Becoming an Obstetrician and Gynecologist
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A Career Guide to Obstetrics and Gynecology

Published on December 7, 2009.

Job Duties

Obstetricians and Gynecologists are doctors whose specialty is women's health (including reproduction). They see a woman across the spectrum of her life development, from birth control needs to pregnancy, though perimenopause and menopause. Obstetricians and gynecologists test for cancer and disease through pap smears and yearly vaginal and breast exams. They also advise women to receive mammograms. They advise on all kinds of issues related to reproductive health, and are first in line for referrals when a specialist is need.

Obstetricians and gynecologists are trained to provide surgery (c-section) in difficult birthing situations. Sometimes a woman will choose an ob-gyn as her regular physician and get the majority of her health care through the ob-gyn office. They advise women on all kinds of issues related to her health as a female, including the best kind of birth control for her situation, how to do a breast exam, or general health advice about diet and exercise.

Job Skills

An ob-gyn must be a trained and skilled doctor with a special interest in women's health issues. Ob-gyns need to have a wealth of information related to cervical, vaginal, and breast diseases as well as pregnancy, birth, and menopause. The best ob-gyns are patient, compassionate, emotionally stable, and respectful, with a bedside manner that inspires confidence and trust from their patients. They understand the full developmental spectrum of a female from early teenage issues through post-menopause. They will have surgical skills, diagnostic ability, and know when to refer to another specialist. Because obstetrics and childbirth is unpredictable, obstetricians should be flexible and ready to work at a moment's notice.


Obstetricians and gynecologists are licensed medical doctors and as such are one of the higher paid careers in the United States. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2008 the median annual wage of ob-gyns was at least $166,400. Top earners can make over $200,000 annually, the BLS reports.

Training and Education

Like other doctors, obstetricians and gynecologists need to first complete medical school (four years following a college degree) then take part in a residency which gives them specific experience in the area of obstetrics and gynecology. This residency can last 2 to 6 years and is quite demanding. They then must qualify for licensure, which varies from state to state.

In undergraduate school students take classes related to medicine and the sciences such as organic chemistry and biology. The education they get in medical school provides a general basis (biology, anatomy and physiology, medical ethics etc.) while the residency prepares them for the particular needs of the ob-gyn profession. Ob-gyn residents are carefully supervised by senior ob-gyns as they learn all the skills necessary for this important profession.


Obstetricians and gynecologists work in both very rural settings and busy cities. They are found in their own free-standing practices, in group practices, in clinics, and in hospitals. Sometimes they work in conjunction with a mid-wives group. They work varying hours, especially as they must be "on call" at times to deliver babies or for pregnancy emergencies. Some obstetricians and gynecologists are also employed by universities, and work either teaching their specialty to medical students or research issues related to women's health.

Job Outlook

The outlook for physicians and surgeons in general is good, expected to grow 14% from 2006 to 2016. This will be faster than the average profession. There will continue to be a robust need for obstetricians and gynecologists as women have many health needs which ob-gyns are uniquely poised to address. The need for obstetricians is expected to particularly high in rural areas.

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