An OB/GYN (a combination of obstetrician and gynecologist) is a physician who specializes in health issues that are specific to women, such as reproductive and hormonal disorders, pregnancy and fertility, birth control, and menopause. An OB/GYN sometimes acts as a woman's primary physician and provides general care throughout the patient's life, and may also deliver new lives into the world.
Becoming an OB/GYN takes years of education and medical training, plus professional licensure on the national level.
OB/GYN Job Description and Duties: Where Do OB/GYNs work?
Most OB/GYNs work in private practice, but many work in hospitals or health clinics. The job might require some commuting, as an OB/GYN may have to travel from the office to a hospital to care for a patient.
While at work, an OB/GYN's job duties are varied, but can include:
- Taking the patient's medical history and updating information
- Addressing patient concerns and questions, and discussing health issues
- Screening for certain health issues, like reproductive or hormonal disorders, or sexually transmitted diseases
- Ordering tests and reviewing test results
- Designing and recommending treatment plans
- Discussing family planning/birth control options
- Providing pre- and postnatal care
- Performing surgery or labor/delivery procedures
- Assisting women who have been abused or sexually assaulted
Some OB/GYNs may specialize in a specific area of women's health as well, such as endocrinology, oncology, or maternal-fetal medicine.
An obstetrics and gynecology career can be very physically demanding, with unpredictable/overnight hours and a heavy workload. To succeed, you will need to be:
- Compassionate and patient
- An excellent and sensitive communicator, especially when asking and responding to difficult questions
- A good problem-solver, even during a stressful or time-sensitive situation
- A strong team worker, with the ability to adapt to different environments and situations
- Well-organized and a stickler to details
OB/GYN Facts at a Glance
|Mean Annual Salary (2018)||$238,320 (all obstetricians and gynecologists)|
|Job Outlook (2016-26)||16% (all obstetricians and gynecologists)|
|Minimum Education||Undergraduate degree and a degree from a medical school, plus residency work|
|Licensing||Licensing required; specialty certification is voluntary|
|Related Professions||Family doctor, registered nurse (RN) or nurse midwife, doula, pediatrician|
Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
OB/GYN Job Outlook
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that demand for the OB/GYN profession is expected to rise 16% from 2016 to 2026, an increase of about 3400 new jobs. This is faster than the national average, and slightly faster than for most other physicians and surgeons. The BLS indicated that prospects might be better in lower income or rural areas, as doctors have tended to gravitate toward other areas of the country, such as the suburbs.
Educational and Licensing Requirements for the OB/GYN Profession
The road to an OB/GYN career begins with earning an accredited undergraduate degree, which is usually a requirement for entrance to medical school and subsequent OB/GYN training programs. The candidate must also pass the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) before being admitted to a medical school.
During their time at medical school, students will complete academic and practical coursework, and work with patients (under supervision) before entering a residency program, during which the medical student works at a hospital and masters the essential procedures of their chosen practice. An OB/GYN residency program will usually last about four years and cover a range of areas related to women's health and obstetrics.
During the residency and afterwards, the medical student must sit for a series of board examinations to become a licensed physician (M.D. or D.O.). A prospective OB/GYN may also earn specialty certification, such as from the American Board of Obstetrics & Gynecology (ABOG). Additional requirements may vary by state.