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What Are the Education Requirements to Be a Gynecologist?

What is a gynecologist? A gynecologist is a physician whose job involves providing healthcare services to women. Read on to learn more about how to become an OB/GYN (obstetrician/gynecologist), including the educational requirements for entering this medical specialty.

Gynecologist Education Requirements

A gynecologist is a medical doctor, and, as such, the education requirements to enter this career are lengthy. This path includes earning an undergraduate degree and a Doctor of Medicine as well as completing residencies and fellowships.

Bachelor's Degree Requirements

The first stem to this career is earning a bachelor's degree. Typically, medical schools don't mandate a specific major, though nearly all of them require coursework in biology, chemistry, organic chemistry, and physics. While there are not specific OBGYN majors, some schools offer pre-med majors or pre-med courses of study that you can take in addition to your major. Pre-med programs include all the required science courses, along with math, liberal arts, and courses that bridge the sciences and liberal arts, such as bioethics and medical anthropology.

Medical School

Becoming a gynecologist requires completion of a Doctor of Medicine (M.D.) program at medical schools with good OB/GYN programs. Typically, the program takes four years. The first two years cover topics in anatomy, physiology, and the sciences, as well as the multiple systems of the human body and diseases and illnesses associated with those systems. During years three and four, you may begin to take part in clinical clerkships, in which you rotate through many areas of medicine, including general practice, surgery, obstetrics, and gynecology.

Residency

To continue your training and become specialized in gynecology, you must complete a residency program. A residency is like a paid internship in which you work under supervision in order to gain experience in your specialty field. Residencies are typically four years in length. In an OB/GYN residency, you should gain a comprehensive understanding of all aspects of the specialty, as well as subspecialties of gynecological surgery and reproductive endocrinology.

Fellowship

Once you've completed a residency program, you might choose to gain additional training in one of the subspecialties of gynecology through a fellowship program. Fellowships can be found in gynecologic oncology, female reconstructive surgery, and maternal-fetal medicine, among other areas. Depending on the subspecialty, a fellowship program can require an additional three to four years of training.

Licensure and Certification

Physicians and surgeons are required to be licensed in all states. This means that you must graduate from an accredited medical school and pass a three-step exam called the United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE). Steps 1 and 2 are taken while you are still in medical school, usually at the ends of your second and fourth years, respectively. Step 3 is typically taken during your first or second year in residency.

Board certification in your specialty is optional, but it can be helpful because it can boost your patients' confidence in your abilities. To earn board certification, you must complete a residency program and then pass an exam. Maintaining your board certification requires that you engage in lifelong learning and demonstrate both cognitive and practical expertise in your specialty.

What Is Gynecology and What Is the Gynecologist Job Description?

Gynecology is a medical specialty that focuses on women's reproductive health. The field addresses the diagnosis and treatment of issues that affect women. Typically, gynecologists have also studied obstetrics, and they're oftentimes known as obstetrician/gynecologists (OB/GYNs). According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the job description for obstetricians and gynecologists includes providing medical treatment for women related to pregnancy, including assisting with labor and childbirth, treating fertility issues, and providing prenatal care. They also provide advice and medical treatment for illnesses or conditions such as breast cancer, cervical cancer, menopause, or hormone imbalances.

Median Salary (2018) $238,320 (for obstetricians and gynecologists)
Job Outlook (2018-2028) 2% (for obstetricians and gynecologists)
Work Environment Private practices, most work in hospitals and clinics
Specializations Critical care medicine, maternal and fetal medicine, reproductive endocrinology/infertility, and gynecologic oncology
Similar Occupations Family nurse practitioner, certified nurse midwife, registered nurse, certified nurse assistant, and surgical technician
Continuing Education Training and education required as certification must remain current

Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics