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How to Become a Pediatrician

Alternate Career Titles:

Paediatrician, General Pediatrician, Primary Care Pediatrician

Pediatrician Job Description: Pediatricians provide specialty care to children ranging from infants to adolescence

Pediatrician Salary (Annual): $175,310

Pediatrician Salary Range: $69,940 to $220,000

How Long To Become a Pediatrician: 8 years

Pediatrician Requirements: Doctor of Medicine Degree

How to Become a Pediatrician

Become a Pediatrician

Career Description

Learn all about Pediatricians! Pediatricians are similar to a Family Physician in that they oversee patients from infancy through adolescence. Therefore, facts about Pediatricians include that these practitioners provide care during a child’s developmental growth stages. Part of this care means administering immunizations, provide treatment when children are ill or injured and conduct comprehensive examinations.

Additionally, a large part of this role involves explaining treatments, procedures and methodologies in a friendly tone to both patients and their guardians. Completing rounds, reviewing x-rays, prescribing medication, relaying Pediatrician information and knowledge, returning phone calls and other administrative work are also part of the Primary Care Pediatrician career in healthcare. Is pediatrics a competitive field? As Pediatricians are in constant demand, there are many exciting Pediatrician advancement opportunities.

“Being a Pediatrician is a very rewarding career because of the ability to see your work influence health and wellness,” Mitzi Scotten MD, a Pediatrician practicing in Arkansas. “The patients you work with are fun and engaging and this brings a levity to the work that other medical specialties do not always have compared to pediatrics. I get to watch babies grow into toddlers, then children, then teens and along the way I get to experience their life and follow along with their challenges and successes.”

She added that, in many cases, her work as a Pediatrician becomes an important part of a patient’s childhood. Additionally, she expressed that, in her opinion, there is no better reward at the end of a day than getting a hug from a 4-year-old patient who thinks she is an “an awesome doctor.”

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Education & Training

To become a Pediatrician, professionals must first obtain a Bachelor’s Degree, typically in pre-med or in a related science. These programs typically take four years to complete. Once the degree is obtained, learners must take their Medical College Admission test, a requirement to apply to medical school programs. Once a score is received, learners must then apply to medical schools and enroll in a program.

These advanced degree programs also take four years to complete and involve both in-class instruction and clinical components. Normally, the last year of medical school is dedicated to learners experiencing a rotation focused on the different specialties within healthcare. Thus, to become a Pediatrician, once a doctoral degree is obtained, professionals will next complete a 3 to 8 year residency in this specific field, in addition to acquiring certification through the American Board of Pediatricians.

“A general Pediatrician has a three year residency requirement after finishing four years of medical school, but if you wish to specialize in a specific area of pediatrics that can take additional years,” Scotten affirmed. “Medical School was not easy, and one of the harder processes of being a Physician is learning how to deal with people who may be sick, angry, sad and of all ages and backgrounds.”

Scotten said that, initially, the hardest challenges of specific pediatric training were first the parents of sick children. For example, when a child is very sick, this can be very overwhelming and most people are not at their best during these stressful times. Thus, she explained that learning how to deal with parents was the first challenge, followed by learning the incredible volume of data and information on pediatric medicine. Learn about other careers in medicine, such as that of an Allergist, Anesthesiologist, Audiologist, Chiropractor and Surgeon today!

“We were expected to read every day and at the end of training took a 2-day, 16 hour exam that was the hardest test I have ever endured,” Scotten said. “The loss of a sick child is another very sad and sometimes life changing event that is a part of this career. Being involved in the death of a child for the first time was hard, and not that it ever gets any easier, but you learn how to cope with the feelings that come with loss of children over time.”

She added that learning to be assertive in the decisions made as a healthcare practitioner is very scary as professionals come to realize they have someone’s life in their hands. Scotten continued by stating that, there are many challenges relating to factors outside of actual healthcare practice that include charting and documentation, keeping updated on medical advancements and credentialing.

“Having a good support system during your training and practice is very helpful,” Scotten noted. “It took seven years from the start of medical school to the end of my pediatric training and my first pediatric career position.”


The best way to advance in a career as a Pediatrician is to continue to gain as much experience as possible. Additionally, Pediatricians are granted the opportunity to further select from 19 sub-specialties, helping them to further concentrate their expertise and skills in specific focuses within pediatrics. While there also exists the possibility for advancement through participating in pediatric research or entering the realm of continued education, other Primary Care Pediatricians advance through establishing their own private practice.

“If you want to lead a hospital, Pediatricians will need get a degree in business and there are several geared toward medical business,” Scotten explained. “If you want to become a dean of a medical school, you get more training in education. To advance, Pediatricians can also stay in one workplace and eventually become a partner in a practice.”

Experience & Skills

“Pediatricians must have patience, common sense skills and good communication skills,” Scotten stressed. “Strong work ethic and honesty, in addition to good problem-solving skills and persistence, are important as well.”

Ultimately, great communication skills enables Pediatricians to relay messages to parents, guardians and other healthcare staff members, including Certified Nursing Assistants, Licensed Practical Nurses, Registered Nurses and Nurse Practitioners. Communication and interpersonal skills also help children understand what and why they are performing certain procedures or comprehensive examinations. These professionals should also possess problem-solving skills, helping them to come to diagnostic conclusions and establish appropriate treatment plans. Furthermore, Pediatricians should have time-management skills, ensuring that they meet each scheduled appointment during a day and complete the necessary paperwork.


“You have to be pleasant and friendly and show the utmost of professional skills at all times as a Pediatrician. Being selfish or generally a jerk is just not tolerated in this role,” Scotten explained. “Over time this can cause pressure to be perfect and leads to one of the more common problems in medicine today, which is burn out.”

To be a successful Pediatrician, these professionals must have great bedside manner. Caring for children in a healthcare setting can prevent many challenges, often due to these patients being scared or overwhelmed. Thus, being able to ensure them that there is nothing to worry about often proves very beneficial.

Additionally, when working with child patients, Pediatricians should also remain patient, kind, compassionate and understanding. Being resourceful, analytical, detail-oriented and organized are other personality traits that make strong candidates for professionals in pediatrics.

“Also, in my opinion, Pediatricians should be a Myers- Briggs ENFP, INFP, ENFJ or ISFJ,” Scotten said. “Translated, that means someone who is outgoing and positive and can sense what other people are feeling and respond to that with empathy. Also, they should be willing to change direction or plan quickly if new information comes in.”

Scotten added that there are different personality types in pediatrics, and since the field is vast and the career of a general Pediatrician is significantly different than other practitioners, she believes any personality type is probably going to find an area of pediatrics that would suit their natural employment style.


Most Pediatricians are employed full-time, and many work more than 40 hours per week. These professionals, especially those who work in emergency care settings, may be required to work some evenings, nights, weekends or holidays depending on need. When not on-the-clock, General Pediatricians may also be asked to remain on-call in case of an emergency. Yet, while the hours may sometime be long, including many hours up on one’s feet, rarely are two days the same in this occupation.

“The lifestyle of a Pediatrician is highly dependent on what career in healthcare they have within Pediatrics,” Scotten said. “This varies greatly from very long hours and intensive experiences, to shifts of 3 or 4 days a week. Generally Pediatricians are not paid very well compared to all other medical specialists so we do not live the ‘lifestyles of the rich and famous.’”

However, Scotten explained that the majority of Pediatricians enter the field to work with children and help them improve their health outcomes, rather than to become rich. In her own life, Scotten works just four days a week and said she is able to live very comfortably.


Over the next decade, employment of Pediatricians is expected to grow 2 percent. This growth can be attributed to greater emphasis being placed on comprehensive childhood healthcare, as well as expanding overall healthcare needs. The facilities or other healthcare settings that employ the greatest number of Pediatricians are the offices of Physicians, general hospitals, outpatient care centers, specialty hospitals and individual and family services. Additionally, the state which employs the highest number of Pediatricians is California, followed by Texas, New York, New Jersey and Florida.

“Before initially seeking employment, new Pediatricians should decide first what area they are going to focus on and where you want to live,” Scotten said. “The career market is completely open now and so you can find careers easily through your training institution or on career sites.”


The median annual wage for General Pediatricians is $175,310. While the lowest 10 percent were recorded to have made less than $69,940, the highest earning 10 percent earned more than $220,000. Additionally, the top paying industries for Primary Care Pediatricians are specialty hospitals, the offices of Physicians, outpatient care centers, elementary and secondary schools and general hospitals. The top paying states for this occupation are Mississippi, Alaska, Utah, Montana and South Dakota.

“If you are willing to stay in one location and join into a business partnership you can earn over $300,000 per year,” Scotten said. “However, if you stay in academic medicine within a university hospital that number is much less unless you are a Dean. Inpatient Physicians who work shifts can earn more but Pediatricians, rarely make more than their adult Physician counterparts.”

Scotten added that, as a Pediatrician starting out, a professional must factor in their student debt into their earnings. Normally, this debt takes years to pay off, so professionals in this field will see less money go directly into their accounts than what they are actually earning annually.

Unions, Groups and Associations

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) is an organization with the mission of attaining optimal physical, mental, social health and well-being for infants, children, adolescents and young adults. To achieve this, AAP focuses on how the organization itself can remain strong, health and vibrant over a 5-year time frame.

The Academic Pediatric Association (APA) is an organization dedicated to nurturing the academic success and career development of pediatric professionals through research, advocacy, improvements in science, educational scholarship and the dedication to the well-being of all children, particularly those most vulnerable.

The American Pediatric Society (APS) is an organization designed to engage distinguished pediatric leaders and to shape the future of academic pediatrics. Furthermore, this organization seeks to secure a future for academic pediatrics.

Getting Started

  • Enroll in an undergraduate degree with a science-based curriculum
  • Volunteer at local healthcare settings, and with children to determine if pediatrics would be a good fit
  • Take the Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT)
  • Research medical schools and apply
  • Find a Pediatrician as a mentor

All statistics are provided by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

PediatricianMeet the professional: Mitzi Scotten M.D.

Age: “Saw the first man on the moon from a black and white TV in grade school”
Practice: The Children’s Clinic
Location: Jonesboro, Arkansas

What is the single biggest suggestion you would give to someone wanting to get into this career?

“Make sure this is your destiny, and do not enter if you are unsure or unwilling to put in 10 years of your life learning about medicine. Expect that there will be setbacks of all kinds including personal relationship loss and financial loss and that in the end you will only be happy if you believe in yourself and can challenge yourself every day to learn more and to do your best.

Medicine is not for lazy people who want to work less than 40 hours per week. This career is not for people who cannot handle a crisis or cannot tell the truth both to themselves or another person. Being a Pediatrician is for someone who has a passion to help others and to see the best and worst in other people. Pediatrics is not for anyone who is prejudiced against others and not for people who cannot be kind to people of all ages, religions, socio-economic backgrounds.”

What’s the number one mistake people make when trying to get into this career?

“They see a potential for a large salary, they go into medicine because of strong peer or family pressure, they go in not realizing the raw humanity that Physicians can face or at the other end of the spectrum they do not realize the eternal ton of dull and monotonous bureaucratic red tape that is involved in any healthcare career. Half-way into training, these professionals will think, ‘Oh my, I made a huge mistake,’ but then feel obligated to finish training. I have seen this happen many, many times. So to avoid this, shadow healthcare professionals early and ask hard questions to them about their happiness.”

What is the question people should ask about this career but rarely do?

“Is this career going to turn me into a giant jerk? Am I going to have to give up my family or lifestyle to finish school? Do I want to be a Pediatrician badly enough to do this? Why do I want to be a doctor? Really, really focus on the last questions, and don’t use the general common response such as, ‘Because I want to help people.’ You can help people by being in any career, so professionals must really determine why they want to become a Pediatrician.”

Why did you choose to become a Pediatrician?

“I was a Registered Nurse prior to going back to medical school. I realized I was missing information in nursing on patients that I was very interested in knowing, and that I had a strong desire to learn more about the mechanics of health. Honestly, I also wanted to be the boss instead of the subordinate and really in medicine if you don’t like being the boss and making critical decisions by yourself you need to stay out of medicine. A wimpy Physician is one of the more dangerous ones, in my opinion. So I wanted to understand complex pathology and I wanted to make the decisions for the patients.

Now a quick note on that desire, my very first day as a full-fledged Physician, a very sick child came into the emergency room and was having seizures. Three nurses looked at me with smug faces and said ‘So what do you want to do with this child?’ My life flashed before me as I realized how stressful this was and the fact that right now I could be back at my old career.

I had to give myself a quick pep talk and said to myself, ‘Girl this is what you wanted, now go ahead and make a decision.’ I looked at the Nurses confidently and said, “Ativan 1mg push.” They smiled and went to giving the medicine and the patient stopped having the seizure almost immediately. This was one of the scariest and greatest moments of my career.”

If you could describe in one word what makes you successful, what would it be?


*Credentialing organization: American Board of Pediatricians

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