How Can I Become an Obstetrician?

Explore the career requirements for obstetricians. Get the facts about education, job duties, licensure requirements and salary to determine if this is the right career for you. Schools offering Health Science degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is an Obstetrician?

An obstetrician is a physician who specializes in women's reproductive health care, focusing specifically on the period before, during and after pregnancy. They conduct medical and surgical procedures for expectant mothers, and they offer family planning and prenatal wellness counseling. Jobs for obstetricians are available at hospitals and in specialized women's health clinics. Some obstetricians choose a specific subspecialty within the field, such as maternal-fetal medicine, reproductive endocrinology/infertility or family planning.

The following chart provides an overview about becoming an obstetrician.

Degree Required Doctor of Medicine (M.D.) or Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (D.O.)
Training Required 4-year residency
Licensure or Certification Medical doctors must be licensed in all states; board certification is available
Key Responsibilities Provide medical care for women during pregnancy, childbirth and after childbirth; deliver babies surgically or naturally; treat complications of pregnancy and childbirth
Job Growth (2014-2024) 18% for obstetricians and gynecologists*
Mean Salary (2015) $222,400 for obstetricians and gynecologists*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)

Get Your Undergraduate Degree

To become a doctor, you must first complete a pre-med undergraduate program at a college or university. Pre-med programs allow you to complete the appropriate science and math courses that are required for admission into medical school. It is also important to be involved in a paid or volunteer job in a medical environment. According to the Association of American Medical Colleges (www.aamc.org), medical schools look very favorably on applicants who have experience in the medical field during their undergraduate careers.

Take The MCAT

The MCAT is the Medical College Admission Test. It is a standardized test that will assess your knowledge of science, math, problem solving, and critical thinking as they pertain to the medical field. Your score on the MCAT has a great influence on the medical school to which you will be accepted. It is recommended by the Association of American Medical Colleges that you sign up to take the MCAT in the fall semester of your junior year in college. You will then take the MCAT the following spring. Scores are typically released the month after taking the exam, which gives you the entirety of your senior year to apply to medical schools.

Go To Medical School

Getting into medical school is highly competitive. Most well-ranked schools only admit a small percentage of applicants. It is in your best interest to apply to multiple schools that have good programs, to increase your chances of acceptance. Good grades in high school and college, as well as a good MCAT score, and a good application and interview are all factors in getting into the program you want. The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (www.acog.org) recommends that you find a member to mentor you through medical school, and guide you on the best path toward becoming an obstetrician.

Medical school takes four years to complete. The first two years are spent in classrooms learning didactically. The last two are spent split between didactic and clinical work. The clinical work allows you to get your first experience working with patients in a medical setting. Clinical work during medical school is highly supervised by trained and licensed physicians.

During medical school, you will also be able to take the United States Medical Licensing Examination (www.usmle.org). The USMLE is a licensing exam that is split into three steps. Steps one and two can be taken during medical school, but step three has to be completed once you obtain your medical degree. The USMLE tests your application ability and comprehension of key medical practice concepts. Step one focuses on system and process. Step two focuses on physician task and disease category. The third and final step is a two-day exam testing your ability to provide the personal responsibility, knowledge, and care essential to medically tending to patients.

Do Your Residency

Medical residency is a three-year (or longer) process in which you are trained in your chosen specialty within the medical profession. In your case, this would mean that you would be doing an obstetrics residency, usually at a teaching hospital. To begin a residency, you need to register with the National Resident Matching Program (www.nrmp.org). This program allows you to list programs that you want to be involved in as a resident to programs that think you fit their definition of an ideal resident. Each year, around 16,000 people apply to be matched through the NRMP. It is during your residency that you will be trained and gain years of experience in obstetrics.

Get Certified

Once completing their residency, obstetricians, who are now licensed to practice medicine in their respective state, through passing the USMLE, become certified as an OB/GYN through the American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology (www.abog.org). Certification requires that you pass a written and oral exam, as well as provide proof of your training and education within the field of obstetrics. Once certified, you will be required to maintain your certification through continuing education opportunities offered both by the ABOG and ACOG.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

For individuals who want to dedicate their careers to treating women during the period surrounding childbirth, another relevant option is a job as a certified nurse midwife (CNM). Like obstetricians, these professionals are qualified to provide medical treatment during labor, as well as during pregnancy and after the birth. This job requires a master's degree in nursing and a license. Alternatively, trained doctors may specialize in a different medical subfield by choosing a different residency option. Possibilities include radiology, pediatrics, psychiatry and internal medicine, among others.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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