An obstetric gynecologist, commonly abbreviated as OB/GYN, is a doctor who specializes in two areas: pregnancy/childbearing and female reproductive health. OB/GYNs look after women during their pregnancy as well as the initial postpartum period. They are also trained to deliver babies, advise on birth control and menopause, screen for cancer, treat infections and perform surgery for pelvic organ or urinary tract problems. Becoming an OB/GYN involves several years of study, so it pays to do your research and choose the right program. Start by considering the top medical schools for obstetrics and gynecology in the United States.
The top medical schools for obstetrics and gynecology include Harvard University, Johns Hopkins University, University of California – San Francisco, University of Michigan – Ann Arbor and University of Pennsylvania (Perelman).
Becoming an OB/GYN
First of all, how long do you have to go to school to become an OB/GYN? It takes up to 15 years to qualify as an OB/GYN because it requires a mixture of formal classroom training and hands-on clinical experience.
If you know that you want to become an OB/GYN while you are still in high school, you can plan for your future by taking the right classes. It makes sense to study courses related to medicine, such as biology and chemistry.
After graduating high school, the next step is to complete a bachelor’s degree. You can choose from a specific premed program or take a general degree that meets the requirements of the medical school you want to attend. Your four-year bachelor’s degree will generally include biology, chemistry, organic chemistry, mathematics and physics courses to give you a broad scientific base upon which to build your future in medicine. Check the requirements of the medical school you wish to attend, as some also require writing or literature classes. Premed students attend labs as well as regular classes.
Every college student wants to get good grades, and it's particularly important for premed students to aim high in order to stand out amongst other students applying to medical school.
Medical College Admission Test
You will generally spend your last two years of college preparing for the Medical College Admission Test, or MCAT, and applying to several medical schools. The MCAT is an all-day test covering biology, chemistry, physics and reading and writing comprehension and skills. You should have a premed adviser help you decide how many schools to which you will apply and to assist you with completing medical school application forms, which is typically done online. An important part of applying to medical school is the admission interview, where you meet faculty from the medical schools to which you have applied and answer questions about your background, education to date and career aspirations.
On the MCAT, a score of 500 represents the mean score, and the highest possible score is 528. According to the Association of American Medical Colleges, the average MCAT score for medical school students in the U.S. in 2017–2018 was between 510 and 511, with an average GPA of 3.71.
However, medical schools consider the total package, so your undergraduate coursework, letters of recommendation, volunteer work, extracurricular activities and personal statement are taken into account as well as your MCAT scores and GPA.
Medical school lasts four years. Generally, the first two years focus on specialized, classroom-based coursework covering topics like human anatomy, physiology, pharmacology, biochemistry, microbiology, pathology and medical ethics. You are introduced to clinical medicine through physical examination and by using medical instruments like a stethoscope, and you perform examinations under a doctor's guidance.
During the final two years, you spend time in university hospitals and other clinical settings known as training rotations. The third year of medical school is your first real experience with real patients. During this year, you rotate through various departments, including internal medicine, psychiatry, pediatrics, surgery, family medicine, anesthesia, radiology and OB/GYN. In practice, this involves visiting patients before the resident doctors arrive, taking vital signs, carrying out an examination, asking the patient how he is feeling and updating the notes in his chart. The entire process is reviewed and supervised by a resident and attending doctor. (An attending doctor is in charge of teaching both students and residents.) Most medical schools require third-year students to be on call, which involves spending the whole day and night in the hospital to be available to attend to patients. Students may be allowed to carry out some medical procedures, but surgeries are performed by residents, supervised and assisted by the attending doctor.
The final year of medical school is split between several elective rotations, giving students the chance to concentrate on the specialty they wish to practice. From December to February, fourth-year medical students interview for a residency position at several hospitals.
After college and medical school, you can finally concentrate on obstetrics and gynecology. OB/GYN residencies last four years, with the amount of responsibility you have increasing each year. The OB/GYN residency can be particularly demanding due to emergency surgeries and babies arriving at all times of the day and night.
Best OB/GYN Schools
According to U.S. News & World Report, the best OB/GYN schools in the U.S. in 2018 were Harvard University, University of California – San Francisco, Johns Hopkins University, University of Michigan – Ann Arbor and University of Pennsylvania (Perelman).
Founded in 1782, Harvard Medical School consistently ranks highly as a provider of medical education and was No. 1 of all OB/GYN colleges in the U.S. in 2018. Most first-year HMS students follow the Pathways program, which involves the study of core scientific concepts and the building of clinical skills before going on to principal clinical experiences in the second year. The total cost of full-time, out-of-state HMS attendance including tuition and fees, living expenses and health insurance is $92,620 for year one, according to 2018-2019 figures.
University of California – San Francisco
University of California – San Francisco School of Medicine was founded in 1864 as Toland Medical College. Full-time tuition costs $34,386 per year in state and $46,631 per year out of state. The Obstetrics, Gynecology & Reproductive Sciences program at UCSF School of Medicine includes practical clinical training at Valley Medical Center of Fresno, providing labor and delivery experience, time on the gynecology ward and the outpatient clinic and offering the chance to work with normal, high-risk and adolescent pregnancies.
Johns Hopkins University
The Department of Gynecology and Obstetrics at Johns Hopkins University plays a significant role in the history of the specialty in the U.S. One of the school's founders, Howard Atwood Kelly, is considered to have established gynecology as a surgical specialty, and he invented many cutting-edge surgical techniques, such as the Kelly clamps and the Kelly stitch. The full-time, out-of-state cost of one year's medical school tuition at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine is $51,900.
University of Michigan – Ann Arbor
The medical school at the University of Michigan – Ann Arbor prides itself on offering students a hands-on experience from the outset. Students see patients within their first month in medical school through the Initial Clinical Experience, and the Clinical Simulation Center offers more opportunities for hands-on learning. Tuition for a first-year medical student is $37,830 in state and $56,940 out of state.
University of Pennsylvania (Perelman)
The University of Pennsylvania was home to the first medical school and first school hospital in the U.S. The School of Medicine is affiliated with the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, Penn Presbyterian Medical Center and Pennsylvania Hospital. Students follow a course of six modules, often working in small groups to enhance leadership and teamwork skills. Hands-on experience is provided in simulation facilities like the Flyers/76ers Surgery Theatre. Tuition and fees for a first-year student amount to $63,137.
What Does an OB/GYN Earn?
After all those years – not to mention the cost – of studying to become an obstetric gynecologist, you are probably wondering how much an OB/GYN makes per hour. The good news is that all that effort and expense pays off. According to U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics figures in May 2017, obstetricians and gynecologists earned a mean annual wage of $235,240, which equates to a mean hourly wage of $113.10.
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Obstetricians and Gynecologists
- The Princeton Review: What is a Good MCAT Score?
- Association of American Medical Colleges: MCAT and GPAs for Applicants and Matriculants to U.S. Medical Schools by Primary Undergraduate Major, 2018-2019
- Harvard Medical School: Cost of Attendance
- UCSF School of Medicine: About the School of Medicine
- UCSF School of Medicine: Course Listing for Obstetrics, Gynecology & Reproductive Sciences
- Johns Hopkins Medicine: The History of the Department of Gynecology and Obstetrics
- University of Michigan Medical School: Cost of Attendance
- University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine: Tuition & Fees
Claire Gillespie has been writing and editing for 18 years. She has written about high school and higher education for private clients and various websites, including SheKnows and Reader's Digest.