Difference Between Physician & Pediatrician

Physicians and pediatricians are both medical doctors, but they may treat patients of different ages and focus on different types of medical issues. This article examines some of the similarities and differences between physicians and pediatricians.

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Comparing Physicians to Pediatricians

Physicians and pediatricians provide medical care for their patients. The primary difference between physicians and pediatricians is that pediatricians specialize in the care of patients 18 years of age and younger.

Job Title Educational Requirements Median Salary* (2016) Job Outlook* (2014-2024)
Physician Medical Degree; License $221,419 for Family Medicine Doctors 10% for Family and General Practitioners
Pediatrician Medical Degree; License $226,408 10%

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

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Responsibilities of Physicians vs Pediatricians

Physicians and pediatricians perform check-ups on patients and assess them when they're having medical issues. While a physician can work in a range of specializations or with patients of any age, pediatricians specifically focus on providing medical care to infants, children and teenagers. Physicians may be more likely to see patients when they have a medical problem, but pediatricians also see their patients for regular appointments to ensure they receive vaccinations and that they are growing normally. Instead of working with patients of a particular age, physicians may opt to specialize in a certain field of medicine and work with patients who have specific types of medical issues such as reproductive problems or kidney disease.


A physician is a medical doctor. They must complete several years of post-secondary study to earn a medical degree, and they are also required to complete an internship and residency as part of their training. All medical doctors must be licensed, and they may work erratic hours at any time of the day or night. The long hours and the need to work on their feet for prolonged periods of time can be physically taxing, so it helps if they are fit. Since doctors may be responsible for identifying life-threatening medical conditions they need to be thorough and decisive when examining patients and ordering treatment.

Job responsibilities of a physician include:

  • See patients with scheduled appointments
  • Check on test results for patients
  • Order medical tests that are needed to confirm a diagnosis
  • Discuss health issues with their patients
  • Teach patients how to care for injuries
  • Prescribe medications or refer patients to specialists


A pediatrician is a physician who specializes in the care of younger patients. They primarily see infants, children and teenagers. Like physicians, they need to have a medical degree and they must complete an internship and residency in pediatric medicine to prepare to specialize in this field. Since they work with younger patients they also must speak with their patients' parents so they need to be able to communicate effectively with people of all ages.

Job responsibilities of a pediatrician include:

  • Have medical appointments with children and their parents
  • Educate parents about health issues affecting their child
  • Review patient charts to ensure patients have required immunizations
  • Determine if a child needs to see a specialist
  • Ensure parents are aware of the nutritional needs of their child

Related Careers

People who are thinking about a career as a physician may also want to consider working as a surgeon, since surgeons are also medical doctors who specialize in operating on patients. Those considering becoming a pediatrician may also want to consider pediatric nursing so that they can provide medical care to children without needing to complete as much post-secondary training.

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