How to Become an OB/GYN Doctor: Career Roadmap

Research the requirements to become an obstetrician-gynecologist. Learn about the job duties, and explore the step-by-step process to start a career in medicine.

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Should I Become an OBGYN Doctor?

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.

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Career Requirements

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, basic computer skills and familiarity with medical software
Salary (2015) $200,634 (median)

Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology, National Resident Matching Program, PayScale.

Step 1: Earn a Bachelor's Degree

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.

Success Tips:

  • Prepare for the MCAT. The Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) is required for entrance into accredited medical schools. The exam includes questions on physical and biological science and tests students' verbal reasoning and cognitive abilities. Some students take practice exams and form study groups to prepare; supplementary preparatory courses are also available that can be taken in person or online.
  • Build leadership skills. Medical schools tend to look for individuals with leadership abilities. Students can lead projects in school, take leadership courses or take on leadership roles in extracurricular or volunteer activities.

Step 2: Obtain a Medical Degree

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.

Success Tip:

  • Review the state licensing requirements. Some states require that residents take parts of the United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE) prior to beginning a residency, and some state boards issue residents' licenses. According to the USMLE website, most students take part one of the exam at the end of the second year of medical school and part two at the end of the fourth year of medical school, prior to beginning the residency.

Step 3: Complete a Residency

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.

Success Tip

  • Carefully consider your residency options. The American Medical Association points out that medical students should consider some key aspects when searching for a residency. These include program stability, support from peers and superiors, schedules (whether they are flexible or include night, weekend and on-call hours), possibility for advancement and location.

Step 4: Obtain a License

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. Find out the requirements for your state, and refer to the American Medical Association puts out a publication on state medical licensure requirements and statistics that can help prospective doctors wade through this challenging process.

Step 5: Become Board-Certified

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.

Step 6: Complete a Fellowship

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.

Step 7: Keep Current in Continuing Education

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.

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