Pediatric Surgeon: Job Description & Career Info

Read on to learn what pediatric surgeons do and how to become one. Get the details about education and training requirements. See what the career prospects are, too.

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Career Definition

A pediatric surgeon is a trained surgeon specializing in the diagnosis and operative care of surgical issues in children, according to the American College of Surgeons (www.facs.org). While general surgeons are fully qualified to operate on young patients, pediatric surgeons receive special training in the surgical repair of birth defects, surgical techniques specific to each stage of child development, and the treatment of trauma in children. A career in pediatric surgery requires collaboration with neonatal specialists, pediatricians, and family physicians to determine the best course of treatment for the child, as well as communication with the child's family to ensure his or her pre- and post-operative safety.

Become a Pediatric Surgeon

Education Required

Aspiring surgeons begin with a four-year bachelor's degree in pre-medicine or a related scientific field. They then complete four years of medical school, followed by several years of residency training.

Licensing and Certification Requirements

Aspiring doctors must fulfill their state's licensing requirements to practice medicine; requirements vary but typically include a minimum of education and training, and a passing score on an exam. After completing five years of postgraduate general surgical residency training, surgeons must pass an examination to become board-certified in general surgery by the American Board of Medical Specialists (www.abms.org). Surgeons who wish to specialize in pediatrics may then enter a two-year pediatric surgery residency, followed by a written examination. A passing score on the exam will earn the surgeon a certificate in pediatric surgery from the American Board of Pediatrics (ABP); pediatric surgeons must re-certified every ten years.

Skills Required

Along with proper training and certification, pediatric surgeons must have a keen interest in and concern for the needs of children and newborns. Because pediatric surgery involves treating patients in various stages of development, a clear understanding of child physiology and pharmacology is essential, as is an aptitude for extreme precision in treatment. A high degree of sensitivity is also important in interacting with families and patients.

Career and Economic Outlook

The surgical field will continue to grow; the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicts 18% growth in job opportunities for all physicians and surgeons over the 2012-2022 decade, with jobs in children's hospitals and medical centers continually available. Qualified surgeons, including pediatric surgeons, are particularly in demand in rural and low-income areas of the country, where medical resources are fewer. The median yearly compensation for general surgeons was $367,885 in 2012, per the BLS.

Alternate Career Options

Physician Assistant

A physician assistant, or PA, obtain specialized education and training in order to provide medical care under the supervision of a licensed physician or surgeon. PAs can examine patients, make diagnoses, order and evaluate medical tests, and prescribe treatment. Much of what PAs do is dependent on the specialty of the doctor who employs them; PAs can work in surgery, emergency medicine, family practice, and more.

A PA must complete a master's degree program in physician assisting and earn a passing score on the Physician Assistant National Certifying Examination (PANCE) to receive a required state license. Many applicants to PA programs are already registered nurses, emergency medical technicians, and paramedics. According to the BLS, the number of jobs for PAs is expected to increase 38% from 2012-2022. The BLS also reports that PAs earned median pay of $90,930 in 2012.

Registered Nurse

A registered nurse (RN) provides health care services to patients in hospitals, nursing care settings, and doctor's offices. An RN monitors patients' condition, recording observations for review by senior medical staff; an RN can also help deliver medical treatments, and show patients and their families how to continue at-home care. RNs can specialize, working in areas like cardiology or maternity care.

Entry-level employment is possible after earning a diploma, an associate's degree, or a bachelor's degree. However, employers commonly prefer candidates with a bachelor's degree, and it can make career advancement easier, too. Graduates of nursing programs must pass the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-RN) to earn state licensing, although additional requirements may apply, too. According to the BLS, employment of registered nurses is expected to grow 19% from 2012-2022, and these jobs paid a median salary of $65,470 in 2012.

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