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Neonatology is a discipline in pediatric medicine. Working with premature infants, or newborns with birth defects or life-threatening illness, requires years of study and specialized training. As a neonatologist, physicians typically work in a hospital's neonatal intensive care unit, along with other medical professionals who specialize in neonatal care. The average salary of neonatology specialists varies according to location and other factors, including experience.
To become a neonatologist takes about 14 years of education beyond high school. Students complete four years each of college and medical school. After that, med students complete a three-year pediatric residency and a three-year neonatology fellowship. The National Resident Matching Program listed 87 fellowship programs to study neonatology, as of 2010. Throughout a medical student's education, and once her education is complete, a physician will need to sit for licensing exams that permit her to practice medicine.
As of March 2010, the average salary for pediatricians who specialize in neonatology was $220,674 according to Salary.com. San Francisco's average salary for this profession was $268,512, and Chicago salaries averaged $237,978, both higher than the national average. Birmingham, Alabama, average salaries came in below the national average at $211,307. Other factors that contribute to salary and compensation besides location are work experience and the level of care offered by a particular hospital.
If you choose to specialize in neonatology, more than likely you will work on a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) with a team of neonatologists, neonatal nurse practitioners, neonatal respiratory therapists and other health care professionals who specialize in caring for newborns and supporting their families. Working with infants who may be experiencing life-threatening problems can be emotionally stressful and intense. A team of neonatologists usually works on rotation to care for the infants.
The overall outlook for employment for medical professionals is promising through 2018, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The BLS indicates that the greatest likelihood for job growth is in rural and low-income areas, both unlikely locations for a hospital with a NICU. However, technological advances that help preterm infants survive outside the womb at earlier stages of development will increase the demand in this specialty. However, fellowships in pediatric neonatology are limited, resulting in competition for these positions.
Barbara Gulin has been a freelance writer and editor since 2008. She has helped write curriculum for Asian elementary students to learn Engish and has written extensive content for Themomsresource.com. Gulin studied electrical and computer engineering at the University of Missouri, Kansas City. She is also a licensed life and health insurance agent.