Becoming a paediatrician

What is a paediatrician?

Simply put, a paediatrician, spelt 'pediatrician' in North American English, is a medical doctor who treats infants, children and young people. Although there have been writings about health and illness in children since Ancient Greece the medical specialty of Paediatrics did not develop until the middle of the nineteenth century. In Australia paediatricians are specialist physicians trained in a parallel system to their colleagues who treat adults. Patients are referred to paediatricians by general practitioners. General paediatricians in Australia see a broad range of presentations. Paediatricians can subspecialise in the same areas as physicians who treat adults eg endocrinology, cardiology, etc, as well as in some areas that are strictly paediatric eg perinatology, developmental and behavioural paediatrics. Paediatricians can play a role in preventative medicine, population health, health management and many other areas. They are researchers and teachers.

What can I do to help me decide if I want to be a paediatrician?

As a student in the Sydney Medical Program (SMP) take advantage of the opportunities you will have during the course to familiarise yourself with the scope and detail of the work of paediatricians. In addition to the problem-based learning cases, self-directed learning project (SDLP) and Patient and Doctor theme tutorials in Stages 1 and 2, you will complete a seven week Child and Adolescent Health specialty block in Stage 3

What can I do to help me become a paediatrician?

While you're a Sydney Medical Program (SMP) student you can gain experience and exposure to paediatrics by undertaking the following activities in paediatrics or related areas:

  • Independent Learning Activities
  • Summer Scholarships
  • Honours and further research eg MPhil
  • Electives
  • PreInternship term
  • Attachments and placements that allow more exposure to children, such as clinical placements during the Psychological Medicine Specialty Block

For further information see the SMP website. Other medical programs should have equivalent opportunities.

Outside your studies you can gain further experience and exposure to paediatrics by:

  • relevant volunteer and part-time work
  • relevant research work

If during or outside your course you are in contact with paediatricians, make it a point to think about talking with them about your progress and career. Even if you spend only a week with someone as a supervisor, it may be appropriate to remain in touch with them to, for example, be aware of research opportunities, discuss career options or learn about how best to secure a training position.

You may have undertaken previous study or have a prior career relevant to paediatrics, such as Allied Health or psychology. This experience may provide a springboard for your learning and additional opportunities.

When you are compiling your curriculum vitae you can tailor it to the position for which you are applying. If you are applying for a paediatric training position, be sure to highlight those occasions during your medical course where you arranged additional paediatric training or clinical experience.

What does paediatric training involve?

Training programs to become a paediatrician vary from country to country and a little between states of Australia. In Australia junior doctors first complete general prevocational training of one or two years before becoming a Basic Trainee of the Royal Australasian College of Physicians (RACP). Following this, a minimum of six years is required to complete training with the RACP. Assessments occur throughout training with major written and clinical examinations held in the third year of Basic Training at the earliest.

In North America junior doctors generally enter straight into specialist training residency programs.

For information about training in paediatrics:

What are some possible career paths?

Paediatricians work in clinical medicine, education, research, population health and many other fields.

It is possible in Australia to subspecialise in the following areas:

  • Cardiology
  • Clinical Genetics
  • Clinical Pharmacology
  • Community Child Health
  • Endocrinology
  • Gastroenterology
  • General Paediatrics
  • Haematology
  • Immunology and Allergy
  • Infectious Diseases
  • Medical Oncology
  • Neonatal/Perinatal Medicine
  • Nephrology
  • Neurology
  • Nuclear Medicine
  • Paediatric Emergency Medicine
  • Palliative Medicine
  • Respiratory Medicine
  • Rheumatology
  • Sleep Medicine