What is a Pediatrician?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

A pediatrician is a doctor who specializes in the care of children. Pediatrics is a very broad medical specialty, encompassing everything from general practice to children's oncology. Just like other medical specialties, pediatrics requires a medical school education followed by several years of residency in pediatrics or “peds” as it is affectionately called. A pediatrician who wishes to subspecialize in a particular field like oncology or orthopedics must complete an additional residency in his or her specialty.

A pediatrician usually cares for children who range in age from newborns to around 18.
A pediatrician usually cares for children who range in age from newborns to around 18.

A pediatrician can care for a child from birth to around age 18, and in some cases the doctor may agree to keep seeing a child until his or her early twenties. Caring for children is distinctly different than caring for adults, since children have unique medical conditions and issues which adults do not face, and their different body size poses some unique treatment challenges.

Pediatrics is a broad medical specialty, ranging from general practice to children's oncology.
Pediatrics is a broad medical specialty, ranging from general practice to children's oncology.

Until the late 20th century, many serious illnesses caused death in childhood, and some pediatricians became experts in diseases which other doctors almost never saw. With advanced medical treatment options, these diseases have become more common in adults, leading some doctors to turn to pediatric specialists for knowledge about diseases like hemophilia and cystic fibrosis. A pediatrician in general practice typically refers patients with these illnesses to a doctor or hospital which specializes in them; there is also a great deal of funding for research on childhood diseases, and pediatrics has made extraordinary strides as a medical field in the late 20th century. As just one example, pre-term babies have a better survival rate than ever, thanks to the field of neonatology.

People who work in pediatrics sometimes say that their work is very rewarding.
People who work in pediatrics sometimes say that their work is very rewarding.

In general practice, pediatricians offer vaccinations, general health exams, and treatments for an assortment of minor conditions and injuries. When a patient manifests with a more serious problem, a general practice pediatrician will refer him or her to a specialist. Pediatricians can be found working in ophthalmology, rheumatology, surgery, anesthesiology, psychology, neurology, and an assortment of other medical specialties. Many teaching hospitals have very fine pediatric programs, and very sick children are frequently sent to such hospitals for the best available care.

A pediatrician may choose to specialize in treating children with respiratory illnesses.
A pediatrician may choose to specialize in treating children with respiratory illnesses.

People who work in pediatrics sometimes say that the work is very rewarding, and also uniquely frustrating. A pediatrician must work not only with the sick patient, but with parents and other family members who may be extremely concerned. Like all doctors, he or she also has certain ethical responsibilities, such as a mandate to report suspect child abuse, a problem encountered more frequently by pediatricians because they work exclusively with children.

Pediatricians and other medical professionals are legally obligated to report suspected child abuse or mistreatment.
Pediatricians and other medical professionals are legally obligated to report suspected child abuse or mistreatment.
Some pediatricians specialize in treating eye problems in children.
Some pediatricians specialize in treating eye problems in children.
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments


I am 16 and thinking about becoming a pediatrician. What advice does anyone have for me?


I am a 15 and going in my first year in the SHS here in Ghana. I want to be a pediatrician but I do not want to study here in Ghana. How can I go outside my country to specialise in ophthalmology, surgery, rheumatology, psychology, anesthesiology and neurology. I really want to help children because I suffered when I was really small. My parents even told me that. They thought they were even going to lose me.


A pediatric dermatologist's salary is lower compared to other doctors' salaries. Based on the article that I have read for 2008, the average pediatric dermatologist's salary is $203,727.


My two girls caught molluscum contagiosum. We used a molluscum treatment called Conzerol. The warts were gone in less than two weeks from both my girls.

We had tried all kinds or remedies and products. Why does it seem my pediatrician (and the pediatricians in my church) always say, "There is nothing you can do but wait?" We were going crazy having contagious bumps on our little girls!

Why doesn't someone do a study with these natural remedies and products so we parents can find some solid answers without wasting so much time and money?

A pediatrician at my church said "molluscum moms" drive him crazy. He even calls molluscum a "rite of passage" for parents, because he sees it so often.

Why don't you ask these sellers of remedies to give you free samples and do a study, and post results? I tried tea tree oil, emuaid, apple cider vinegar and even duct tape. Can someone do some sort of study?


How do pediatricians help teenagers when they are pregnant?


What does a pediatrician do during pregnancy?


to anon224772: I suppose you are not going to become a child pediatrician if you do not want to study. Ask yourself, why do you want to be a pediatrician?

If your motivation to be a pediatrician is because you want to heal and improve the health of children than schooling is just the necessary ingredient to get you to your goal. It is the preparation for you to be the best pediatrician that you can be.

If your motivation to be a pediatrician is something else, such as money, prestige, respect, than it would be better for you to be in a different profession, where a potential life and death situation of an innocent baby is not in question. Something that does not require a lot of effort, because it seems you are not willing to work hard.


I want to be a pediatrician baby doctor, but I don't want to be in school for that many years.


hey guys same here. i finished my high school and will go for 11th grade and wish to become a child specialist, i.e., a pediatrician. i love kids and want to open a free hospital for poor kids.


My name is Hadi. I am 17 years old. I am not married yet but i will marry when i finish my education. I live with my parents and siblings. I'm in high school now, but after four years I'm going to finish. In the near future i want to become a doctor and a pediatrician. So i hope to succeed and to reach my aim if Allah is willing.


Do i absolutely have to learn Latin if i would like to be a pediatrician? (I am in the 8th grade selecting classes for high school). I really have no interest in it, but i really want to be one.


i am a grade 11 learner who always dreamed to be a pediatrician. i love children and have always had a passion to work with them.


I am a Student Medical Assistant and i am in the 11th grade finishing up high school. i currently work part time at a pediatric center (as a volunteer) I am a patient there as well. I love working there because the environment is great and the pediatrician is amazing.

If you want to be a pediatrician then go for it as soon as you can. Don't hold back. my Dr/Boss is an amazing Doctor and she loves every minute of it. She inspired me to go and become a pediatrician. So do it! You'll love the reward in the end.


I want to be a pediatrician but I'm afraid that I will not be able to work the long hours and all the exams in medical school. It seems so hard and demanding to be a doctor and I think it costs so much to go to medical school. I tried to get into med school last year but I failed my exams and got sick. I feel stupid and I got put off being a doctor.

Now I think I would like to be a pediatrician because I love children and I would like to help them. I like learning about the human body and it's functions and diseases too.

This is a great article. Thanks for the info.

I agree with Anon145140.

To the person posting about their son's penis, if you are genuinely concerned about this you should take him to see a doctor.


I've wanted to be a pediatrician since age five and didn't have a fair idea of what they do. Three cheers for this site for making people like me aware for choosing their future career!


i so want to become a pediatrician. it seems so rewarding and so great working with children and this is what i want!


I am in grade 11 and am not doing well in science but my math is outstanding. I want to know if i stand a chance of becoming a pediatrician.


i want to change my baby from Nan pelagon to S26 because he lost weight. is that normal? he's not sick and he's hiv negative.


anon43287 please by all means give the child prune juice. This will help soften the stool. I give it to my granddaughter for the same reason. I give half water and half juice but she is 18 months.


my 8 year old son's penis is not growing accordingly. if i compare with my one and half year old second son, his penis is bigger than the 8 year old's. his weight is 30kg and height 115cm. is there any medicine for the growth of penis or it will grow by age?


can i give my five-week-old son prune juice to help him to go to poo? has he hasn't been for three days.


Years ago I knew of a very good pediatrician. He was kind and knowledgeable. One particular time I remember when an infant developed fever and rash over the body.

Regular oral antibiotics did not help and the infant had to be hospitalized. As it turned out it was a rare infectious disease, called scalded skin syndrome.

After four to five days everything was back to normal. But at the onset and during the illness it is so comforting to a parent to be able to rely on a wise and knowledgeable pediatrician.

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