 2009.
Steven W. Easley began writing professionally in 1981 as a newspaper reporter with the "Chester County Independent" in Henderson, Tenn. He is a freelance writer, screenwriter and professionally trained truck driver whose work has appeared in "P.I. Magazine" and "American Forests."