Paediatricians care for the physical, mental and emotional health of children from birth to adolescence.

They examine children at regular intervals to monitor growth and development, prevent problems, as well as to diagnose and treat a wide variety of illnesses or injuries.  They order, perform and interpret diagnostic tests to obtain information on medical conditions and determine the diagnosis. They explain test results or prescribed treatments to parents or guardians, and patients. They prescribe or administer treatment, therapy and medication, and administer immunizations that are available to protect children from diseases such as hepatitis B, diphtheria, polio, measles, and the mumps.  They treat children who have minor illnesses, acute and chronic health problems, and growth and development concerns. They monitor the patients’ condition and progress and re-evaluate treatments as necessary.

They collect, record and maintain patient information, such as medical history, reports and examination results. They advise parents or guardians, patients and community members on health, nutrition, hygiene, disease prevention, development and other aspects of childcare.

When children are chronically ill or handicapped, advice is given to parents and children with regard to special services. Paediatricians may also serve as counsellors in situations ranging from advising parents on infant care to helping adolescents with emotional problems.  They plan and execute medical care programmes to aid in the mental and physical growth and development of children and adolescents, and direct and coordinate activities of nurses, students, assistants, specialists, therapists and other medical staff.  They may operate on patients to remove, repair or improve functioning of diseased or injured body parts and systems.

They work closely with other healthcare professionals to provide children with medical care to the fullest extent possible. Another important part of the job revolves around working with the patients’ parents or guardians to teach them how to provide proper care to their children. This may include tips on improving childhood eating habits, promoting regular exercise, and improving personal hygiene. At times paediatricians consult with, or refer patients to, other specialists.

They provide consulting services to other physicians, plan, implement or administer health programmes or standards in hospitals, businesses or communities for prevention or treatment of injury or illness, and conduct research to study anatomy and develop or test medications or treatments.

Most paediatricians are in private practice.  They work indoors in private rooms and travel to visit patients in hospitals or other health care facilities.  Some have rooms in hospitals or clinics.

How to Enter

Schooling & School Subjects

National Senior Certificate meeting degree requirements for a degree course
Each institution has its own entry requirements.

Note: Competition to enter medical studies is stiff and there are usually many applicants with good grades, who tend to be given preference.

What to Study

Degree: MBChB degree:

  • Theoretical training: 5 years.
  • Student internship: 1 year.
  • Internship: 2 years
  • Community Service: 1 year at an approved medical faculty.

Registration with the Health Professions Council of South Africa (HPCSA) is mandatory for this occupation. Registration as an Independent Medical Practitioner with the HPCSA will only be permitted once all the necessary criteria have been met.

Specialisation in Paediatrics

To specialise in this area, a number of years of post-graduate study will be required.

Consult the HPCSA website for the most up-to-date information relating to this area of specialization. This information can be found in the various sections under the Professional Board for Medical and Dental (and medical science) professionals.
Refer to the medical faculty of the relevant university for additional information.


  • hospitals, community and other health care facilities
  • universities
  • government departments
  • self-employment, in private practice

Further Information

The South African Paediatric Association
Tel: (031) 207-6749

Health Professions Council of South Africa (HPCSA)
P O Box 205
Pretoria, 0001
Tel: (012) 338-9301 Fax: (012) 328-5120

Getting Started

  • try to obtain vacation or part-time work in a hospital
  • take a first aid course
  • arrange to speak to a paediatrician about this type of career