After completing high school, most obstetrician-gynecologists spend another 12 to 15 years completing a combination of classroom and practical training to gain the knowledge they need to treat women's health issues. After earning your bachelor's degree, you must also complete medical school and a residency program at a hospital. It is during your residency that you may specialize in OB/GYN.
Undergrad and Med School
The first step to becoming an OB/GYN is finishing an undergraduate degree. You can major in anything you want as long as you meet your chosen medical school's science and math prerequisites. To be accepted into medical school, you should have top grades, a history of volunteer work and research experience. You'll also need to score high marks on the Medical College Admission Test, also known as the MCAT. At most medical schools, you will spend two years in the classroom and lecture halls, and then two years gaining hands-on experience in a clinic or hospital.
After graduating from medical school with either a Doctor of Medicine or a Doctor of Osteopathy, you'll start a residency program at a clinic or hospital. You will have to apply to residency programs, which means you must have your bachelor's degree and your M.D. or D.O. You might also need experience in direct patient care for some programs or, if you're an international applicant, you'll need an Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates certification. Be prepared to spend the next four years providing patient care while you continue to learn under the guidance of experienced OB/GYNs. Each year you'll be exposed to increased responsibility, moving from an introduction in year one to working in a continuity clinic in year two, spending time in surgery in year three, and earning titles in year four as you work independently. If you plan on specializing in a particular niche, like reproductive endrocrinology and infertility, you'll need an extra year or two of training. Residents don't get rich, but they do get paid during their training. According to the website Innerbody, an OB/GYN resident typically makes $45,000 to $60,000 a year.
Licensure and Certification
Before practicing, you must complete all of your state's licensure requirements through the United States Medical Licensing Examination and pass the first of three board examinations. You must pass the first exam upon finishing your residency and pass both the second and third exam after completing two years of OB/GYN practice. The exams assess your knowledge of science and your ability to apply that knowledge to your practice. The third exam also evaluates how you can apply that knowledge with an emphasis on ambulatory settings, with the goal of assessing how you will handle the responsibility of independent medical care.
Salary and Outlook
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the mean annual wage for obstetricians and gynecologists in the U.S. was $218,610 in 2011. As with other physicians, there should continue to be a growing demand for OB/GYNs. The BLS estimates that employment for all doctors and surgeons will increase 24% from 2010 to 2020, which is above the 14 percent growth rate for all occupations.