Obstetrician-Gynecologist Education Requirements: Program Overviews

Obstetricians and gynecologists (OB/GYNs) are physicians who have specialized education and training to diagnose and treat women's health concerns like breast cancer, pregnancy and reproductive system conditions. The common route to becoming an OBGYN is to earn an undergraduate degree, graduate from medical school and complete a residency at a hospital prior to certification.

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Obstetrician-Gynecologist Education & Residency Programs

Becoming an obstetrician-gynecologist (OBGYN) requires about 12-15 years of education and practical experience. The first eight years are general medical training. Doctors begin to specialize in OBGYN practice during residency programs that begin following graduation from medical school. The typical educational preparation for an obstetrician-gynecologist often looks like this:

  • Bachelor's degree - 4 or more years of classroom instruction with any major, as long as science prerequisites are met
  • Medical school degree - 2 years of classroom instruction, followed by 2 years of clinic or hospital training
  • OBGYN residency - 4 to 7 years providing patient care in a clinic or hospital
  • State licensure and board certification

Education Prerequisites

Most OBGYN residency programs require potential candidates to have earned a bachelor's degree and a medical school degree, either a Doctor of Medicine (M.D.) or a Doctor of Osteopathy (D.O.). Medical schools accept applicants with any undergraduate major; a bachelor's degree need not be from a pre-med program. Some obstetrician-gynecology residency programs also require that applicants complete a minimum number of years in direct patient care through postgraduate experience or in medical school. International medical school graduates must earn Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates (ECFMG) certification to be considered.

Program Coursework

OBGYN residency programs tend to adhere to a year-by-year schedule, where residents are given increasing responsibilities and hands-on experiences:

  • Year 1: Introduction to patient care, including rotations in critical care, gynecologic surgery and outpatient treatments
  • Year 2: Increased exposure to obstetrics along with a continuity clinic, which is a resident-run, faculty-administered facility
  • Year 3: Residents spend more time in surgery and are given increased patient care responsibilities
  • Year 4: Residents are given titles such as chief resident associate, and typically work for six months in gynecologic surgery and six months in obstetrics, providing independent patient care as well as supervising junior residents.

Employment Outlook and Salary Info

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the job outlook for physicians and surgeons in general is predicted to be better than the average for all jobs. The BLS expected employment for these occupations to increase by 24% during the 2010-2020 decade. In May 2012, the BLS estimated the mean yearly salary for obstetricians and gynecologists at $216,760, and found that the majority of them find employment in physicians' offices, hospitals and outpatient care centers.

Continuing Education and Licensure Information

OBGYNs must also complete state licensure requirements and pass two board exams for certification before they can practice. State licensure is accomplished via the United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE), and the board exams are split, with one given immediately after residency completion and the other after two years of OBGYN practice.

Some of the related subspecialties in which OBGYNs can also pursue certification include reconstructive pelvic surgery, maternal and fetal medicine, reproductive endocrinology and gynecologic oncology.

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