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Medical Education
Medical Student Education

Career Information: Pediatrics

Specialty: Pediatrics

Completed by: Tim Kelly, MD

Date completed/updated: August 2012

  1. What can students do in the 1st and 2nd years to explore and/or prepare for this career?
    Join the Pediatric Interest Group (PIG)! The mission of PIG is to expose interested trainees to the spectrum of careers in Pediatrics through the following activities: Volunteer opportunities - work with children and adolescents in the hospital setting and in the community at large Panels & speakers - listen to experts, specialists, and parents address specific pediatric issues Community resources - connect with members of the multidisciplinary pediatric team, including doctors, nurses, social workers, parents and teachers Career planning - meet and shadow practicing generalists, subspecialists and residents Academics/Education - learn about interesting research Visit the website at for more information and links. In addition, look carefully for Pediatric Electives or affiliated activities offered by the School of Medicine (such as Health Hut). Think broadly and creatively, but get involved in community service that has children or children's health as an important part of the mission. Things like tutoring or health education at a local school, "Big Brother/Big Sister" organizations, your church group, etc., ANYthing that gets you exposed to children and their issues so you can really know if you want children to be the focus of your career, in whatever subspecialty in the future.

  2. What common variations exist in the length/content of residency programs for this career?
    Residency training leading to Board Eligibility in Pediatrics is usually 33 months long, done in usually 3 years. There are some "short-track" options (2 years) for a few qualified candidates wishing to hasten their entry into fellowship, and many residencies also offer "long-track options" to accommodate additional time taken for other reasons (family, health, international work, research, etc.).

  3. What common variations exist in this career after training?
    An incredible diversity! Pediatricians influence the health of children in many exciting ways: in the clinics, at the bedside, in the laboratory, in the legislature or even the courts! MANY different combinations of these activities serve as the basis for meaningful and rewarding full or part-time careers in Pediatrics.

  4. What is a typical work day for someone in this field?
    A "typical" workday for me might frighten some people! Remember, there are usually full OR part-time positions in whatever area you decide to work. In general, people who work in "academics" have the additional expectation of teaching and/or doing research, so this may add time and/or activities to one's schedule. Someone working in an office or clinic may have an 8 or 9am start, an hour for "lunch" (which is often catching up on paperwork!) and the office might see the last patient by 5pm. Many ambulatory pediatricians participate in "after hours" activities such as an Urgent Care Clinic or Telephone Advice on a rotational basis (every 4th to every 6th night).

  5. What is the culture of this career?
    The culture of Pediatrics involves compassion and caring, optimism and fun. This is a humane profession, with an emphasis on tolerance and diversity of our patients and each other.

  6. How compatible is this career with raising a family? How is this different for men and women?
    Pediatrics is very compatible with raising a family. Two-thirds of current residents are women, and females account for at least 60% of the active work force in Pediatrics, so the issue of having and raising children is always on people's minds. Because of the flexibility inherent in the practice of Pediatrics, pediatrician parents can usually create a schedule that can accommodate parenting duties.

  7. What are the most important qualities or character traits for a person in this field?
    Pediatricians must really like children and families, and truly enjoy working with various ages of kids. Compassion, a sense of humor, resilience and being able to handle being humbled by people much, much smaller than you are also helpful traits! It is extremely helpful to be tolerant and flexible, and to really keep an open mind about what constitutes a "family", as there are many variations on the family unit that clearly promote the health and well-being of the child.

  8. How competitive are the residency programs in this field?
    Popularity of all primary care disciplines is cyclical, and therefore competition varies. At the present time, statistically, competition for matching a residency training position in ANY Pediatric program is not as competitive as other fields in that there are often a few more positions offered than there are U.S. graduates applying for them (1800 US graduates applying for 2500 Match positions). Although competition for some of the more geographically popular or "top" programs can be intense, UCSF students have historically done very well in securing a top choice residency.

  9. How competitive is the job market after residency?
    Well-trained pediatricians are often in demand, even in competitive areas such as the Bay Area, Southern California ,etc.

  10. What programs have been popular among UCSF applicants, or how should applicants go about considering programs?
    Almost every accredited residency in this country provides a truly excellent education, otherwise they would lose their accreditation, as all programs are thoroughly audited every 3 to 5 years. There are currently 198 accredited residency training programs in Pediatrics. The issue is often about how well a resident "fits" with the mission and culture of the program and vice versa. Size, academic rigor, location, "reputation", the physical plant and how happy the residents are with their program are all variables that should be considered when thinking about what is a "top" program for YOU. Some medium-sized, less well-known programs that put the entire educational focus on residents (as opposed to diluting that focus with fellows) are often some of the best programs in the country. Medium to large programs (which usually guarantees sufficient clinical breadth and depth) that are intimately connected to a highly reputable medical school are often considered "top tier."

  11. What resources (eg, websites, books, professional groups) would you recommend for students interested in learning more about this field?
    The single best resource for students to learn more about the field is in the American Academy of Pediatrics webpage. The main page is (browse's amazing!), then follow the link through the "Professional Resources" button on the top of the page to "Pediatric Careers" and then choose "Pediatrics 101 or Quick Fact Sheet”. The direct link is

  12. How important is each the following for admission to a competitive program?


    Very Important

    Somewhat Important

    Not Important


    volunteer work




    Very important, especially activities that are in service of children or activities that emphasize a leadership or development role (as opposed to just participation).





    Very important if you are coming in on the "Physician Scientist ticket", but less so if the direction you seem to be headed is more clinical or advocacy/policy-focused.

    Honors in third year




    It would be helpful to get a few honors in some clerkships. It is not necessary to get honors in core Pediatrics, but should then have honors in some other clerkships (like Medicine or Family Medicine).





    Helpful, but not necessary





    Most programs expect ONE "advanced clinical experience" (sub-I) to document your ongoing commitment to and certainty about your career choice. The sub-I also generates a high-level, recent, and clinically focused letter of recommendation for you.





    Programs recognize that visiting students are a strong pool of applicants because the applicant and program get to know each other so well during the month, and both parties can more reliably recognize a great "fit" for each other. "Auditions" are best done with a specific program or geography target in mind, but doing an away rotation just to experience a different culture is also encouraged.