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Obstetrician-Gynecologist Education Requirements: Program Overviews

Nov 08, 2019

Learn about the lengthy and specialized education and training process prospective obstetrician-gynecologists need to complete in order to enter the field and begin treating women's health issues.

An obstetrician-gynecologist, abbreviated as OBGYN, is a physician who oversees the care of women during pregnancy and childbirth (obstetrician) and who specializes in the treatment of female reproductive health conditions (gynecologist). Some OBGYNs offer health services across both fields while some will just specialize in one of them.

The table below summarizes key obstetrician-gynecologist career information:

Education Bachelor's degree and medical degree
Training Residency and fellowship programs
Licensure and Certification License criteria vary in each state but every state requires candidates to pass the United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE). Certification is administered by the American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology (ABOG).
Median Salary (2018) $238,320*
Job Outlook (2018-2028) 7%*

*U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

How to Become an Obstetrician-Gynecologist

The traditional pathway to becoming an OBGYN is to first complete an undergraduate degree then undertake a medical degree program in medicine or osteopathy. Once a candidate has obtained their medical degree, they will then need to complete a residency program at a hospital after which they can then get certification.

The above pathway consists of 12-15 years of education, training, and accrual of practical experience. The initial eight years consists of equipping students with foundational medical knowledge and general medical training. It is only after this that students will begin to specialize in obstetrics/gynecology during their residency program. Once candidates become established and experienced OBGYNs, they can then seek specialty certification for OBGYNs.

Obstetrician Education Requirements

Undergraduate Education

This is where the OBGYN career pathway begins, so the choice of bachelor's degree is an important decision. Bachelor's programs in biology, chemistry, and psychology represent ideal choices for an OBGYN major. These programs will typically enable students to complete the relevant foundational science and math needed for more advanced study later on. They also often offer pre-med tracks so that aspiring doctors can receive the most appropriate preparation for medical school. Undergraduate students can even look into online pre-med colleges. Students keen on a career as an OBGYN can get an even more specialized head start by using their spare time to take OBGYN courses online.

During a bachelor's program, usually in the first or second year, prospective doctors will take the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) which is required for a medical school application.

Medical School

OBGYNs can complete a Doctor of Medicine (M.D.) or a Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (D.O.) degree, both of which take four years to complete. These programs prepare students for practice in general medicine but will include courses that are directly relevant to OBGYN practice such as reproductive medicine, immunology and infectious diseases. Medical school tuition varies by state and school but, according to the Association of American Medical Colleges, the average cost of in-state tuition, fees, and health insurance at a public school was $36,755 per year in 2018-19, taking into account reduced costs due to common scholarships and grants.

Obstetrician-Gynecologist Education Programs

The next step in the OBGYN education/training pathway is to complete a residency program. OBGYN residency programs last four years and give residents intense exposure to general obstetrics and gynecology and a variety of related sub-specialties which should satisfy all aspiring obstetrician and gynecologist education requirements.

Participants are given increasing responsibilities as they progress through each year. In year one, residents are immersed in training in the fundamentals of patient care by way of rotations in obstetrics, gynecologic oncology, critical care and outpatient treatments amongst others.

In year two, residents are required to gain even more experience in obstetrics as well as being introduced to more sub-specialties and perhaps spending time in a community clinic to gain more hands-on experience.

Year three requires residents to gain experience in surgery and become more exposed to advanced procedures such as minimally invasive hysterectomies.

Year four sees program participants functioning as the chief resident which affords junior staff privileges. Chief residents will normally work for six months in gynecologic surgery and six months in obstetrics. At this stage, they will work independently in terms of surgery, labor/delivery and in providing outpatient services in clinics such as colposcopy and hysteroscopy. Residents in year four will also supervise junior residents.

OBGYN Job Outlook and Salary Information

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicts that job growth for physicians and surgeons between 2018-2028 will be 7%. The BLS also suggests that the mean salary for obstetricians and gynecologists as of May 2018 was $238,329.

Licensure and Certification

OBGYNs, as with all medical doctors, need to obtain licensure from their state medical board in order to practice. License requirements vary from state to state but usually candidates must take the United States Medical License Examinations (USMLE).

Certification can be obtained with the American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology. The process can be started in the fourth year of a residency program and candidates must pass a qualifying exam and a certifying exam. Subspeciality certification in areas such as gynecologic oncology and maternal-fetal medicine, can also be sought by maintaining OBGYN certification, completing a fellowship program (36 months minimum), passing a qualifying and certifying exam and presenting a case list.

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