A pediatrician holds a toddler

Pediatrician vs. Pediatric Nurse: What's the Difference?

If you want to work in the medical field, it may seem confusing and daunting to try to figure out which occupation is the best fit for you. Between a physician assistant, licensed physician, registered nurse, nurse practioners, and medical assistants, it can be confusing to figure out which is which and who does what. If you know that you’d like to go into pediatrics, for instance, there are pediatricians and pediatric nurses. If you’re feeling confused about the differences between the two, then read on below.


The primary differences between pediatricians and pediatric nurses are education and licensure. A pediatrician is a licensed physician who specializes in the subfield of pediatrics. This means that a licensed pediatrician has obtained a bachelor’s degree, a doctor of medicine, and has competed extensive training through a residency program. Pediatric nurses, on the other hand, received their bachelor’s degree in nursing to become a registered nurse. From there, they’ve done most of their work in pediatrics and have thus been labeled a pediatric nurse based on experience.


Pediatricians are licensed to diagnose and treat illness through a number of means. Pediatricians can perform surgeries, prescribe medicine, order exams, and set bones. Nurses, on the other hand, are trained and licensed to assist doctors in treating patients, but they are not licensed to perform surgery, prescribe medicine, or diagnose illnesses.

Job Description

Pediatricians typically work in private practices or hospitals and make rounds to see child and adolescent patients. They may perform surgery or tend to yearly checkups depending on their work environment and subspecialty. Pediatric nurses, on the other hand, are more likely to see patients before the pediatrician comes in to ask routine questions, take measurements, and fill out preliminary reports. Pediatric nurses also assist pediatricians with giving immunizations and keeping developmental records.


One of the primary differences that someone comparing a career as a pediatrician versus a career as a pediatric nurse should consider is the difference in pay. While pediatric nurses are likely to make around $65,000 per year on average, pediatricians are more likely to make around $180,000 per year. These differences are associated with education differences, demand, and job responsibilities. Both occupations are valuable and necessary occupations for the health and care of child and adolescent patients, but there tends to be a greater need for highly-education pediatric specialists than there is for pediatric nurses. 

Last Updated: July 28, 2015