Careers in Obstetrics and Gynecology: Requirements, Duties, and Salary
We commonly think of sex and babies when it comes to the gynecologist, but your OB-GYN also plays a huge role in your preventative care and overall health. As an expert in women’s health, an obstetrician-gynecologist focuses primarily on the reproductive system.
A career in obstetrics and gynecology can be rewarding and lucrative. Still, it requires many years of schooling, in addition to several more years of actual on-the-job training. As an OB-GYN, you have the potential to earn over $250,000 each year in a rewarding and exciting career that both delivers and saves lives.
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Obstetrician and Gynecologist Job Description
An OB-GYN is far different from a family physician because while some family physicians might provide basic gynecological care, an OB-GYN is equipped to handle more specialized or severe cases relating to reproductive health.
OB-GYNs have a number of responsibilities, such as the following:
- Reproductive health, including preventive health screenings and care, cancer, and sexually transmitted diseases.
- Family planning, including birth control management and fertility treatments.
- Pregnancy, including prenatal care, labor, delivery, and postnatal care.
- Menopause and hormonal disorders, including testing, diagnosis, and treatment.
- Sexual assault and trauma, including testing, counseling, and reporting as requested by the patient and required by law.
Physicians may be assisted by a range of support staff such as registered nurses, physician assistants, nurse midwives, and imaging specialists.
Obstetrician and Gynecologist Average Annual Salary
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) shows that OB-GYNs in the United States earn a mean hourly wage of $114.58, or $238,320 annually. The following national wages are from May 2018:
|Position||Hourly Mean Wage||Annual Mean Wage|
|Management of companies and enterprises||$123.49||$256,860|
|General medical and surgical hospitals||$103.59||$215,470|
|Outpatient care centers||$109.98||$228,750|
|Colleges, universities, and professional schools||$80.65||$167,760|
|Medical and diagnostic laboratories||$135.42||$281,680|
West Virginia, Nevada, and New Mexico offer the highest paying OB-GYN jobs, with the most jobs available in Connecticut, Hawaii, and Vermont.
How to Become an Obstetrician or Gynecologist
You cannot become an OB-GYN overnight. The position requires years of study, with significant financial investment for both a college education and medical school.
Both gynecology and obstetrics are treated the same for educational purposes. There is plenty of crossover, but gynecologists focus more on long-term reproductive care, while obstetricians narrow their focus to pregnancy and childbirth.
The path to become an OB-GYN begins with an undergraduate degree from an accredited four-year college. Your performance there determines whether you are accepted into medical school. You must also satisfactorily pass the Medical College Admission Test, or MCAT. The average college student accepted into medical school in 2019 held a mean GPA of 3.58 and a mean MCAT score of 506.1.
After medical school, you begin your residency that provides you with an opportunity for on-the-job training in the actual workplace. The exact length of your education and training will depend on your specialty.
There are many subspecialties of obstetrics and gynecology that allow you to focus on specific areas of reproductive health, such as maternal-fetal medicine, reproductive endocrinology, or oncology.
Also required is an OB-GYN residency program from a school accredited by the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME). This is typically a four-year program where most of your time will be spent at a hospital.
Equal focus is given to primary and preventive care, with four sets of rotations to complete: obstetrics, gynecology, gynecologic oncology, reproductive endocrinology, and ultrasonography.
Your residency will further finetune your soft and hard skills to develop the skills employers want. You will also spend time working in areas such as ambulatory care, diagnostic pelvic and transvaginal ultrasound, and lower urinary tract dysfunction.
In your final year, you will serve as a chief resident before completing the program.
After you successfully complete your residency, you will be eligible to apply for certification. The American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology (ABOG) will administer your exams and provide certification once you pass.
The specific requirements for licensing depend on where you live. Each state has different requirements for licensure. Some additional certifications may also be required, depending on your specialty.
Job Outlook for OB-GYNs
It’s easy to focus on the big paycheck when deciding whether to become an OB-GYN, but there’s more to consider. Job security is critical because medical school is an enormous investment. Not everyone will be comfortable dealing with intimate subjects every day — even if the paycheck is impressive.
It is important to obtain a well-rounded picture of your future as an OB-GYN before deciding to move forward.
Job Security and Growth
There is a 16% job-growth rate expected for all obstetricians and gynecologists in the span of a decade from 2016 to 2026.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics expects that this growth will deliver an additional 3,400 new jobs to the field. This makes it one of the fastest-growing industries in the country.
Many physicians choose to work from the comfort of their own private practice, but regardless of where you work, you will still spend a lot of time in your local hospitals. Public and private health clinics typically offer a group of physicians who work together, and sometimes these facilities are overseen by the government, which can provide the added advantage of federal employee benefits.
Childbirth and labor can last for hours, easily moving from day into night and day again. As an OB-GYN, you will face a largely unpredictable and demanding schedule that often allows you little to no personal time to prepare for the long hours ahead. As birth knows no schedule, neither will you.
Should You Become an OB-GYN?
There are many kinds of doctors, but not all types of medicine call for as much compassion and discretion as obstetrics and gynecology. As an OB-GYN, you must be patient for those long hours of labor ahead and calm and collected for the complicated pregnancies and severe postpartum ailments.
This is a position that requires a lot of discretion, with emotional highs and lows that demand sensitivity. You need to be an excellent communicator so you can draw out the information you need, while also helping to counsel your patient to a healthy emotional state.
OB-GYNs work in a team environment with all kinds of other doctors and health professionals, creating a workplace where communication, collaboration, and teamwork all become very important.
As an OB-GYN, you hold a lifetime commitment to the very spirit of life. You plan for it, you birth it, and you save it every day. Your schedule and your time will not always be your own, but as an obstetrician and gynecologist, that is the entire point.
For many, the ability to bring new life into the world and enrich lives every day is well worth the time and expense that it takes to become an obstetrician-gynecologist.
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This post was updated January 23, 2020. It was originally published January 23, 2020.