Children aren’t little adults. They have unique morphological and psychological characteristics that require specialized care tailored to their rapid development provided by a diverse team of pediatric healthcare professionals. ⁤⁤From pediatric oncologists specializing in cancer treatment to neonatal nurses caring for newborns, pediatrics encompasses a wide range of career options crucial to ensuring the health of our youngest population. ⁤

So, whether you’re a student exploring pediatric career paths or a healthcare professional seeking a career change, continue reading as we explore various pediatric career paths and their roles to help you choose the right one. 

What is Pediatrics?

Pediatrics is a branch of medicine specializing in children’s health and medical care from birth to age 18. The study of pediatrics aims to reduce infant and child death rates, promote healthy, disease-free lifestyles, control the spread of infectious diseases, and help manage symptoms of chronic conditions.

As a branch, pediatrics encompasses a variety of healthcare professionals, each of whom is critical in ensuring the health and well-being of children. 

4 Pediatric Nursing Careers

Pediatric nursing offers various career opportunities, each uniquely contributing to children’s health and well-being. Below, we’ve listed some of the most common career pathways in pediatric nursing. 

1. Pediatric Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN)

Pediatric Licensed Practical Nurses (LPNs) are members of children’s healthcare teams. They assist physicians, nurses, and other healthcare providers by preparing exam rooms, transporting children, tracking vital statistics, and handling tools. LPNs also help with giving injections and managing patient medical records. 

Becoming a pediatric LPN is the quickest way to start as a pediatric nurse. Most LPN programs only take a year to complete and do not require a degree. However, to practice, LPNs must pass the NCLEX-PN exam to gain licensure. 

2. Pediatric nurse practitioner (PNP)

Pediatric Nurse Practitioners (PNPs) are essential in providing care for children from birth through adolescence by performing routine wellness checks, conducting developmental assessments, and ensuring immunization compliance. Their scope of practice also includes:

  • Prescribing a comprehensive treatment plan;
  • Educating patients and families on children health;
  • Referring to collaborative members of the healthcare team when needed.  

To become a PNP you need to have a bachelor’s degree in nursing (BSN), and obtain a registered nurse license so you gain hands-on experience. After attaining experience as a registered nurse you need to complete a master’s in nursing, after which you need to obtain the Pediatric Nursing Certification Board (PNCB). Depending on the state, you may need to have a state license.  

3. Pediatric registered nurse (RN)

Pediatric registered nurses (RNs) are healthcare providers responsible for assessing, monitoring, and providing care to pediatric patients under the supervision of physicians and nurse practitioners.

They are essential in educating and supporting patients and their families, offering guidance on nutrition, disease management, and medicine administration. Pediatric RNs also perform various tasks, including reviewing medical histories, inserting IVs, tracking vital signs and physical examinations, and alerting physicians to any changes or concerns. 

To become one, you need to earn an associate degree in nursing (ASN) or a BSN, pass the NCLEX-RN exam, gain experience in pediatric nursing, and get certified by the PNCB. 

4. Neonatal nurse

Neonatal nurses specialize in providing care for newborns, including premature babies and those born with medical complications. They administer medication and IV fluids, attend high-risk deliveries, and respond to neonatal emergencies. 

Neonatal nurses usually work in neonatal intensive care units (NICUs), though that may not be the only healthcare setting to perform their duties. Working as a neonatal nurse requires good intuition and attention to subtle changes in babies’ condition and behaviors. Moreover, they must be skilled in neonatal resuscitation and medication administration.

Becoming a neonatal nurse follows a similar educational path to other nurse specialties such as obtaining a ASN or BSN, obtaining a registered nurse license, and pursue one of the many neonatal certifications.

6 Pediatrician Career Opportunities

Pediatricians are essential primary care providers for children, offering routine care, diagnosing and treating various conditions, and advising on preventive measures. Below we will discuss the most common pediatrician career options.

1. Pediatric surgeon

Pediatric surgeons are specialized surgeons performing surgeries in children. They are experts in approaching surgical procedures based on the anatomy and physiology of children at different stages of development. 

The road to becoming a pediatrican surgeon involves rigorous education finishing undergraduate studies and medical school as well as training in general and pediatric surgery. Pediatric surgeons can also pursue advanced training in a subspecialty such as:

  • neonatal and fetal surgery,
  • pediatric nephrology,
  • pediatric neurosurgery,
  • pediatric plastic and reconstructive surgery, etc. 

2. Pediatric oncologist

Pediatric oncologists are doctors specialized in treating cancer affecting children and young adults. They play a critical role in diagnosing the type and stage of cancer and developing an individualized treatment protocol. 

Pediatric oncology is a highly rewarding career that allows professionals to positively impact the lives of children with cancer. However, this also means they have to deal with patients with worsening symptoms, which can be emotionally challenging. 

While the educational path is similar to other pediatricians, pediatric oncologists undergo specialized training in a pediatric residency and a pediatric oncology fellowship. 

3. Pediatric cardiologist

Pediatric cardiologists are medical professionals with specialized training in diagnosing and treating heart conditions in children aged 0 to 18 years old. They play a pivotal role in the early detection of heart defects and cardiovascular abnormalities in children. By detecting issues early on, they can take prompt measures, reducing the risk of complications and improving long-term outcomes.

Because of the delicate nature of their work, becoming a pediatric cardiologist requires extensive training in a pediatric residency and a pediatric cardiology fellowship. 

4. Child psychologist

Child psychologists are specialized professionals who evaluate and treat the mental health needs of children and adolescents. Their multifaceted role encompasses various aspects of psychological assessment, intervention, and support for children and their families. Child psychologists also help them build up social and emotional skills and support good mental health in the future. 

Though a rewarding career choice, child psychologists go through an extensive educational path which requires a bachelor’s master’s and either a Doctor of Psychology (Psy.D.) or a Ph.D. in psychology degree. Lastly, you must also obtain licensure by meeting state-specific requirements, typically passing the Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology (EPPP).

5. Pediatric ophthalmologist

Pediatric ophthalmologists are doctors specializing in diagnosing and treating eye conditions in children of all ages. They manage various ocular diseases affecting children, such as torticollis, nystagmus, strabismus, and more.

Moreover, they are crucial in the early detection of eye disorders and vision problems, thus preventing or minimizing the impact of vision problems in the future. 

During their training, pediatric ophthalmologists become skilled in performing specialized examination techniques tailored to children’s ages, such as motility examination, determination of refractive error, vision assessment, and examination under anesthesia. They’re also qualified to perform complex eye surgery.  

6. Pediatric dentist

Pediatric dentists are dental professionals who provide specialized dental care to children. They focus on preventing dental problems through regular check-ups, fluoride treatments, and performing orthodontic evaluations.

Moreover, they offer early dental care, helping prevent oral health problems, including cavities, tooth decay, and gum disease, and establishing a positive attitude toward oral health and dental care in children. 

Apart from the typical educational path to become a dentist, pediatric dentists undergo an additional two years of residency, during which they receive specialized education and clinical instruction in pediatric dentistry. They also learn how to build trust, communicate with children, and address any dental fears or anxieties they may have. 

Entry-Level Pediatric Careers

Entry-level pediatric careers are healthcare professionals who work alongside pediatricians and nurses, though they don’t undergo extensive education. Here are two entry-level career paths that can serve as a stepping stone for further advancement in pediatrics.

Pediatric medical assistant (PMA)

Pediatric medical assistants are healthcare professionals who assist physicians in caring for children of all ages. In a medical office, they perform both administrative and clinical duties, such as: 

  • Scheduling appointments
  • Checking vaccine schedules
  • Collecting blood, urine, or stool samples
  • Taking height, weight, and head size measurements. 

To become a PMA you don’t need to have an associate or bachelor’s degree, though you need to complete a medical assistant training program. Though not required, you can also opt for certifications which can further employment opportunities. 

Pediatric physician’s assistant (PA)

Pediatric physician assistants are medical professionals who play an important role in pediatric healthcare teams. They work under the supervision of a physician and can write prescriptions, perform physical exams, evaluate diagnostic tests, and assist surgeons or physicians during medical procedures. 

Key Takeaways

From specialized pediatrician career options to pediatric nursing positions, there is a broad range of opportunities in pediatrics to explore. Each career path within pediatrics uniquely contributes to providing the highest quality of care and support to pediatric patients throughout their growth and development. 

So, take the first step in your journey toward a rewarding career in pediatrics. Explore our Pre-med program and learn in a supportive and collaborative environment. 

Frequently Asked Questions

How do I know if pediatrics is the right career choice for me?

To determine if pediatrics is the right career choice, consider your interests, skills, and personality traits. You must also decide whether you enjoy working with children and are willing to commit to the extensive education and training required to work in pediatrics. Moreover, to work in pediatrics, you must be patient, resilient, and have strong communication skills. 

Can pediatricians work in different healthcare settings besides hospitals?

Pediatricians can work in various healthcare settings besides hospitals. These include private practices, medical offices, and health maintenance organizations. 

What are the salary expectations in various pediatric careers?

Pediatrics is a diverse branch with various career options, so the salary varies. Pediatric surgeons can expect a salary of $362,970, whereas pediatric dentists make around $159,530. On the other hand, pediatric RNs make $81,220, and pediatric PAs make $126,010.