Pros & Cons of Becoming a Pediatrician

Pediatricians treat children and young adults, often specializing in age-specific conditions.
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Pediatricians treat children and young adults, often specializing in age-specific conditions.

Medical students looking for a specialty often land in pediatrics. In fact, as of 2008, about 13 percent of physicians specialized in pediatrics, which was outnumbered only by family medicine at 15 percent, and internal medicine at 28 percent, according the American Academy of Pediatrics, or APA. While working with adorable babies and cute little kids is a perk of the job, the reality is that being a pediatrician isn't all about handing out stickers and lollipops; it also involves tough decisions. However, the job opportunities are promising, as the expected employment growth for all physicians and surgeons from 2010 to 2020 is 24 percent, which is better than average, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, or BLS.

High Pay

According to May 2011 information from the BLS, pediatricians earned the 11th-highest salary of all listed occupations. Of the positions that earned more, one was chief executives, and the rest were other types of doctors with anesthesiologists and surgeons topping the list. Pediatricians earned an average of $168,650 per year, which comes translates to about $81.08 per hour. They made the most working in the offices of other health practitioners, where the average pay was $186,090 annually.

Lengthy and Expensive Schooling

Before making the big bucks, you’ll need to gain admittance to medical school -- which isn't easy -- and takes four years to complete. You'll also need to follow that up with three years of residency. Furthermore, besides being rigorous, med school is costly. According to the Association of American Medical Colleges, the median debt for all medical school students graduating in 2011 was $162,000.

Stresses of the Job

Since medical emergencies don’t keep a schedule, pediatricians often work long and irregular hours, as do all doctors. Many American doctors cite frustrations with paperwork, bureaucracy and rising costs in the healthcare system. Besides having the patience to handle red tape, as a pediatrician, you'll need to remain calm when dealing with kids who are often scared of doctors -- and aren't afraid to show it. In some cases, you might also have to treat kids with life-threatening conditions, which can drain you emotionally.

Rewarding Work

The tough realities of pediatric work are usually offset by the positive results. Physicians of all specialties are trained to provide patient care that can change and even save lives, which is the reason why so many choose the profession. Pediatricians in particular are generally highly satisfied with their work lives. The APA notes that in a 2004 to 2005 study of the job satisfaction of 6,600 physicians, four of the top 10 specialties had to do with pediatric health.

2016 Salary Information for Physicians and Surgeons

Physicians and surgeons earned a median annual salary of $204,950 in 2016, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. On the low end, physicians and surgeons earned a 25th percentile salary of $131,980, meaning 75 percent earned more than this amount. The 75th percentile salary is $261,170, meaning 25 percent earn more. In 2016, 713,800 people were employed in the U.S. as physicians and surgeons.

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