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Difference Between OB-GYN & Gynecologist

While there is some overlap, the careers of OB-GYNs and gynecologists differ. Here, we'll explore those differences, including salary, employment prospects, scope of practice, and day-to-day duties.

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Comparing OB-GYNs to Gynecologists

Both OB-GYNs and gynecologists play a vital role in women's health care. Practitioners in these fields administer both treatments and preventative care for women's reproductive health concerns, and, in doing so, promote the reproductive--and overall--wellbeing of their patients. Despite this shared mission, however, there are a number of key differences between the roles played by gynecologists and OB-GYNs within the medical community. Below are some of the notable similarities and differences between these two careers in women's health.

Job Title Education Requirements Median Salary (2017)* Job Growth (2014-2024)**
OB-GYN Doctorate $204,981 18%
Gynecologist Doctorate $174,906 (for all family physicians) 10% (for all family physicians)

Sources: *PayScale, **U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)

Responsibilities of OB-GYNs vs. Gynecologists

Although both gynecologists and OB-GYNs are medical doctors in the field of women's health, the scope of practice for these two careers differs considerably. According to the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHHD), a gynecologist is a doctor whose focus is on the routine care of the female reproductive system, including the treatment of diseases and disorders specific to women. An OB-GYN, on the other hand, is a practitioner in both obstetrics (OB) and gynecology (GYN). Because of the addition of obstetrics in an OB-GYN's practice, these doctors are also specially trained to work with pregnant and postpartum women, aiding in prenatal care, child delivery, and recovery after childbirth.

OB-GYN

An OB-GYN is a medical practitioner who has chosen to specialize in both obstetrical and gynecological medicine. These doctors are trained to work with patients of all ages, although they tend to work most often with women of childbearing age, including those who are currently or have recently been pregnant. On the gynecological side, these practitioners can provide their patients with the preventative care and treatments essential to their reproductive health, including pap smears, breast exams, and managing sexually transmitted infections (STIs). On the obstetrical side, OB-GYNs are responsible for ensuring the continued health of their patients through pregnancy and childbirth; for these patients, OB-GYNs perform ultrasounds and genetic screenings, conduct routine check-ups to ensure that the pregnancy is progressing as it should, and aid women through both vaginal and cesarean deliveries. Because of the OB-GYNs' essential role in their patients' labor and delivery, this career can often involve demanding--and sometimes erratic--hours for its practitioners. However, it also offers those who choose this path a broader scope of practice than those who choose to specialize in just obstetrics or gynecology.

Job responsibilities of an OB-GYN include:

  • Providing patients with prenatal care
  • Assisting women with family planning, including birth control and fertilization treatments
  • Performing abortions
  • Helping women through the postpartum healing process
  • Conducting mammograms, vaginal examinations, and other routine women's health procedures

Gynecologist

A gynecologist is a doctor whose primary scope of practice is the maintenance of women's reproductive health. These practitioners are responsible for conducting regular check-ups on their patients, taking into account age and genetic risk factors that may affect the continued reproductive wellbeing of the women they care for. They may also administer medications and treatment plans in order to deal with a variety of women's health issues, including polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), STIs, urinary tract infections (UTIs), breast abnormalities, and fertility concerns. As part of their training, gynecologists are taught to recognize the signs of potentially significant women's health problems, such as breast and cervical cancer, and can help their patients seek out care plans for these diseases in their early stages. Because gynecologists' focus is primarily on health maintenance, much like a family physician, practitioners in this field may be afforded a greater degree of flexibility in their hours and work environment than those in other areas of women's health.

Job responsibilities of a gynecologist include:

  • Advocating for women's health and safety
  • Performing genetic screenings to determine risk factors for certain reproductive health concerns
  • Performing bone density assessments for patients at risk of osteoporosis
  • Educating patients about safe sex practices
  • Ensuring women's reproductive and overall wellbeing through gender-specific medical care

Related Careers

For those interested in becoming an OB-GYN, a career as a nurse midwife may be worth considering, as both jobs focus on the maintenance of women's health through pregnancy and childbirth. For those interested in becoming a gynecologist, a career as a family physician offers a similar focus on routine health maintenance but on a broader spectrum.

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