The moment of a healthy baby’s arrival in the world can be joyful for patient and doctor alike. Physicians who deliver babies might be obstetricians or family practitioners, and both types of doctors spend many years acquiring the skills to arrive at that joyful moment. The time to develop their particular expertise is in the residency period after medical school.
Get a Good Start
All physicians begin their training with a bachelor’s degree. Although a degree in a science is common, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, medical schools do not require a bachelor’s degree in a particular subject. However, medical schools do have prerequisites in subjects such as biology, chemistry, English and math. If you choose to get your degree in a subject other than science, you’ll need to take the prerequisites as electives. You must also complete the Medical College Admission Test, or MCAT.
Making the Grade
The next step to becoming a doctor is to attend medical school. Apply to more than one school, as positions are limited. To be accepted at a school, you’ll need to provide letters of recommendation, your transcripts and other records, and interview with the admissions committee. Medical schools are very competitive, and although they look for academic achievement, they are also interested in your leadership qualities and personality, as well as volunteer activities or healthcare experience.
Medical School Mastery
Whether your ultimate aim is obstetrics or family practice, you’ll study the same subjects in medical school. The first two years focus on the basics, with subjects such as anatomy, physiology, pathology and pharmacology. Your courses will be a mix of classroom and lab experiences. In the second two years, you’ll learn how to take care of patients. Among the skills you must master are building patient rapport, taking medical histories, performing physical examinations and making a diagnosis. Toward the end of medical school, you’ll sit for the licensing examination to become a physician -- although you can’t practice independently just yet.
Residency training is where the career paths of an obstetrician and family practitioner begin to diverge. Over the course of four years, the obstetrical student learns all about reproduction, and spends a great deal of time managing prenatal and postpartum care, as well as delivering babies. Obstetricians typically practice both obstetrics and gynecology. They are also surgeons, and must learn to perform procedures such as laparoscopies and hysterectomies. The family practitioner, however, cares for patients of any age and both genders; you’ll learn to manage a pregnancy and deliver babies, but also learn about disease management across the lifespan. You might also choose to go for extended training in a fellowship after residency.
Ready To Roll
Once you graduate from a residency or fellowship, you’re ready to hang out your shingle. You may also decide to become board-certified in your specialty by taking national certification exams. Both obstetrics-gynecology and family practice are specialties in high demand as of 2014, according to nationwide recruiter Merritt Hawkins. Salaries vary, however. The BLS reports that family practitioners earned an average annual salary of $183,940 in 2013, while obstetrician-gynecologists earned $212,570 a year.