Becoming a Gynecologist: Careers, Salary Info & Job Description

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A gynecologist's average salary is about $214,750, but is it worth the lengthy education requirements? Read real job duties and see the truth about career prospects to decide if becoming a gynecologist is right for you.
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Pros and Cons of a Career in Gynecology

Gynecology can be an ideal career choice if you're interested in women's health. Consider the pros and cons of being a gynecologist to see if it's the right career choice for you.

Pros of a Gynecology Career
Higher-than-average salary (about $214,750 mean salary in May 2014)*
Fast job growth (18% growth from 2012-2022)*
Satisfaction of helping patients*
Can start a practice*

Cons of a Gynecology Career
Requires extensive education and training (11+ years beyond high school)*
The Association of American Medical Colleges reported that more than 80% of medical school graduates in 2010 were in debt from the costs*
Usually work long, irregular hours*
The work can be emotionally taxing (serious illness, injury or death of patients)*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Career Information

Job Description and Duties

Gynecologists are physicians specifically trained to provide care and treat disorders or diseases related to the female reproductive system. Obstetricians are physicians focusing on pregnancy and childbirth. Gynecology and obstetrics training generally occurs hand-in-hand, and so a practitioner in the field is often called an obstetrician/gynecologist, or OB/GYN. OB/GYNs are often primary care physicians who see patients on a regular basis. As an OB/GYN, you're responsible for examining female patients, ordering tests, making diagnoses and administering treatment, as well as providing prenatal care and consulting on family planning; routine care includes performing Pap smears and breast exams.

Depending on your work setting, you may keep erratic, long or overnight hours. Women can go into labor at anytime, which causes many OB/GYNs to be on-call. This also leads to constant travel between hospitals and offices. If you work in a group practice, you may have the advantage of sharing patients with other gynecologists, which provides more time off.

Salary Info and Career Outlook

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), gynecologists and obstetricians earned an average salary of about $214,750 as of May 2014. States with the highest employment levels of OB/GYNs included New York, California, Ohio, Florida and Texas. Although the BLS doesn't calculate outlook data specifically for gynecologists, it does collect data on physicians and surgeons collectively, and employment for these professionals is expected to increase 18% from 2012-2022.

Specializations

Many subspecialties are available in the obstetrics and gynecology field, and you can choose to focus your career in one or more of these areas. Although universities offer various specialization options, the subspecialties recognized by the American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology are as follows:

  • Gynecologic oncology
  • Maternal/fetal medicine
  • Female pelvic medicine and reconstructive surgery
  • Reproductive endocrinology and infertility

What Are the Requirements?

Education Requirements

If you want to be a gynecologist, you must first complete an undergraduate program. A particular major isn't necessary, but you should choose a program that provides a strong foundation in various sciences and mathematics, according to the BLS. Next, you must pass the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) and apply for medical school. The admission process is very competitive, but excellent grades, professional recommendations, extracurricular activities and a pleasant personality may increase your chance of acceptance, reported the BLS.

Once accepted into medical school, you typically spend 4 years doing coursework and lab work and gaining supervised practical experience. After graduating, you enter an obstetrics and gynecology residency program, which lasts four years. If you'd like to continue on to pursue an ABOG-recognized subspecialty, fellowship training takes another three years.

Licensing Requirements

Before you can start practicing on your own, you must obtain a state license. The BLS reported that licensing requirements differ for each state, but often include graduating from an approved medical school, completing residency training and passing written and applied exams.

What Are Employers Looking for?

Obstetrician/gynecologist job openings are found nationwide, and board certification tends to be a frequent requirement in addition to fulfilling education and licensing requirements. OB/GYNs should also exhibit certain characteristics, such as organizational and leadership abilities. Additionally, good communication skills and compassion are essential since these professionals may diagnose patients with various medical conditions. Following are some job postings found in April 2012:

  • An Oregon women's healthcare practice placed an ad for a licensed, board-certified OB/GYN to work both office and surgery schedules.
  • A New York medical group was looking for a licensed, board-certified or -eligible OB/GYN to work part-time providing consultations and medical services in an outpatient clinic.
  • A Florida hospital advertised for a board-certified OB/GYN with at least 2 years of experience to join another OB/GYN and help the practice grow.

How to Stand out

Although board certification isn't mandatory to practice as a gynecologist, many employers prefer candidates who are board certified. This can help prove to patients, employers and insurance companies that you're committed to providing the highest-quality healthcare, according to the American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS). Member boards of the ABMS offer certification for specialty physicians; in the case of obstetrician/gynecologists, ABOG confers the certification. To receive certification you must earn a bachelor's degree, graduate from medical school, complete residency training, obtain your license and pass written and oral examinations. ABOG also confers certification in its recognized subspecialties upon completion of a fellowship and the passing of written and oral exams.

Other Careers to Consider

If you'd like to be a primary care practitioner with a broader scope and slightly less required training, you might consider becoming a family physician. These professionals focus on treating a variety of illnesses and injuries in the population at large, typically referring patients to other specialists for more involved treatments. The educational and licensing requirements are the same, but instead of completing a 4-year obstetrics and gynecology residency, you would complete a 3-year family medicine residency. May 2011 data from the BLS reported that family and general practitioners earned a median salary of about $177,000.

If you'd rather avoid the stresses of medical school, but you still want to work in the field in a women's health-related capacity, you could consider becoming a women's health nurse practitioner. Many universities offer women's health nurse practitioner and nurse midwifery/women's health nurse practitioner master's degree programs which prepare you to provide care of a reproductive-gynecologic nature in collaboration with physicians and other healthcare givers. According to the BLS, registered nurses, including nurse practitioners, made an average of approximately $69,000 in 2011 and had a predicted job increase of 26% between 2010 and 2020.

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