About Obstetricians and Gynecologists
An obstetrician-gynecologist (OB-GYN) is a specialist in women’s health. These experts help women before and during pregnancy and childbirth, with responsibilities ranging from conducting ultrasounds and ordering medication to perform gynecological procedures and surgeries, such as colposcopies and biopsies related to the reproductive system.
OB-GYNs combine the comprehensive knowledge of an obstetrician, who focuses on pregnancy care, and a gynecologist, who focuses on a woman’s health throughout her entire life. As such, these medical professionals must understand holistic care and specialized care targeting the reproductive system for their female patients.
Because OB-GYNs combine two bodies of knowledge, the road to becoming one of these specialists is challenging but full of career opportunities. To get there, they must obtain a doctor of medicine or doctor of osteopathic medicine, complete an internship and residency, and pass state-required licensure.
What Education and Experience Are Needed to Become an OB-GYN?
The path to becoming an OB-GYN begins with completing an undergraduate degree — specifically, a Bachelor of Science. Fields such as anatomy, biology, and chemistry provide the foundation needed to continue on to a medical degree. This initial degree provides an introductory experience as well as most students’ first time using lab equipment or learning about basic scientific procedures.
The next major step is to complete a four-year medical degree. Before that, however, candidates need to pass the Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT). The MCAT tests students on their knowledge of biology, chemistry, and physics as well as basic subjects such as reading and writing. Those who begin their education in a pre-med program will study for the MCAT long before they complete their undergraduate degrees. This is an intense, day-long test, and scoring well is essential to acceptance into a competitive medical school.
Many students decide in their third year of medical school that they want to become an OB-GYN. You can get a jump on this decision, however, by considering your interests now and keeping those in mind as you advance academically and professionally. Most people pick a specialization based on the number of procedures they can expect to perform and the degree of expertise needed. OB-GYNs perform lots of procedures and require extensive medical acuity.
Medical school is divided between class time and lab experience. You’ll learn more about basic sciences such as biochemistry and pathology as you begin to narrow your interests and decide what you want to do for your internship and residency. Applying for scholarships and filing the FAFSA can help students thrive at the undergraduate level and throughout their time in medical school.
The final step in the education process is the internship and residency, both of which occur in a hospital. The internship typically lasts a year. Students then begin a residency period that can last up to seven years. However, students are considered employees of the hospital by that point. They are paid and begin to develop the majority of their real-world experience. This includes evaluating patients, recommending treatments, creating care plans, and following up with patients to assess their progress.
To actually work as an OB-GYN, you’ll need the required state licensure. You must also pass the United States Medical Licensing Examination. This three-step test will evaluate your ability to provide safe and effective patient care. Obstetrics and Gynecology Board Certification and other training programs may also be pursued to strengthen your competitiveness as a candidate.
Average Duties, Tasks, and Salary for an OB-GYN
Though OB-GYNs have advanced knowledge of the reproductive system and are critical during pregnancy, they play a broader role in women’s health. On a daily basis, these professionals meet with patients to discuss and treat issues ranging from dietary considerations while pregnant to breast cancer screenings and menopause care.
OB-GYNs deliver babies and provide care for new mothers after their deliveries. They also perform a range of procedures and surgeries, including hysterectomies, trachelectomies, and colporrhaphies. OB-GYNs on average earn approximately $270,000 annually.
As you leave residency and become a certified OB-GYN, you’ll enjoy some exciting advancement opportunities. Many of these professionals go on to run their own practices, but you can also practice at a hospital or a women’s health clinic. OB-GYNs may also continue to narrow their specialization in one of the following fields: maternal-fetal medicine, reproductive endocrinology, gynecologic oncology, and urogynecology.
Though the road to becoming an OB-GYN spans decades, it is a lucrative, challenging career that many find extremely fulfilling. If you want to help women with their health and want to play a key role in delivering newborns, this is an excellent field to be in.