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How to Become an Obstetrician

June 6, 2022
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Is Being an Obstetrician Right for You?Is It Hard to Become an Obstetrician?How Long Does It Take to Become an Obstetrician?Factors to Consider Before Choosing Your SpecialtyFAQs: Becoming an ObstetricianFinal Thoughts

”Jonathan

Reviewed by:

Jonathan Preminger

Former Admissions Committee Member, Hofstra-Northwell School of Medicine

Reviewed: 6/6/22

If you have a goal of becoming an obstetrician, you’ve come to the right place. Here, we will go over the job of an obstetrician: the steps you should take, tips for applying to schools, and how to get the right credentials to make the journey as smooth as possible.

Obstetricians, or OB/GYNs, are medical practitioners and trained surgeons who provide specialized care for those going through pregnancy, labor, delivery, and post-delivery. Their specialty is to diagnose, prevent, or treat any conditions that arise during pregnancy. 

If you are interested in becoming an obstetrician, this article can help you understand what you need to know about the profession. We will go through the process in detail, the cost of it, and how to make the right decision for you.

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Is Being an Obstetrician Right for You?

Before jumping into the decision of becoming an obstetrician, consider the facets of the career. The education you need will require endurance and resilience. After completing a bachelor’s degree, you’ll need to get into med school to complete a doctorate program. Then you must complete a residency before going into practice.

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:

You also have to be available to your patients at any hour, whether virtual, on the phone, or in person. This is especially true if your patient is in their third trimester or high-risk.

An obstetrician often works long hours, which can limit your availability for socialization. You may also feel pressure to work in an industry where there is no room for error. Just like with any medical professional, as an obstetrician, you will be faced with unforeseen circumstances and face some challenging decisions in your career, which will be touched on later.

You should take time to make the decision about becoming an obstetrician. The work may be long and challenging, but if you think you are passionate about a career in women’s health, it can be very rewarding.

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Is It Hard to Become an Obstetrician?

Well, the educational path is lengthy and requires a lot of studying, research, and earning optimal grades. Obstetrics is said to be one of the hardest educational programs to get through. First, you need a bachelor’s degree, preferably something in sciences. Then you go through medical school, after which you have to complete four to six years of residency, which is longer than many other medical areas. As OB/GYNS are also trained surgeons, your curriculum will consist of rigorous, hands-on content.

How Long Does It Take to Become an Obstetrician?

The entire process to become an obstetrician can take many years, you have to work hard and keep a clean academic record while acquiring your license. 

Earn a Science-Based Bachelor’s Degree

It would 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. This will take approximately 4 years.

Pursue Medical School

Search for a medical school program that best coincides with your career goals and personal interests. Make sure you have taken all the coursework needed in their requirements, which likely include anatomy, biology, chemistry, and patient care among others. Once in medical school, be sure to work on your communication skills as you will be doing clinical rotations with professors and certified OB/GYNs. Depending on the program, medical school will take four to seven years.

Earn Your License

You will have to take the United States Medical Licensing Exam (USMLE) during medical school to evaluate your medical knowledge on obstetrics. Apply for the state you wish to start practice. In some states, you may need a license already before you can even start your residency program.

Complete Your Residency

The residency program usually takes three to seven years, which will allow you to gain the necessary experience to effectively practice obstetrics. You will typically have supervised training with patients dealing with gestation and several reproductive health conditions. This will help you decide if you want to pick a specialty to practice. Residency can take up to 4 years.

Meet the Board Certification Requirement

Usually not necessary, but the American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology (ABOG) will provide certification for your specialized subfield if you choose to pick one. Some employers require certified personnel.

Factors to Consider Before Choosing Your Specialty

Even in a career as gratifying as an obstetrician, you must consider the advantages and disadvantages. You have to make a decision based on what works best for you, taking these pros and cons into consideration.

Advantages

These are four of the biggest advantages of becoming an obstetrician. 

Take Care of Women's Health

Obstetrics is a great option for you if you are passionate about helping women, specifically during pregnancy. The career makes you focus on prenatal care during the gestation period and with childbirth. However, there are other health issues they can diagnose and treat like, menopausal issues, breast & cervical cancer, pelvic & urinary infections, and postpartum care. 

Provide General Patient Care

You can choose to take care of clients for years to come, being their primary health care provider. Many women in the US refer to their OB/GYN’s as their primary doctors. This allows you as an obstetrician to receive general medical training, including pap smears, mammograms, and certain immunizations.

Positive Outcomes as OB-GYN 

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 figure out better outcomes in childbirth for both the mother and the baby.

Obstetricians are also able to perform elective surgeries, which offer better results, facilitating procedures such as pelvic surgery and keeping the patient comfortable during delivery.

Make a High Salary

With the 2020 average wage, reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, it can be seen that obstetricians are amongst the highest-paid health occupations in the country. The average OB/GYN earns an annual salary of $239,120.00. This does not include self-employed physicians. OB/GYNs make a median salary of $208,000 as of 2020, 25% being the best paid for the year, while the lowest-paid 25% was at $175,470.00.

Disadvantages

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

Long, Irregular Hours

Working as an obstetrician can make for an erratic schedule. You are almost always on-call, waiting for your patients to go into labor, which can begin at any time of the day. You may have to work nights, weekends, and even holidays. You have to guide your patients through the entire birthing process, which consists of many hours, making your schedule subject to change at any time.

Job Competition

Obstetricians are amongst the most competitive medical careers in which to get employment. The most prestigious programs request only the top residency candidates to work for them, and so many people like you will be fighting for the job. Obstetrics has many applicants and few positions available for residencies. For example, according to reports by Carolina Healthcare, they currently have 30 total openings and over 1,000 applications. 

However, on the bright side, US Bureau of Labor Statistics reports show that the demand for OB/GYNs is expected to increase by 16% from 2016 to 2026, increasing by about 3,400 new jobs.

Controversial Decisions

Objectivity is important when you’re a medical professional treating patients.  You have to accept that some patients may not agree with your medical decisions and may seek a second opinion. Oftentimes, patients use their own personal or religious beliefs to make decisions, but as a medical professional you cannot do that; you must remain unbiased. You are not permitted to advise your patients against such things if it is the best possible option for them.

Gender Bias

If you are male or identify as a man when you are an OB/GYN, you may have to deal with patients’ bias against your experience. Many female-identifying patients prefer the care of a female-identifying doctor for a variety of different reasons. You should know that this may be a point of adversity for you in your career. 

Malpractice Insurance

Just like with every other medical professional, as an obstetrician, you will be at risk for malpractice lawsuits. An obstetrician must always have good insurance to protect their practice if a lawsuit is brought against them. You can get malpractice coverage with annual costs of $200,000.

FAQs: How to Become an Obstetrician

1. What Are Some Subspecialties of an Obstetrician?

There are several subspecialties you can choose to practice in, some are recognized by the American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology, and some are not. They include:

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

Even though obstetricians and gynecologists are about 90% similar in terms of obtaining the licenses, the practices, and their specialties, they focus on two different aspects of the female reproductive system. Obstetrics deals with the care of pregnant patients and unborn babies. They deal with labor, delivery, and immediate postnatal care. An obstetrician ensures that the pregnancy, labor, and delivery are safe, quick, and without complications.

Gynecology deals with reproductive issues or caring for reproductive organs, such as the uterus, fallopian tubes, cervix, vagina, and ovaries. Gynecologists also treat problems that are related to the reproductive system, such as the bowel, bladder, urinary tract, and organs that are very close to the reproductive organs. Gynecologists are also licensed to deliver babies, obstetricians limit their profession to providing pre and post-natal care.

3. What Are Good Majors for an OB/GYN?

Check the websites of medical schools you want to attend for any specific bachelor’s degree requirements, but your best bet is to major in pre-med, biology, chemistry, or biochemistry. These majors consist of laboratory and research components that teach the basic knowledge of medical school. Microbiology, anatomy, and physiology courses can also help you even if they are not required for medical school.

4. What Opportunities Can Help OBGYN Students During Their Education?

There are some helpful resources for you to check out and gain relevant experience, including but not limited to:

Volunteer or extracurricular work: at community clinics

Research and publications: help their faculty department complete field research/lab studies

Sub internship: an experience where students in their fourth year in medical school contribute to patient health plans

Alpha Omega Honor Society Membership: this organization recognizes students for academic and ethical accomplishments in their final years of medical school

5. Is There a Growing Demand for OBYGNs?

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the demand for OB/GYNs is expected to rise by 16% from 2016 to 2026, increasing to about 3400 new jobs. This is said to be faster than the national average, and slightly faster than most other physicians/surgeon jobs.

6. How Does Training for an OB/GYN Compare To Training for Similar Careers?

Many other medical professionals help with reproduction and gestation as well, ranging from doctors to midwives and doulas. Their educational requirements may be similar, involving requiring a bachelor’s degree, medical school, residency, and sometimes even a fellowship. For example, nurses, whether they are pediatric, registered, or regular, must have some college education, pass a national exam and require either a bachelor’s degree or a two-year associate degree, including clinical procedures for them to be certified to practice in labor and childbirth.

7. How Many Years Does It Take To Become an Obstetrician?

Obstetricians typically take 10-12 years to complete their education: four years for an undergraduate degree, then another four years in medical school, then, for internships and residency programs, can range from three to seven years.

Final Thoughts

Helping pregnant people bring children into the world feels like a blessed occupation. It is a very delicate career, where you are dealing with new life. It is important to take the steps and plan out your goals appropriately to achieve your dream of becoming an obstetrician.

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