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How to Become a Pediatrician in 2023

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by Loyd Mokaya in Residency

Do you want to know how to become a pediatrician? Are you interested in a medical career that provides not only patient care but also offers unique opportunities for medical research in a field that focuses on preventative care?

If so, a pediatric career may be the perfect choice for you. In this blog post, I will explain what a pediatrician does and how to become one, even if you’re only in high school.


  • Pediatricians specialize in providing mental, physical, and social care to infants and children up to the age of twenty-one
  • Pediatric residency training is three years, with the option of fellowship training.
  • Going to a top medical school may help a bit. How you do on your USMLEs (Board) scores and in your med school class ranking will matter more.
  • Non-PhD degrees like MBAs and MPHs appear to have no advantage in becoming a pediatrician (and maybe a slight disadvantage)

Table of Contents

What Are Pediatricians?

Pediatricians specialize in the diagnosis and treatment of medical conditions affecting children. From birth to age twenty-one, they play a significant role in ensuring the health and well-being of infants. It is the responsibility of pediatricians to provide preventative health care to children, including vaccinations, screenings, and physical examinations. As well as diagnosing and treating chronic and acute illnesses, pediatricians must be able to identify signs of physical and mental problems.

Pediatricians need to understand the unique needs of young patients and their families. As a result, they can provide emotional support to parents and children during sessions. Pediatricians are well-equipped to guide proper nutrition, development, and safety for children. To put it simply, pediatricians are medical doctors who understand children’s needs and can suggest treatments and lifestyle changes that will help them reach their full potential.

Is a Pediatrician a Doctor?

Are pediatricians doctors? The answer to this question is yes; pediatricians are doctors.

Pediatricians are specialized physicians who have completed medical school and a three-year residency in pediatrics. During this time, the pediatric resident receives training in the diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of common illnesses and injuries, as well as rare ones. Additionally, they learn how to manage acute and chronic conditions in children and adolescents.

How Long Does It Take to Become a Pediatrician?

Becoming a pediatrician is no easy feat and requires considerable time and energy. But if you’re up to the challenge, the results can be gratifying.

At a minimum, it takes a minimum of 11 years after high school to become a pediatrician. That includes four years of undergraduate education, four years of medical school, and three years of pediatrics residency. Along the way, you’ll have to take various standardized exams, including the SAT, the MCAT, and the USMLE Step 1 and Step 2 CK.

Undergraduate (4 Years)

The first step to becoming a pediatrician is entering and completing an undergraduate program. This means taking the SATs and doing well enough to be accepted into a college or university. Once accepted into an undergraduate program, you’ll have to complete a minimum of four years of academic coursework. This includes classes in biology, chemistry, physics, English, and other general education courses.

Medical School (4 Years)

The next step is to take the MCAT, a standardized exam that measures your knowledge and skills in biology, chemistry, physics, and psychology. You’ll need to score well on the MCAT for med school acceptance.

You’ll have to complete four years of academic and clinical training during medical school. This includes classes in anatomy, physiology, pharmacology, pathology, and other medical topics. You’ll also have to complete clinical rotations at hospitals and other healthcare facilities to gain hands-on experience.

Pediatrics Residency (3 Years)

After you’ve completed medical school, you’ll have to match into a pediatric residency. To do this, you’ll have to take the USMLE Step 1 and Step 2 CK exams. These exams measure your knowledge and skills in the areas of clinical medicine. Once you’ve passed these exams, you’ll be eligible to apply for residency.

Once you’ve matched into a pediatrics residency, You’ll need to complete three years of clinical training to become a pediatrician. During pediatric residency, you’ll learn how to diagnose and treat childhood illnesses. You’ll also understand how to help children and their families manage chronic conditions. At the end of your residency program, you should be able to develop long-term care plans for each patient. Your residency will also cover preventative care aimed at helping children remain healthy.

Fellowship (Optional; Usually 2-3 Years)

After completing your pediatrics residency, you may pursue further training in a specialized area of pediatrics. Pediatrics fellowships allow physicians to gain subspecialty expertise. Fellowship choices include child abuse, pediatric endocrinology, or pediatric emergency medicine. Most pediatrics fellowships are 2-3 years in length, allowing physicians to gain additional experience and hone their skills in a specific area of pediatrics.

After Pediatrics Residency: Licensing + Board Certification

Upon completing your residency, you’ll be eligible to apply for a medical license. You need a license to practice. You’ll also be able to take the Pediatric Board Exam to become a board-certified pediatrician. While passing the pediatrics boards is voluntary, many employers find it necessary.

Becoming a pediatrician takes at least 11 years after high school. It’s a long and arduous process, but if you’re dedicated and passionate, the rewards are worth it.

How Competitive Is It to Become a Pediatrician?

Pediatrics is the least competitive specialty when matching into a residency program. Aspiring medical school graduates compete for spots in their preferred specialties every year. The Match system, run by the National Resident Match Program (NRMP), pairs applicants with training programs based on their preferences.

But how competitive is pediatrics in the US? To answer this question, it is important to look at the unmatched rates of US seniors by specialty. The unmatched rate refers to the percentage of US seniors who applied for a residency program in that specialty but did not match. It considers each applicant’s first-choice specialty. So, if you applied to a different specialty as a “backup” but didn’t match because you matched in your first choice, this wouldn’t count. To learn more about how to maximize your chances at a dream residency through “The Match,” see this article.

In the 2022 Match, graduating US medical school seniors attending MD schools had a 1.6% unmatched rate to pediatrics. This makes it the least competitive specialty compared to other specialties.

For more on the competitiveness of pediatrics relative to other medical specialties, see this article.

Pediatricians Annual Compensation

Pediatricians have an average annual salary of $244,000. But this can vary based on practice setting, specialty training, and experience level.

Pediatrician Annual Salary

Pediatricians make $244,000 per year on average

How Much Do Pediatricians Make an Hour?

You may also be wondering, how much do pediatricians make per hour? And how is the balance between time inside vs. outside the hospital for the specialty?

While there isn’t perfect data, we’ve compiled data re: hours/weeks worked and annual salary for various specialties, including pediatrics.

Here are the data:

Average Annual SalaryAverage Hourly SalaryOn-Call ScheduleHours/WeekAvg Weeks Worked/Year
Critical Care$369,000.00$114.9166.9
Diagnostic Radiology$437,000.00$170.46Low5844.2
Emergency Medicine$373,000.00$169.59Medium46.447.4
Family Medicine$255,000.00$101.85Medium52.647.6
General Surgery$402,000.00$141.88High59.447.7
Infectious Diseases$260,000.00$101.44High53.4
Internal Medicine$264,000.00$100.81Medium54.947.7
Interventional Radiology$437,000.00
Neurological Surgery (Assistant Prof. Median)$600,500.00$214.96Medium58.2
Obstetrics and Gynecology$336,000.00$123.26Medium5847
Orthopaedic Surgery$557,000.00$207.91Medium5747
Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation$322,000.00$147.7645.4
Plastic Surgery$576,000.00$230.77Medium52
Pulmonary Med$353,000.00$119.77Medium61.4
Radiation Oncology (Assistant Prof. Median)$393,734.00$158.36Low51.8
Total Average$381,233.35$147.4453.9

And the estimated physician salary per hour by specialty (pediatrics highlighted in red):

Pediatrician Hourly Salary

Pediatricians make $108 an hour on average

Note: when data were unavailable for weeks worked per year, 48 weeks was the estimate to calculate the estimated hourly salary.

Getting AOA (Med School Honors) Helps in Becoming a Pediatrician

Medical school is one of the most challenging aspects of becoming a doctor. Many medical schools have established Alpha Omega Alpha (AOA) branches to recognize top students.

AOA is the medical school honors society for students who excel in their studies. They must also show an exemplary commitment to professionalism and leadership. Each medical school may elect up to 20% of their graduating class to be members of AOA.

Induction into AOA is a prestigious honor that carries with it a variety of benefits. AOA members may be eligible for special scholarships and fellowships. They often receive priority consideration for residency positions.

The AOA advantage is notable for the most competitive fields and/or residency programs. The 2022 Match data showed that the match rate for US medical school seniors with AOA membership was 1% greater than that of US seniors without AOA membership in pediatrics. In other words, AOA membership provided a slight advantage to matching into a pediatric residency.

AOA Membership Advantage for Pediatrics 2022

AOA membership correlated with a 1% match rate advantage for Pediatrics in the 2022 Match

See this article for more on AOA medical schools and the importance of class rank for matching.

Do You Need to Attend a Top School to Become a Pediatrician?

When pursuing a career in pediatrics, attending a top medical school can make a difference. According to a survey of program directors, over half of those surveyed reported considering applicants’ med school reputation when considering whom to interview, giving it an importance score of 3.3 out of 5.

Moreover, graduating from a school in the top 40 for NIH funding is associated with a 1% increase in the likelihood of matching into pediatrics as a field. This is because top medical schools have more resources and access to clinical experience, which can help prepare students for the rigors of the specialty.

That said, it is important to remember that the name of the school alone does not guarantee success in any field. While attending a top medical school may have advantages, it is up to the individual to make the most of the opportunities presented. And while there is an advantage to being from a more prestigious institution, one’s record at the school will matter much more, including things like USMLE scores, class rank, and letters of recommendation.

Top 40 med school Pediatrics match 2022

Graduating from a medical school ranked in the top 40 by NIH funding correlated with a 1% match rate advantage for Pediatrics in the 2022 Match

Does an MPH or MBA Help You Become a Pediatrician?

Medical training is long and arduous. Many students consider completing other degrees before, after, or even while pursuing their medical studies. Degrees such as Master of Public Health (MPH) and Master of Business Administration (MBA) may seem attractive to potential pediatric residents due to their qualifications. But do these degrees give applicants an edge in the residency application process?

The truth is that having an extra degree may not matter as much as one thinks. We crunched the numbers on the match rate for graduating students from MD schools for those with non-PhD other degrees vs. those that did not have a second degree. In pediatrics, the match rate was 2% lower for those with degrees like an MPH or MBA. This implies that having a second degree that isn’t a Ph.D. doesn’t appear to help your chances of matching into pediatrics and may even hurt them (slightly).

Pediatrics other degree MBA MPH advantage 2022

Having another degree like an MBA or MPH correlated with a -2% match rate disadvantage for Pediatrics in the 2022 Match

It’s important to note that this study only looked at the match rates of medical students with another degree. The data doesn’t look at the type of degree, the school, or the quality of the applicant’s experience and credentials.

Having a second degree could open up some career opportunities. For instance, having an MPH or MBA may prove beneficial for those looking to go into healthcare administration or research.

Concluding Thoughts

Becoming a pediatrician is a challenging but rewarding career path. It is perfect for those who are passionate about working with children. This is because it involves providing medical care and advice to children from infancy to the age of 21. With hard work, dedication, and a desire to help others, pediatricians can make a real difference in the world of healthcare.

Looking for a Pediatric Residency Advisor?

Looking for a pediatric residency advisor? Want help writing your personal statement? Need effective strategies for interviewing? Do you have things on your application – e.g., low USMLE scores, failed USMLEs, no research, IMG status, or others – you need help overcoming?

Be sure to check out our Residency Advisor service.

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Cardiology is key for impressive USMLE scores. Master cardiology from a Harvard-trained anesthesiologist who scored USMLE 270 with these 130+ high-yield flash cards. You’ll be begging for cardio questions - even if vitals make you queasy.