What are the educational requirements to become a pediatrician? How many years to you have to study? What other training requirements, internships, licenses, continuing education, or membership in the professional societies is required?
To become a pediatrician you first have to complete a general college education which may or may not focus on the sciences. As long as you do well in your studies and take a core set of pre-med courses you can major in just about anything. In fact, medical schools are eager to take students whoa re well rounded and have shown diverse interests before applying. Once in medical school there are usually 4 years of training, some in lecture form, others in practice situations and then you graduate with a degree – MD – then you first have to train in your chosen specialty – in the case of Pediatrics the training is at least 3 years long but may take even longer if you have a special interest such as pediatric cardiology or pediatric hematology. After the training period you are able to practice as a pediatrician but of course education should never stop – continuing to keep up with what’s changing and new is a vital part of your job. Most docs take a special test after training in order to become Board Certified in Pediatrics. This then entitles you to admission to the Academy of Pediatrics, a society of docs dedicated to the betterment of child health. They also provide constant sources for self education and updating on all areas of pediatrics. Some docs also belong to societies that are interested in their particular area of subspecialty such as pediatric pulmonology or pediatric gastroenterology etc. and of course there are meetings for each of these societies.
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What is the cost of education and training for this profession?
The cost of education is always rising – it is no longer feasible to pay for this education without loans and grants so that many docs in training are also working simultaneously to pay back the borrowed money and even after training ends are often in large debt to these educational loans. Some join public services in order to work off the loans and some docs join the armed services for the same purpose and work in public health hospitals. The actual cost varies from school to school but it is not unusual for a graduate to owe $100,000 or more for their education.
What is the salary range (from entry to accomplished level)?
Salaries depend on specialty within pediatrics though the usual range for general pediatrics is $75,000 to $150,000 per year. No one chooses pediatrics for the money – it is among the lowest paid of specialties in medicine but I think it’s the most rewarding.
What are some opportunities for advancement in the pediatric profession?
Advancement can include movement upward in administrative positions in medical centers or public health establishments where pediatricians are needed to help formulate policy regarding the future healthcare of our children. Advocating for children can take many forms and some pediatricians even do so for the legal system or for school districts. The teaching aspects of pediatrics can also be an opportunity for advancement as many pediatricians enjoy teaching while treating sick children in hospitals.
What is the future of this profession?
The future is bright – preventive healthcare focuses it’s efforts on the young and so pediatricians will be the first to see the benefits of gene therapies, new vaccinations, eradication of diseases and the improvements in health that better nutrition and better lifestyle choices can result in. I believe pediatrics will also increasingly be available to parents via the internet and parents will have a greater role in their children’s healthcare than in the past. There are new and less invasive devices and tools that are designed for the care of children that will make the practice of pediatrics more appealing and more satisfying.
What are the typical work conditions in general and specifically?
Work conditions depend on where the job is – you can have your own office, you can work in a clinic setting, you can work within a hospital and you can choose intensive care of very sick children. Some docs do school based care and work in many sites often changing locations daily. Some docs do "roaming" care in city sponsored vans or buses set up to reach children and teens who have little access otherwise to healthcare.
How is science and/or math related to this profession?
All of medicine is science based and of course there is also the healing aspects that include human touch and understanding. Math is handy for figuring out dosages especially in pediatrics since most medications are given on a per kilogram basis – a simple calculator can help you along.
What are the job duties and responsibilities of a pediatrician? What is the typical day like?
Typical day depends on where you work. I typically see patients in the hospital in the very early morning (both sick children and well babies) before seeing patients in the office. I see about 4 patients an hour unless there are complex issues that need more time and in between I make phone calls to other doctors and answer phone calls from patients. At the end of the day I often return to see the patients in the hospital, usually the sick ones. Often at night I participate in seminars or teach medical; students. The days are long and if I am "on call" I may be called to return to the office or emergency room to see a sick child even in the middle of the night. In my case I take call about every 3rd night and weekend.
Is medical school really as hard as people say?
Medical school is hard but not any harder than any other field that you try to excel in – if you feel a calling, a dedication to helping others, medical school will be exciting and stimulating and not "hard" in the laborious sense. You will enjoy learning and you will enjoy the thrill of helping people and that will over shadow the long hours of study you will need to do to learn all the information you will need.
I don’t want to be a doctor just for the money. I want to help children grow and help them with their problems.
You should never become anything just for the money and in the case of medicine you will not be guaranteed a great deal of money regardless of what you may have heard in the past about doctor’s salaries. The times are changing and medicine though clearly a stimulating and demanding vocation, is no longer as lucrative as it once was. You will however feel great at the end of the day and you will always be employable. If you want to help children grow pediatrics is a fine and noble way of doing that. Good luck.
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