Is the career of a pediatrician one that appeals to you? If you want to work in this field, you will need to earn an undergraduate degree followed by an M.D., and you will need to specialize in pediatric medicine.
Career of Pediatrician: The Basics
What exactly do pediatricians do? They're "kid doctors," right? Well, yes, but that idea doesn't adequately sum up the extensive duties of a pediatrician. A good pediatrician takes it upon herself to offer mental, emotional and physical support for children from the day they're born until they've put adolescence behind them.
A Day in the Life
You probably already have a good idea of what a pediatrician's normal workday is like. They see their young patients and attempt to come up with diagnoses based on exam results. Treatment options are discussed with the parents or guardians of the child after that. Once treatment is set into motion, the pediatrician keeps track of the progress.
Largely, the role of a pediatrician depends on whether or not he is working within a specialized pediatric field. A general pediatrician typically works as a primary care doctor, maintaining regular office hours, seeing patients suffering from viral or bacterial infections and minor injuries. In the case of more severe illness or injury, the primary care pediatrician often refers the patient to a specialist or directly to the emergency room.
Pediatricians who work in a specialized field, like oncology or cardiology, typically work in hospital settings, treating and caring for very sick kids. While this can certainly be rewarding, it can also be stressful and extremely sad for a doctor when she knows that a young patient will likely die from his illness.
Becoming a pediatrician takes years of special training and quite a bit of planning. You'll want to pursue an undergraduate degree in the sciences, preferably with a pre-med focus. Grades are extremely important throughout your college career as they can make or break your acceptance into medical school. During your junior or senior year of college you'll need to take the standardized Medical College Admission Test (MCAT). When it comes time to apply to medical school, your MCAT scores, your college grades and your performance at medical school interviews will all play a part in determining which medical school will accept you.
Once you are accepted into medical school, you can expect four years of grueling school work along with labs, medical rotations and additional medical licensing exams. After participating in rotations during your third year of medical school, you will begin applying for residencies. Your pediatric residency will take place over the course of three years with long, grueling hours of work that will provide you with specialized, hands on training within the pediatric field. Like your medical school application, residency applications and acceptance hang on your medical school grades, your success in licensing exams and residency interviews.
It isn't until after successful completion of your pediatric residency and passing a series of medical licensing exams that you will be able to begin your independent career as a pediatrician.
With the number of years dedicated to school and your low-paying residency will come quite a bit of debt. You may end up with $100,000 or more that you owe, ultimately requiring a number of years of debt repayment once you become a full-fledged doctor.
Deciding If It's for You
To a certain extent, pediatricians must be married to their jobs. If you want a position with a 40 hour work week, then working as a pediatrician is probably not the job for you. It's also important for pediatricians to understand that they won't only be working with children. Pediatricians have to be willing to work with the parents of sick kids, empathizing with the stress of caring for a sick child. Other things pediatricians need:
- A hunger for knowledge in the field. Once all the schooling is behind you, you still have to absorb knowledge every day.
- Thick skin that will get you through the tough days and difficult cases
- The ability to think on your feet and change up your schedule as needed, as the world of pediatrics is highly unpredictable.
If you weren't turned off by the number of years of school and the amount of debt you could rack up if you decide to pursue a career as a pediatrician, shadow a pediatrician one day to further make up your mind.
Salary Information and Perks
According to Salary.com, the range of salaries for pediatricians is about $112,000 to $195,000, not accounting for additional bonuses or benefits.
If that's not enough to make the career look appetizing here are some of the other perks:
- If you enjoy children, you're likely to maintain a high job satisfaction.
- You can work alone or with a group of doctors.
- You can expect long-term job stability.
- You may be able to work part-time after several years in the field.
Choosing the Field
When deciding to become a pediatrician, the more information you can acquire about the field, the more prepared you'll be. Talk to the pediatrician who treated you as a child or seek out another local pediatrician to interview. Ask him detailed questions about the pros and cons of his job, whether he wished he had done anything differently, and whether you can spend a few days with him to see what his job is really like. When you invest as many as 11 or 12 years of advanced training into a particular career field, you want to be absolutely sure that you're ready and committed to the trials and tribulations you will face.