Pediatric surgeons are children's surgeons who practice in hospitals, treating young patients -- from babies to teenagers. An attending pediatric surgeon is the physician who is directly in charge of a particular child's care. If an attending pediatric surgeon works for a university hospital, that doctor may also hold a faculty appointment, which requires the physician to teach and supervise both medical students and residents, who are physicians receiving further training. Pediatric surgeons' high salaries reflect their extensive educations, long years of training, the uniquely complex aspects of performing surgery on children, their multiple responsibilities, and the small number of pediatric surgeons produced by the few training programs.
The Educational Path
Pediatric surgeons have one of the longest training and education pathways of any medical specialty. Future pediatric surgeons must complete a four-year bachelor's degree in biology or one of the other sciences, four years of medical school, a five-year general surgery residency, a two-year pediatric surgery fellowship, and pass exams for board certification in both general surgery and pediatric general surgery. A pediatric general surgeon who wishes to acquire in-depth knowledge of a particular area of pediatric surgery, such as critical care, fetal surgery or vascular anomalies, and become a pediatric specialty surgeon, may spend an additional year in training. Pediatric specialty surgeons work primarily in orthopedics, opthalmology, urology, neurology, otolaryngology and cardiothoracic surgery.
Pediatric Surgery Fellowships
The first salaries that pediatric surgeons receive for work in that field are paid during their pediatric surgery fellowships. These fellowships pay between $45,000 to $70,000 annually, depending on the hospital. Fellows also receive health, disability, life and malpractice insurance. As of 2013, there were only 45 pediatric surgery training programs in the United States. These programs typically accept only one or two new students each year. Some states have no pediatric surgery training programs. Only the largest states, such as Texas, have at least three hospitals offering this training, as of publication.
Pediatric surgery is one of the 25 highest-paid specialties for physicians employed by hospitals. A 2011 report produced by the Association of Physician Staff Recruiters estimated that pediatric surgeons who had just started their careers earned an average yearly salary of $295,000. Pediatric surgeons who had been practicing at least six years earned $401,000 per year. A 2012 survey by the Medical Group Management Association found that pediatric surgeons earned between $432,282 to $604,402 per year.
What the Future Holds
The job prospects for pediatric surgeons are bright. In 2009, there were only 808 pediatric general surgeons and 1,850 pediatric specialty surgeons in the United States. A 2009 American College of Surgeons report noted that three states -- Montana, North Dakota and Wyoming -- had no pediatric surgeons at all in that year. Many areas within Midwestern and Southern states also had no pediatric surgeons. A 2012 Children's Hospital Association issues paper states that 29.9 percent of the hospitals surveyed had job vacancies for pediatric general surgeons, and that these vacancies often went unfilled for 12 or more months. As of 2013, the extensive listings in the American Pediatric Surgical Association's national job bank clearly showed a continuing shortage of pediatric surgeons.