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Program Overview and Education Requirements for an Obstetrician-Gynecologist

Majors Overview December 14, 2012

Women rely on gynecologists and obstetricians (OBGYN) in the diagnosis and treatment of reproductive health conditions, pregnancy and breast cancer among other health concerns. The physicians are equipped with specialized training and education to facilitate treatment. Normally, a prospective OBGYN completes an undergraduate degree program before graduating from medical school and completing a residency at a hospital; they are awarded a certificate thereafter to practice their profession.

Education & Residency Courses for Obstetrician-Gynecologists

A prospective obstetrician-gynecologist (OBGYN) has to undergo approximately twelve to fifteen years of education and hands-on experience. During the first eight years, such education is restricted to training of a general medical nature. Specialization in OBGYN practice begins during residency courses after the potential OBGYN graduate from medical school.

The educational schedule of an OBGYN is typically as follows:

  • Completion of a bachelor degree program: classroom coursework of four years or more, with any specialization, provided science prerequisites are satisfied.
  • Completion of medical school degree program: classroom coursework of two years, followed by hands-on training in a hospital or clinical setting for two years.
  • Completion of OBGYN residency program of four to seven years including provision of primary care to patients in a hospital or clinic setting.
  • Satisfaction of norms for certification by the board and licensure by the state.

Education Requirements

Prospective candidates seeking admission to most OBGYN residency courses are required to have completed a bachelor degree program and a medical school degree course; the latter can be for either a Doctor of Osteopathy (D.O.) or Medicine (M.D.) qualification. Applicants to medical school can have a bachelor degree with any major not necessarily relating to a pre-med course. A certain number of years of hands-on experiences relating to direct patient care through medical school or postgraduate education. Graduates from an international medical school are required to obtain certification from the Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates (ECFMG) before they can seek admission.


Coursework in an OBGYN residency program increases year-over-year in terms of on-the-job experience and responsibility as detailed below:

  • Year One: residents are introduced to primary care of patients; this includes rotations in outpatient, gynecologic surgery and critical care treatments.
  • Year Two: greater exposures to obstetrics are given along with a resident-run continuity clinic that is administered by faculties.
  • Year Three: more time spent in surgery by residents who have to accept increased responsibilities relating to care of patients.
  • Year four: chief resident associate and other similar titles are given to residents who are expected to work in gynecologic surgery for six months and in obstetrics for the remaining six months; during this tenure, they are expected to provide independent care and supervise junior residents. They are required to have six months in obstetrics, providing independent patient care as well as supervising junior residents.

Job Prospects and Wage Potential

Job growth is projected to be higher for all physicians and surgeons including OBGYNS than any other job (source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics ( According to the BLS, job prospects are expected to grow at twenty-two percent during the decade from 2008 to 2018. In May 2009, OBGYN earned an average annual salary of $204,470, and they were employed in outpatient care centers, hospitals, and physicians’ offices.

Licensure Norms and Continuing Education

Before they are allowed to practice, OBGYN are required to meet state licensure norms and take two board exams to qualify for certification. The norms for state licensure include passing the United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE), and they have to take the board exams in two sittings; one immediately after they complete the residency program and the other after they have practiced as OBGYN for two years. OBGYN can seek certification in several related subspecialties, including gynecologic oncology, reproductive endocrinology, maternal and fetal medicine and reconstructive pelvic surgery.

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