What Are the Education Requirements to Be an Obstetrician?

Obstetricians typically need to earn a medical degree and complete a residency in obstetrics. Keep reading to learn more about education requirements in this field. Schools offering Health Science degrees can also be found in these popular choices.


According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, before specializing in obstetrics, you must first become a physician (www.bls.gov). Two types of physicians can become licensed in the U.S.: allopathic physicians, or medical doctor (MDs), and osteopathic physicians (DOs).

Important Facts About This Career

Median Salary (2015)* $202,107
Job Outlook (2014-2024)** 14% (for all physicians and surgeons)
Licensure All states require doctors to be licensed
Key Skills Detail oriented, dexterity, problem-solving, communication skills, compassion, physical stamina

Sources: *Payscale.com, **U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Formal Education

Medical schools require that all applicants either have an undergraduate diploma or significant college credits in subjects such as biology, chemistry, and other sciences. The four-year curriculum at school gives you an understanding of subjects such as gross anatomy, human physiology, microbiology, and clinical medicine. In the second year curriculum, you would typically be introduced to the practice of obstetrics and gynecology (OB/GYN) and participate in some clinical observation.


The third year of medical school is usually reserved for clerkships in different specialties. OB/GYN clerkships typically last four to six weeks and give you the opportunity to learn firsthand the practice of obstetrics. Through participation in rounds in a clinical environment and through observation of labor and delivery and following specific cases, you will begin to understand the obstetrician's role as a caregiver and advocate for patients.

You will learn to describe how to diagnose and define the physiological changes in women during the pregnancy cycle, the impact of internal factors on the health of the mother and baby, and typical problems in obstetrics. You'll begin to develop a professional confidence level during exams and medical interviews.

Elective Program

Part of your fourth-year medical school education can be taken as an elective program. OB/GYN elective programs can help you to learn more about your chosen profession and enhance your knowledge before you apply to post-graduate residency programs. The electives can focus on basic obstetrics or on specific studies in high-risk pregnancies or labor and delivery. You will be exposed to clinical workshops in applications, such as pelvic examinations and suturing. Passing the elective can be a combination of a written examination and clinical demonstration.


After graduation, you must study for and pass the United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE) to become an allopathic physician or the Comprehensive Osteopathic Medical Licensing Examination (COMLEX) to become an osteopathic physician. The BLS recommends that if you have any questions about licensing, you should contact your state's medical board.


Residency programs usually last four years, and a residency is a salaried position. Applicants are found through the National Resident Matching Program (NRMP), which you can register for online. Usually six or seven residents are accepted into a program per year, so competition can be tough.

OB/GYN residents participate as part of a clinical team with experienced teaching professionals. You will be exposed to a series of rotations in labor and delivery, obstetrics, emergency medicine, gynecological oncology, and fertility services. Clinical experience is offset by professional lectures and research studies. Third- and fourth-year residents are given more leadership responsibility. As a chief resident, you participate in clinical rotations at outpatient facilities. Elective rotations give you the opportunity to focus on obstetrics principles and clinical applications.

Fourth-year residents continue to develop their talents in obstetrics and gynecology, but also are given elective blocks where they can again focus on developing their skills in obstetrics. After completing your residency, you can work at a hospital or medical center, develop your own practice, or apply for a fellowship program. In a fellowship program, you can continue to learn specialties such as maternal and fetal medicine, family planning or reproductive endocrinology.

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