What do you want to become?
Alternate Career Titles: OB/GYN, OB-GYN, OBGYN
Career Overview: Obstetricians assess, diagnose, prevent and treat diseases and conditions in women, especially relating to the female reproductive system.
Career Salary Range: $82,570 to $400,000
Estimated Years of Schooling Required: 8
Required Minimum Degree/License: Doctor of Medicine Degree
Become an Obstetrician
An Obstetrician is a healthcare professional who specializes in the woman’s reproductive system and associated disorders, especially as the system relates to pregnancy and childbirth. Often, these professionals, also referred to as Gynecologists or “OB-GYNs,” help pregnant women before, during and after the birth of their children. This assistance comes in the form of monitoring pregnancy progression, prescribing prenatal or other necessary medications, identifying concerns about the health of a child, relaying OBGYN information, identifying the sex and physically assisting with the birth.
Obstetricians may also assist women or couples who are experiencing difficulty in conceiving a child. Furthermore, these professionals will answer all pregnancy/childbearing questions a patient has, advise them on best practices during and after pregnancy, explain what labor will consist of and provide general healthcare advice as needed.
“A career as an Obstetrician is very rewarding,” John Thoppil, MD, an OB-GYN practicing in Texas, said. “This is the only specialty that is a blend of primary care and surgery. We get this amazing opportunity to have long term relationships with our patients, which really no other surgical specialty can do.”
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Education & Training
To become an OB-GYN, learners must first complete an undergraduate degree program in a science-related field. By majoring in a science, learners will gain the lab experience and instruction necessary to achieve a high score on their Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT). This examination should be taken approximately 1 year prior to when a learner plans to enroll in medical school. To be accepted into one of these programs, learners must submit their MCAT scores in addition to a general application.
After graduating from an undergraduate degree program, taking the MCAT, applying and gaining admittance into a medical school program, learners will spend the next approximately 4 to 5 years taking advanced courses and gaining hands-on experience through clinical rotations. A learner will first experience the role of an Obstetrician during these rotations.
“Schooling to become an OB-GYN usually takes 4 more years of training, and adding sub-specialties can increase that,” Thoppil confirmed. “There certainly is a academic rigor involved in becoming a Physician of any type. Getting into training as an OB-GYN is certainly more difficult than in the case of the true primary care specialties, but a solid candidate has a great chance.”
A professional must also obtain licensure by passing the United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE), and certification as an Obstetrician through the American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology. Upon completing medical school, a learner must next complete a residency program, typically lasting 3 to 7 years in length. These programs will provide supervised experience in the field of obstetrics, while allowing residents to evaluate and observe patients, as well as to create treatment plans for them.
One way to advance in a career as a Obstetrician is for a professional to open their own practice. In private practice settings, these professionals largely build their own schedules, while managing staff members and finances.
“Advancing in a career as an Obstetrician really depends on a professional’s field of endeavor,” Thoppil explained. “I am in private practice, and am very involved in advocacy and growing my business. If you are in academics there other paths you can pursue to advance.”
Experience & Skills
To be successful in the role of an OB-GYN, professionals should have strong interpersonal and communication skills, enabling them to build rapport and trust within their patients. They should also possess problem-solving skills and be able to critically analyze healthcare conditions and situations. Additionally, being able to work as part of a team is imperative as Obstetricians often work with other healthcare professionals and staff members.
“In this career, being affable, available and showing aptitude certainly help,” Thoppil added. “This seems obvious, but you either like seeing patients or you don’t.”
“I think for any Physician, including an Obstetrician, the key components for success are compassion, dedication and then aptitude,” Thoppil expressed. “I don’t think there is just one personality that makes a professional better suited to become an Obstetrician than another. There are successful OB-GYNs across the entire personality spectrum.”
Obstetricians should also be extremely kind, caring and sensitive to their patients physical and emotional states. They should be empathetic to stressful or upsetting circumstances, as well as to patients who are experiencing either pain or discomfort. OB-GYNs should have exceptional attention to detail and organizational skills, allowing them to provide precise and accurate care to their patients, with minimal possibility for error. Another quality which is of the utmost importance in this role is the ability to remain calm and collected in stressful or crisis scenarios.
As an Obstetrician, days can be joyful, while others are stressful. However, few days in this career are exactly the same, and the nature of obstetrics can be unpredictable. This is because a patient can go into labor at any time on any day. Therefore, most Obstetricians remain on-call, and have to come into the office or practice at a moment’s notice. Also, childbirth can be straightforward, or the process can become complicated and even life-threatening. Alternatively, due to childbirth often being a special time in a woman’s or couple’s life, OB-GYNs are capable of building strong relationships and rapport with their patients which may continue on for years, and through multiple children.
“Working as an OB-GYN can be stressful, but also very rewarding,” expressed Thoppil. “Finding a balance between work and personal life is important in any career, including that of an OB-GYN. This balance can definitely be achieved in this career.”
With greater awareness regarding women’s reproductive system issues and preventionary measures today, now is a great time to begin a career as an Obstetrician! Between 2014 and 2024, this occupation is projected to grow 14 percent. Also contributing to this growth is more advanced fertility treatments, which help couples experiencing difficulty conceiving.
The top employers of Obstetricians are the office of Physicians, hospitals, outpatient care centers, postsecondary educational settings and medical and diagnostic laboratories. The state with the highest employment in this occupation is California, followed by Florida, Texas, New York and Ohio.
“When searching for employment, there are position postings through the national society for OB-GYNs. Recruiters are also an asset, and networking is key as well,” Thoppil advised. “There will be an increasing demand with our workforce demographics as we see less hours worked per OB-GYN professionals on average, and as many are choosing to have more work and life balance.”
A career as an Obstetrician can be extremely lucrative. As of 2016, the median annual wage for Obstetricians was $208,000. While the lowest earning 10 percent were recorded to have made less than $82,570, the highest 10 percent earned more than $400,000. Additionally, the top paying employers of these professionals are medical and diagnostic laboratories, the offices of Physicians, specialty hospitals, outpatient care centers and ambulatory care services. The top paying states for this occupation are West Virginia, South Dakota, Nevada, Indiana and Idaho.
“I would say that the average full-time OB-GYN makes roughly $330,000 per year,” Thoppil said. “Salary is proportional to productivity, and the more patients you see the more money you make all things being equal such as insurance and region. This is true for both a true private practice and OB-GYN employment in general.”
Unions, Groups, Social Media, and Associations
The American Pregnancy Association is an organization committed to promoting reproductive and pregnancy wellness through support, advocacy, education and community awareness. This organization believes that research is the key to significant reproductive discoveries.
The American Gynecological and Obstetrical Society (AGOS) is a nonprofit organization dedicated to women’s health and advocates for the highest standards of practice. The organization also focuses efforts on continuing the education of participating members, and increasing public awareness regarding women’s health issues.
The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) is a professional association of Physicians, Obstetrics and Gynecologists within the United States. Together, these members service as strong advocates for quality women’s healthcare, seek to maintain the highest standards of clinical practice and continuing education, promote patient education, understanding and involvement and increase awareness about the issues surrounding women’s healthcare.
The Central Association of Obstetricians and Gynecologists is a nonprofit organization of Physicians that both encourages and promotes the study of obstetrics, gynecology and women’s health issues.
- Ask to shadow a local Obstetrician
- Complete an undergraduate degree program
- Apply to medical schools
- Network with Obstetricians
- Consider working for or volunteering at the office of a local OB-GYN
All statistics are provided by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Meet the professional: John Thoppil, MD
Practice: River Place OB-GYN
Location: Austin, TX
What is the single biggest suggestion you would give to someone wanting to get into this career?
“If you work hard anything is within reach.”
What’s the number one mistake people make when trying to get into this career?
“Employment as an OB-GYN is still a surgical specialty. I think there are now people who think that this career in healthcare is synonymous with ‘primary care for women.’ While this career does provide elements of primary care, the career is really that plus so much more.”
What is the question people should ask about this career but rarely do?
“What type of practice do I really want to be in? This question really makes a difference because professionals can choose to work in private practice, hospitals, academic settings and more. Each setting is unique.”
Why did you choose to become an OB-GYN?
“I love the ability to have long-term relationships with patients. I originally thought I would do primary care, however I got frustrated not ‘curing’ things. Mostly Primary Care Physicians manage chronic conditions, whereas I like to fix things. As an OB-GYN I get to do that and this is a great blend of doing both managing and fixing healthcare issues.”
If you could describe in one word what makes you successful, what would it be?
*Credentialing organizations: American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology