What It's Like to Be a Pediatrician

From number of hours in a work day to common challenges

That tickles!
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Pediatricians are doctors who take care of babies, kids, and adolescents up to age 21. The "official" job description from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) says that "pediatricians diagnose and treat infections, injuries, genetic defects, malignancies, and many types of organic disease and dysfunction. They work to reduce infant and child mortality, control infectious disease, foster healthy lifestyles, and ease the day-to-day difficulties of children and adolescents with chronic conditions."

According to a 2013 survey by the AAP, most pediatricians enjoy their work: 83.7 percent of the doctors who responded strongly agreed or agreed that they were satisfied with their careers. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that in 2017, the average salary for a pediatrician was $168,990. Of course, pediatricians who see more patients and work longer hours generally make more money, while those who work parttime make less.

As long as people keep having babies, there will be a need for pediatricians. If you think you'd like to be one of them, here are some things to keep in mind.

A Day on the Job

The AAP reports that the average pediatrician works around 50 hours per week. Usually, he'll begin the day by making rounds at the hospital where he has privileges. There he'll check in on babies who've just been born as well as on any sick children who are there. Some pediatricians specialize in caring for children in the hospital.

Those who have a private practice will usually go to the office after hospital rounds. Typical office hours for a pediatrician begin at 8:30 a.m. or 9:00 a.m. and continue until 4:00 p.m. or 5:00 p.m.

In the office, pediatricians see children for two primary reasons: One is because a child is sick, the other is to give a child a yearly checkup.

Between patients in the hospital and those in the office, the average pediatrician sees about 127 patients a week.

In addition, most pediatricians make themselves available to patients after regular office hours, including nights and weekends. When on call, he'll respond to phone calls and visit the hospital to see a sick patient. A doctor who's in practice for himself will likely be on call every day. One who's part of a group practice will rotate being on call with other pediatricians he works with.

Challenges of Being a Pediatrician

As satisfying as it is to watch children grow and thrive or to help a sick kid get better, pediatricians have their share of challenges. When a child who's ill doesn't improve, that obviously can be tough.

And for a pediatrician, a child isn't the only patient: Doctors who treat kids also have to deal with parents, most of whom want only what's best for their children and are grateful to have a trusted professional overseeing their health and well-being. In the best case scenarios, pediatricians and parents work in tandem in caring for children. When a parent isn't willing or able to be compliant regarding a pediatrician's recommendations for what's medically advisable for a child, however, it can make the job tough.

Parents who refuse to vaccinate their kids are a good example of an issue that can create problems between them and their child's doctor.

All in all, though, caring for kids can be a fascinating profession and certainly one that's guaranteed never to be boring. In any one day, a pediatrician might see newborn babies, a toddler with an ear infection, a school-age for a checkup, and a teenager who's having problems in school or dealing with an eating disorder. In other words, there's never a dull moment.


Amy J. Starmer, Mary Pat Frintner, Bary L. Freed. "Work-Life Balance, Burnout, and Satisfaction of Early Career Pediatricians." Pediatrics 2016; 137.

Bureau of Labor Statistics. United State Department of Labor. Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2016. Pediatricians, General. Mar 31, 2017.