General Pediatrician

Job Duties

General pediatricians are physicians who specialize in providing care and treatment to children from birth through early adulthood. They focus on diagnosing and treating a number of ailments that are specific to this early period of life. They track the growth and development of their patients until their patients become adults. Pediatricians may work closely with other healthcare workers, such as nurses and other physicians. They assess and treat children who have ailments like muscular dystrophy. However, pediatricians focus more on the more common, day-to-day conditions of children, from minor injuries to infectious diseases. A smaller number of pediatricians focus on pediatric surgery or more serious chronic ailments.

There are two types of general pediatricians: those who are M.D.s, or Doctors of Medicine, sometimes referred to as allopathic physicians; and those who are O.D.s, or Doctors of Osteopathic Medicine. In their practices, both M.D.s and O.D.s utilize drugs, surgery, and all other treatment options. However, O.D.s may focus more on the body’s muscoloskeletal system, preventive medicine, and holistic patient care. O.D.s are more likely than M.D.s to be primary care specialists, with over 50% of O.D.s practicing general of family medicine, general internal medicine, or general pediatrics.

Job Skills

General pediatricians must be emotionally stable and have the ability to make crucial decisions quickly. They should have a good bedside manner, self-motivation, and a strong desire to help others. They need to have good mental and physical stamina to handle the pressure and dedication required in medical education and practice.


Earnings may vary greatly and depend on a number of factors, including experience, geographic region, hours worked, skill, personality, and professional reputation. General pediatricians who are self-employed may be responsible for providing their own health insurance and retirement.

Training and Education

Physicians specializing in general pediatrics must spend a substantial number of years completing education and training requirements, including 4 years of undergraduate school, 4 years of medical school, and 3 to 8 years of residency. Certain medical schools offer a program that combines undergraduate and medical study and can be completed in only 6 years. Undergraduate students in premedical study are required to complete courses in physics, biology, mathematics, English, and inorganic and organic chemistry. They also complete courses in the humanities and social sciences and some volunteer at local hospitals or clinics to gain experience. Most applicants for medical school have a bachelor’s degree, and many also have earned more advanced degrees. Competition for admission to medical school is very high. The first 2 years of medical school cover basics from anatomy to microbiology, and the second 2 years are spent working in hospitals and clinics under the supervision of physicians.

After graduation from medical school, physicians begin paid, on-the-job training known as a residency. Most residencies are in hospitals and last between 2 and 6 years. All States require physicians to be licensed. Licenses are given to physicians who graduate from an accredited medical school, pass a licensing examination, and complete 1 to 7 years of graduate medical education. M.D.s and D.O.s may spend up to 7 years in residency training to qualify for board certification in a specialty. Board certification is granted after candidates pass a final examination in one of 24 board specialties. More than 80% of medical students borrow money to pay for their costly training.


According to BLS in May 2011, physicians and surgeons, of which general pediatricians are a subgroup, held about 29,640 jobs.

Job Outlook

The health services industries may continue to expand. Demand for this occupation will stem largely from a growing and aging population. Opportunities will be best in rural and low-income areas, due to the lower concentration of physicians practicing in these areas.

For more information on becoming a general pediatrician, please see our directory of schools offering Medical Training