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Research the requirements to become an obstetrician-gynecologist. Learn about the job duties and read the step-by-step process to start a career in medicine.
Obstetrician-gynecologists (OBGYNs) work in the area of women's reproductive health and help patients with issues such as family planning, the menstrual cycle, pregnancy, and childbirth. They administer Pap tests and mammograms and help patients deal with complications that include fibroid tumors, infertility, preterm labor, and caesarean births.
OBGYN doctors generally alternate between an office setting and the hospital. As a result, schedules may be irregular and can include late nights, early morning hours, and weekends, depending on the needs of their patients and their on-call schedule. Pay is generally high for all doctors, including OBGYNs, and the job outlook was faster than average, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Obstetrician-gynecologists must earn a bachelor's degree and a medical degree, complete a residency, and obtain a state license to practice. The following table lists the requirements for becoming an OBGYN:
|Degree Level||Doctor of Medicine (MD) degree*|
|Experience||Four-year residency,** optional three-year fellowship for further specialization***|
|Licensure and Certification||State medical license, certification as an OBGYN by the American Board of Medical Specialties*|
|Key Skills||Strong verbal and written communication skills, empathy, problem-solving skills*|
|Computer Skills||Medical software required to manage patients' charts*|
Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), **American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology, ***National Resident Matching Program.
Medical schools tend to look for well-rounded individuals who are interested in helping people and have a strong desire for a career in medicine. They accept students from most majors, though they do require specific coursework in biology, chemistry and statistics along with English, liberal arts and social sciences.
The core curriculum of a medical school program generally lasts four years. In the first two years of most programs, students take courses in cells and tissues, immunology, infectious diseases and the reproductive system, among other subjects. During the second two years, students complete a series of clinical rotations, working with patients under the supervision of licensed physicians in various areas of practice, including obstetrics and gynecology.
Doctors have a chance to immerse themselves in their specialties at the residency level. Obstetrician-gynecologists gain hands-on experience in obstetrics, gynecology and emergency medicine, among other areas. There is often a research and a didactic component to a residency. Students can find residencies through the National Resident Matching Program after obtaining their medical degrees. According to the American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology, gynecology residencies last four years.
All medical doctors must be licensed by their state medical boards in order to practice. Although requirements do vary by state, the licensing process generally involves taking the USMLE and submitting proof of education and training.
Many obstetrician-gynecologists become certified by the American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology (ABOG). Applicants must submit proof of experience and pass both a written and an oral exam. Obstetrician-gynecologists can be further certified in the subspecialties of reproductive endocrinology and fertility, female pelvic medicine and reconstructive surgery, maternal-fetal medicine and gynecologic oncology.
Further training in obstetrics and gynecology is available through three-year fellowship programs at teaching hospitals throughout the country. While optional, fellowship programs provide doctors an opportunity to further specialize and conduct research in areas such as maternal-fetal medicine, pediatric and adolescent gynecology, gynecologic ontology, reproductive endocrinology and family planning. Fellows must already have completed a residency, be ABOG-certified and hold a valid medical license.
All physicians must take a certain number of continuing education units periodically to maintain their licenses. Specialty certification comes with its own continuing education requirements, which can be found through the American Board of Medical Specialties or the American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology.