A pediatrician is a physician who specializes in the diagnosis, treatment and management of children’s illnesses and injuries. Some pediatricians treat the same patient from birth to adulthood. Pediatricians may also specialize in certain age groups or medical conditions that affect children. In 2010, the American Academy of Pediatrics reported that approximately 36 percent of pediatricians surveyed practiced a specialty.
Pediatricians follow the usual course of medical education, which begins with college and then goes on to medical school, residency -- and in some cases -- to a fellowship. Overall, a pediatrician’s training lasts 12 to 15 years, but it may last longer. Pediatricians can be either doctors of medicine or doctors of osteopathy. Most are also board-certified in pediatrics and must complete continuing education courses or retake the certification exam every five years to remain certified. Pediatricians must also be licensed to practice in their state of residence.
Pediatricians who want to specialize have a variety of choices. Neonatology is the pediatric specialty that cares for newborns who are premature or who have birth defects, infections or other problems that require they be hospitalized from or soon after birth. Pediatric hematologist-oncologists care for children with blood diseases and cancer. Pediatric cardiologists specialize in the care of children with heart problems. Other pediatricians may specialize in the care of developmentally disabled children, pediatric surgery or pediatric endocrinology.
Pediatricians work in a wide variety of settings, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. About 12 percent work solo or in private practice with one other physician, while 33 percent work in pediatric group practices. An additional 30 percent work in hospitals or medical schools. They generally work about 47 hours a week, with almost three-quarters of the time devoted to direct patient care. The remainder is spent on administrative duties, teaching and research. They work with a wide variety of other medical professionals, such as registered nurses, pharmacists, dieticians and physical therapists.
A Typical Pediatrician
Pediatricians are more likely to be female; a 2010 survey by the American Academy of Pediatrics found 55.6 of graduate pediatricians and 68.9 percent of pediatric residents were female. The same survey found almost 74 percent were Caucasian and 35 percent were less than 40 years old. Asians made up the second largest ethnic group, followed by African-Americans and Hispanics. The average annual salary of a pediatrician in 2011 was $168,650, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.