Considering a Career As a Pediatrician?

Some key things to think about

If you're interested in practicing medicine and you love being around kids (and don't mind dealing with snotty noses and poopy diapers), a pediatrician career may be the perfect choice for you. Here are some things to think about as you're mulling over the idea of becoming a pediatrician.

You'll be in school for a long time. To become a physician of any type requires four years of college, four years of medical school, and at least three years of an internship and residency.

Some people considering a medical career worry about having to work exhaustingly long hours during a residency, and that has been a problem in the past. But in response to concerns about fatigue (for residents) and safety (for patients), the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education put limits on the number of hours doctors-in-training are expected to work: no more than 80 hours a week, including when they must work when on call.

You'll make a comfortable living. Pediatrics is the lowest-paying medical specialty. At the same time, pediatricians have relatively low malpractice costs. Given these two facts, the average yearly salary for pediatricians in the United States is around $184,000, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Of course, you won't start at that salary, and chances are by the time you finish your internship or residency you'll have racked up a considerable amount of student loan debt that you'll have to begin paying back, but in the long run you should do very well financially.

You'll have flexibility. As a pediatrician, there are a number of ways to shape your career. You can start up your own practice and be your own boss or you can join a group of doctors and share the responsibilities. If you don't want anything to do with running a business, you can work for a practice that has an office staff who will take care of things like dealing with managed care and health insurance companies.

You'll have lots of choices if you're interested in specializing. Caring for children can be about much more than runny noses and ear infections. As a pediatrician, you can choose to focus on complex health issues such as diabetes or heart defects. (This will likely require extra schooling.) And remember, even as a general pediatrician your day-to-day practice won't be totally focused on medical care. You'll also need to work with moms and dads, for example, counseling them on any issues they may be having as parents.

Ultimately, the best way to decide if a pediatrician career is right for you is to get down into the trenches. Find a pediatrician who'll allow you to follow her around at her practice or as she does her hospital rounds to get a true idea of what a typical day is like.

Sources:

Accreditation Council for Graduation Medical Education. "Common Program Requirements." https://atlas.verywell.com/AE/2632301

Bureau of Labor Statistics. Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2016. https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes291065.htm#(2)

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