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General pediatricians require a significant amount of formal education. Learn about the education, job duties and certification requirements to see if this is the right career for you.
General pediatricians are doctors who work with babies, children and adolescents. Pediatric physicians must have general medical knowledge and an understanding of how treatments affect different developmental growth stages. Pediatricians must complete four years of college, four years of medical school and a 3- to 8-year residency. They must also acquire certification through the American Board of Pediatricians.
A general pediatrician treats all types of infectious childhood diseases, including mumps, measles and chicken pox. During the course of a regular workday, a doctor might deal with matters ranging from a case of acne to a child's ongoing battle with muscular dystrophy. Many of their patients have yet to develop communication skills; therefore, physicians must be able to provide a diagnosis based on visual and auditory indicators.
Most general pediatricians work in family health practices. HMOs and children's hospitals hire the majority of pediatricians, with smaller private pediatric clinics being the second largest employer.
Most pediatricians work more than full-time, usually around 60 hours per week. Those who work in hospitals or clinics should often work in shift rotations and on an on-call basis. Even general pediatricians in private practice are often called in to consult with hospital doctors when one of their regular patients is brought in as an emergency patient.
Along with general medicine, growth and development monitoring are the basis of a pediatrician's practice. A general pediatrician must track and administer immunizations on schedule. The doctor must be able to communicate well with both children and parents. They often need to provide detailed explanations of treatment course options and assuage fears. Sympathetic bedside manners are highly valued in this particular area of medicine.
The American Medical Association (AMA) considers general pediatrics a specialized field; however, they begin the education process with the same training as general practitioners. This process consists of four years of college, four years of medical school and, finally, a residency that lasts between 3-8 years. A sub-specialization, such as auto-immune disorders or pediatric surgery, can lengthen the residency. Upon completing medical school and a residency, the doctor must also pass the United States Medical Licensing examination in order to practice medicine.
The American Board of Medical Specialists directs general pediatricians to acquire certification through the American Board of Pediatricians (ABP). Examination requirements vary depending on sub-specializations. There are also alternate training programs that are recognized by the ABP.
In May 2015, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that there were 28,660 general pediatricians employed in the United States. These professionals earned an average annual salary of $183,180, per BLS data. Overall employment of physicians and surgeons, including general pediatricians, was expected to grow 14% from 2014-2024, which was much faster than average.
In summary, general pediatricians must complete at least eight years of education and a lengthy residency to enter their chosen career, which involves making sure babies, children and adolescents stay healthy.