How Can I Become a Women's Health Specialist?

Research what it takes to become a women's health specialist. Learn about education requirements, licensing, residency programs and salary to find out if this is the career for you. Schools offering Allied Health degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is a Women's Health Specialist?

Also known as obstetricians and gynecologists (OB/GYNs), women's health specialists are physicians who are trained to provide reproductive healthcare for women of all ages. Obstetricians focus specifically on care surrounding pregnancy, while gynecologists provide more general care for diseases and disorders of the female reproductive system. The services that women's health specialists provide include preventive procedures, such as screenings for cervical cancer and sexually transmitted diseases, as well as consultations about family planning, pregnancy wellness and contraception. Some also specialize in such areas as gynecological operations or labor and delivery. Jobs for doctors specializing in women's health can be found in hospitals or in smaller clinical settings.

Take a look at the following chart for an overview of how to enter this field.

Degree Required Bachelor's degree, Doctor of Medicine degree
Education Field of Study Bachelor's - pre-med; Doctor of Medicine - medicine, with residency in obstetrics & gynecology
Key Skills Medical care related to female reproductive system, pregnancy, birth, hormones, menopause
Licensure & Certification Required Physician license required; Board certification available
Job Growth (2014-2024) 18%*
Average Salary (2015) $222,400*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

What Education Do I Need to Become a Women's Health Specialist?

In order to become a women's health specialist, you'll need to complete a bachelor's degree program that can prepare you for medical school. Once you're admitted to one of these 4-year programs, you'll take courses in anatomy, biochemistry, human behavior, pathology and embryology. You'll also complete clinical requirements.

During your third year, you'll have the opportunity to complete OB/GYN rotations. Your program may also allow you to complete OB/GYN clerkships and electives during your fourth year, where you might care for patients in a hospital's labor and delivery department or operating room.

Will I Need to Be Licensed?

In order to become a licensed physician, you'll need to pass the United States Medical Licensing Examination, a 3-part written and practical exam designed to test your general medical knowledge and clinical skills (www.usmle.org). Passing scores on this exam are also required for admission to a residency program, although some programs may only require you to pass the first and second steps.

What Can I Expect from a Residency Program?

Residency programs in obstetrics and gynecology allow you to gain hands-on experience while working under the supervision of experienced clinical staff and faculty members. You can also complete rotations in specialty areas, including prenatal care, gynecologic oncology, pathology, urogynecology and reproductive endocrinology.

Once you've completed the requirements for these 4-year programs, you can begin working as a women's health specialist. You may also attain voluntary certification through the American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology (ABOG).

Should I Pursue a Fellowship?

Fellowship programs provide you with advanced research and clinical opportunities in a subspecialty of obstetrics and gynecology, such as gynecologic oncology, family planning and maternal fetal medicine. These 2-3-year programs can prepare you for additional certification in your subspecialty from the ABOG.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Another career option for medical professionals who want to focus on women's health is a job as a certified nurse midwife (CNM). CNMs provide reproductive healthcare for women before, during and after pregnancy. They need a master's degree in nursing and a license in order to practice. Alternatively, trained doctors may choose to specialize in a different area of medicine. For instance, those who want to focus on children's health may choose a fellowship in pediatrics, while those who are more interested in mental health could enroll in a psychiatry fellowship. Individuals who want to become surgeons could complete a surgery residency.

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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