Skip to main content
Mother with new born baby

Becoming a paediatrician

Everything you need to know about becoming a paediatrician
The Children's Hospital Westmead Clinical School takes over 500 medical students each year, many of whom go on to become paediatricians. Our experts share their advice on how to get there.

What is a paediatrician?

Simply put, a paediatrician (spelt pediatrician in North America) 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, as well as in some areas that are strictly paediatric such as 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.

Paediatricians work in clinical medicine, education, research, population health and many other fields. It is possible in Australia to subspecialise in the following areas:

  • Addiction Medicine
  • Adolescent and Young Adult Medicine
  • Cardiology
  • Clinical Diploma in Palliative Medicine
  • Clinical Genetics
  • Clinical Haematology
  • Clinical Immunology/ Allergy
  • Clinical Pharmacology
  • Community Child Health
  • Dermatology (NZ)
  • Endocrinology
  • Endocrinology and Chemical Pathology - RACP/RCPA* joint training
  • Gastroenterology
  • General Paediatrics
  • Haematology - RACP/RCPA joint training
  • Infectious Diseases
  • Infectious Diseases & Microbiology - RACP / RCPA joint training
  • Immunology/ Allergy - RACP/RCPA joint training
  • Medical Oncology
  • Neonatal/Perinatal Medicine
  • Nephrology
  • Neurology
  • Nuclear Medicine
  • Occupational and Environmental Medicine
  • Paediatric Emergency Medicine
  • Palliative Medicine
  • Public Health Medicine
  • Rehabilitation Medicine (general)
  • Rehabilitation Medicine (Paediatric)
  • Respiratory Medicine & Sleep Medicine
  • Rheumatology
  • Royal College of Pathologists of Australasia

How will I know if paediatrics is right for me?

As a Doctor of Medicine (MD) student at the University of Sydney, you can take advantage of opportunities during the course to familiarise yourself with the scope and detail of the work of paediatricians. In addition to team-based learning cases, self-directed learning project and patient-doctor tutorials, you will complete a seven-week child and adolescent health specialty block.

What can I do to help me become a paediatrician?

While you're a student you can gain experience and exposure to paediatrics by undertaking the following activities in paediatrics or related areas:

  • Summer Scholarships
  • MD Research project
  • Elective term
  • Pre-internship term
  • Attachments and placements that allow more exposure to children (eg clinical placements in psychological and addiction medicine)

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

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

If you are in contact with paediatricians, consider 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 CV 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 slightly 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.

Further information
28 November 2018

Related news