How to Become an Obstetrician

October 12, 2023


Reviewed by:

Jonathan Preminger

Former Admissions Committee Member, Hofstra-Northwell School of Medicine

Reviewed: 10/11/23

If you’re wondering how to become an obstetrician, you’ve come to the right place. We’ll outline the steps you should take, tips for applying to schools, and how to get the right credentials to make your journey as smooth as possible.

If you’re interested in becoming an obstetrician, we’ll outline what you need to know about the specialization. We’ll review the process in detail, including the obstetric education pathway and how to ensure it’s right for you.

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Steps to Becoming an Obstetrician

This step-by-step guide will teach you how to become an obstetrician. 

Earn a Bachelor’s Degree

It may be best to major in medical science or pre-med programs such as biology and chemistry. That way, you can complete lab experiments and gain hands-on experience and knowledge about the human body. However, you choose any major as long as you take the right prerequisite courses. This will take approximately four years.

Go to Medical School

Search for programs that align with your career goals and interests. Once accepted, you can hone your communication skills as you complete clinical rotations with professors and obstetricians. MD and DO programs are typically four years long. 

Take the USMLE

You must take the United States Medical Licensing Exam (USMLE) during medical school to evaluate your medical knowledge. You must take USMLE Steps 1 and 2 before you attend a residency program. Most students typically take the Step 3 exam after their first year in residency. 

Complete Your Residency

Residencies are typically three to seven years long and allow you to gain the necessary experience and skills to practice obstetrics effectively. You’ll have supervised training with patients dealing with gestation and reproductive health conditions. 

Meet the Board Certification Requirement

Although not mandatory, the American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology (ABOG) will provide certification for a specialized subfield if you choose one. Some employers require certified personnel.

What Does an Obstetrician Do? 

Obstetricians are medical practitioners and trained surgeons who provide specialized care for those going through pregnancy, labor, delivery, and post-delivery. An obstetrician diagnoses, prevents, or treats any conditions that arise during pregnancy.

During antenatal check-ups, obstetricians can: 

  • Check a baby’s growth and position 
  • Conduct routine tests and check-ups
  • Help prepare you for labor and delivery
  • Conduct ultrasounds 
  • Treating health conditions that can impact the pregnancy or the baby 
  • Identifying potential complications and congenital anomalies 

During labor and delivery, an obstetrician may step in to manage complications, emergencies, and interventions, such as performing a cesarean section. After birth, an obstetrician can provide postnatal care for up to six weeks. They discuss contraceptive options and future pregnancies with patients at these postnatal appointments.

How Much Do Obstetricians Make? 

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, an obstetrician’s average annual salary is $277,320. These are the highest-paying industries for obstetricians: 

Industry Salary
Local Government (excluding schools and hospitals) > $208,000 ( although estimated to be higher than other industries in this list)
Physician Offices $281,950
Outpatient Care Centers $291,390
General Medical and Surgical Hospitals $268,150

Source: BLS

Should You Become an Obstetrician? Factors to Consider

Even though a career in obstetrics can be a rewarding path, you must consider the advantages and disadvantages. 


These are the three greatest advantages of becoming an obstetrician. 

Take Care of Women's Health

Obstetrics is a great option if you’re passionate about helping women, specifically during pregnancy. The career focuses on prenatal care during the gestation period and childbirth. 

Positive Outcomes as Obstetrician

Helping bring babies into the world can be a satisfying and beautiful part of your profession. Equipped with the right tools, you can observe and monitor a patient’s pregnancy and determine better outcomes in childbirth for both the mother and baby.

Obstetricians can perform elective surgeries, facilitating procedures such as pelvic surgery and keeping other interventions to keep the patient comfortable during delivery.

Make a High Salary

As with all physicians, obstetricians are some of the highest-paid professionals in the country. Although money shouldn’t be your main motivator, an obstetrician’s annual salary is approximately $277,320. However, salaries can vary depending on location, industry, and experience.


Conversely, there are cons you should consider before making your decision. 

Long, Irregular Hours

Working as an obstetrician can mean navigating an erratic schedule. You may be on-call waiting for your patients to go into labor. You may have to work nights, weekends, and even holidays. 

You must guide your patients through the birthing process, which can take many hours (or even days), making your schedule subject to change at any time.

Job Competition

The obstetrician job market can be highly competitive. The most prestigious openings request only the top residency candidates to work for them, meaning you’re likely to face fierce competition as you search for a job. 

Obstetric positions have many applicants, and few positions are available for residencies. For example, according to reports by Carolina Healthcare, they currently have 30 total openings and over 1,000 applications. 

Additionally, the Bureau of Labor Statistics states that the demand for obstetricians will decrease between 2020 and 2030, resulting in a 2.1% decline in employment growth and approximately 400 jobs lost. 

The Profession Can Be Draining

The obstetric career path requires endurance and resilience. Just like any other medical career, an obstetrician demands quite a lot of you physically, mentally, and emotionally. The ideal characteristics of an obstetrician are:

  • Hard-working
  • Perseverance
  • Patience
  • Good communication
  • Ability to work long/odd hours
  • Empathic/sensitive
  • Prepared to move a lot throughout the day

Possessing these traits can help you succeed as an obstetrician. 

Gender Bias

If you’re a male or identify as a man when you are an obstetrician, patients may request female-identifying physicians. Many female-identifying patients prefer the care of female-identifying doctors for various reasons, so it’s something you should be aware of.

FAQs: How to Become an Obstetrician

Check out these FAQs if you have more questions about becoming an obstetrician.

1. What Are Some Obstetric Specialties?

There are several subspecialties you can choose from. They include:

  • Gynecologic Oncology
  • Female Pelvic Medicine and Reconstructive Surgery
  • Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility
  • Maternal-Fetal Medicine Critical Care
  • Pediatric and Adolescent Gynecology
  • Menopausal and Geriatric Gynecology

2. What Is the Difference Between an Obstetrician and a Gynecologist?

Even though obstetricians and gynecologists are very similar, they focus on two different aspects of the female reproductive system. Obstetrics deals with the care of pregnant patients and unborn babies. 

Gynecology deals with reproductive issues or caring for reproductive organs, such as the uterus, fallopian tubes, cervix, vagina, and ovaries. 

3. What Are Good Majors for an Obstetrician?

Good majors for aspiring obstetricians include a pre-med track, biology, chemistry, or biochemistry. These majors consist of laboratory and research components that teach the basic knowledge you’ll need for medical school. 

Microbiology, anatomy, and physiology courses can also help you even if they are not required for medical school. However, you can choose any major as long as you take the necessary prerequisite courses.

4. Is There a Growing Demand for Obstetricians?

Unfortunately, the trend in previous years showing an upswing in demand for obstetricians has declined. The BLS projects that the demand for obstetricians will decline by 2.1% between 2020 and 2030. 

5. How Long Does it Take to Become an Obstetrician?

It typically takes 12 to 16 years to become an obstetrician: four years in college, another four years in medical school and then three to seven years for internships and residency programs. However, some obstetricians may choose to subspecialize, which can take more time. 

6. Is It Hard to Become an Obstetrician?

The obstetric educational path requires a lot of studying and research. Obstetrics is said to be one of the most challenging specialties. Requirements to become an obstetrician include completing four to six years of residency, which is longer than many other specialties. 

As obstetricians are trained surgeons, your curriculum will consist of rigorous, hands-on content.

7. Can Obstetricians Specialize in Gynecology?

Yes: many obstetricians also specialize in gynecology, making them OB/GYNs. OB/GYNs can also treat and diagnose menopausal issues, breast/cervical cancer, pelvic/urinary infections, and more. They specialize in all facets of female reproductive health, from the patient’s onset of menstruation to menopause.

Final Thoughts

Helping pregnant people bring children into the world feels like a blessed occupation. It’s a very delicate career, where you help patients through a painful yet rewarding experience. Now that you know how to become an obstetrician, it’s important to take the necessary steps and plan your goals appropriately to achieve your dreams.

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