A neonatologist is a medical doctor who specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of newborn babies, as well as premature babies and those not yet born. Neonatology is a sub-specialty of pediatrics that deals with the most complex and high-risk patients. The average neonatologist salary is $213,364 a year but can vary depending on a number of factors.
Neonatologists are responsible for the care of newborn babies needing extra support. There is a wide range of potential emergency situations these specialists are trained to handle, including extreme premature birth at 24 weeks to full-term births with complications. Neonatologists work with obstetricians and other members of the pediatric health care team at birth, during a baby's stay in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) and outpatient follow up care. A neonatal surgeon, as the name suggests, is a highly trained specialist who performs surgery on newborns and babies still in the womb.
If you're interested in becoming a neonatologist, you have many years of rigorous study ahead. It begins with a bachelor's degree, preferably in biological sciences, chemistry, physics or math. The next step is medical school. Admissions are competitive. Most schools select candidates who have achieved a grade point average of at least 3.61 and a minimum score of 510 on the Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT). You'll also need three strong letters of recommendation from professors, employers or non-family members who know you well and can attest to your strong academic record, work ethic and fitness for the medical profession.
Medical school typically requires four years to complete. In the first two years, students take advanced lecture and laboratory courses that prepare them for medical careers. In the last two years, they complete clinical rotations in order to learn about various medical disciplines and to provide supervised interactions with patients.
After graduation from medical school, the new physician must obtain a license to practice from the state. Next is a three-year residency in general pediatrics, followed by an additional three years of training (called a fellowship) in newborn intensive care. A neonatal surgeon or physician can obtain certification by examination through the American Board of Pediatrics and the Sub-Board of Neonatal-Perinatal Medicine. Certification is not a legal requirement, although it may be required by some employers. Neonatologists earn continuing education credits offered through the American Board of Pediatrics, the American Medical Association or medical schools to maintain certification.
Neonatologists work in special care units or newborn intensive care units in hospitals and medical centers. In some cases, a neonatologist will provide follow-up care on an outpatient basis with a recommendation from a pediatrician. Neonatologists may be called in to assist with a birth determined to be high-risk.
Among practicing neonatologists, 52 percent are female and 48 percent are male. Neonatology is an emotionally challenging medical specialty, as doctors deal not only with tiny, critically ill patients but with families as well. Despite the challenges, most neonatologists report a high degree of job satisfaction.
Salary and Job Outlook
According to the career website PayScale, the median neonatal physician salary is is $213,364 per year. Median salary means that half in the profession earn more, while half earn less. A neonatal physician's salary typically ranges from $131,601 to $309,580 and can according to factors including geographic location, employer, experience and certifications.
The U. S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) tracks data and makes projections for all civilian occupations. Although the BLS does not provide a breakdown of physicians' salaries by specialty, it estimates there will be a 13 percent increase in demand for physicians and surgeons through 2026. That's a rate faster than average compared to all other jobs. As the U.S. population increases, there will be a greater need for health care providers in all specialty areas, including neonatologists.