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How to Become an Obstetrician: Education and Career Roadmap

Learn how to become an obstetrician. Research the education and career requirements, training and licensure information and experience required for starting a career in obstetrics.

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Do I Want to Be an Obstetrician?

From the start of a pregnancy through the delivery of the baby, an obstetrician's job is monitoring the health of the mother and child. These specialists are also customarily trained in gynecology and should have a keen interest in all aspects of women's general reproductive health care. This group of professionals must be available on call for both emergencies and childbirth.

Job Requirements

Typically, the profession requires a 12-year educational commitment, including a medical degree and post-graduate training, along with state licensure as a physician. In addition, most obstetricians need to earn board certification. The following table outlines common requirements to become an obstetrician:

Common Requirements
Degree Level Doctorate*
Degree Field Medicine**
Experience 4 years of residency training***
Licensure and Certification A state-issued license is required, voluntary certification is available*
Key Skills Strong verbal and written communication skills, empathy, leadership skills, attention to detail, problem-solving skills, organization skills*
Computer Skills Ability to use calendar and scheduling equipment, medical software and electrosurgical tools**
Technical Skills Knowledge of human anatomy, conditions and treatments related to obstetrics**
Additional Requirements Physical stamina, dexterity*

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), **O*Net Online, ***American Pregnancy Association

Step 1: Earn a Bachelor's Degree

While there is no required major for entrance into medical school, the BLS states that most aspiring doctors earn bachelor's degrees in science disciplines. Some schools integrate premed studies into a student's chosen major to fulfill both degree requirements and medical school prerequisites. Some colleges and universities combine bachelor's and Doctor of Medicine (M.D.) degree programs into 6- or 7-year curriculums instead of the usual 4+4 years of separate study.

Aspiring obstetricians are also required to take and pass the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) in order to gain entrance into medical school. According to the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC), most students take the MCAT exam in the spring or summer after their junior year of study in a bachelor's program. MCAT scores are typically used by admissions boards when deciding to accept an applicant into a medical school program.

Success Tips

  • Participate in a job shadow. According to the AAMC, aspiring obstetricians can benefit from participating in job shadows. Students can arrange to shadow a licensed obstetrician which provides the ability to ask questions and learn more about the career first-hand.

Step 2: Attend Medical School

After earning a bachelor's degree, students must attend a medical school for 4 years to earn an M.D. During the first 2 years of medical school, students usually take lecture courses in anatomy, laboratory science and general health care procedures. During the final 2 years, students gain practical experience examining patients during clinical rotations at local or affiliated hospitals and clinics.

Step 3: Obtain a Medical License

Medical school graduates qualify to take the United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE). All states require doctors who intend to enter public practice to pass the test and obtain a medical license. Licensure is typically required before entering a residency program.

Step 4: Participate in a Residency

With medical training and licensure requirements met, prospective obstetricians must then participate in a 4-year residency program under the direction of one or more licensed obstetricians. Acceptance into an obstetrics and gynecological residency program is competitive, and most accept only a small number of residents per year. During their residency, students receive hands-on training in pregnancy monitoring, delivering babies, gynecological procedures, maternal-fetal medicine, gynecologic oncology, urology, reproductive endocrinology and infertility.

Step 5: Become Board Certified

In addition to earning a medical license, nearly all employers seek obstetricians with board certification in obstetrics and gynecology. The American Board of Physician Specialties offers board certification to physicians who pass both a written and an oral exam and demonstrate experience in the discipline.

Step 6: Continue Education

Obstetricians are required to continue their educations in order to renew licensure and certification. Obstetricians may obtain Continuing Medical Education (CME) credits by completing self-assessment activities or by attending approved courses, seminars and conferences. In addition to satisfying renewal requirements, continuing education can help an obstetrician improve his or her skills while staying current with medical advances.

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