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Obstetricians and Gynecologists

At a Glance

  • Work in offices, clinics, or hospitals
  • Constantly interact with patients and other medical workers
  • Have a state medical license
  • Usually work more than 40 hours per week
  • Treat female patients
  • Training lasts about 11 years after high school

Career summary

Obstetricians and gynecologists focus on women's health, including pregnancy, birth, and general well-being.

Obstetricians are doctors who specialize in pregnancy, birth, and caring for new mothers. Gynecologists are doctors who focus on the health of the female reproductive system. (Together, these doctors are usually referred to as OB/GYNs). They usually see the same patients on a regular basis.

Obstetricians and gynecologists ask patients questions to learn about their medical history. They examine patients and, if necessary, order lab tests. Obstetricians and gynecologists explain test results and review treatment options with patients. If more than one treatment is available, they help patients decide which option to choose. They also monitor a patient's condition and make changes in the treatment if needed.

OB/GYNs perform routine tests such as Pap smears and breast exams. On expectant mothers they do ultrasounds to see how the fetus is developing. They deliver babies and may perform cesarean sections. They also diagnose and help treat conditions such as ovarian and uterine cancer.

Like most doctors, obstetricians and gynecologists focus on preventing problems before they begin. They educate patients about exercise, hygiene, and eating better. They also talk to patients about managing their lifestyle, especially smoking cigarettes, drinking alcohol, and planning pregnancy.

Obstetricians and gynecologists share similar tasks with other types of physicians, they:

Some obstetricians and gynecologists teach at medical schools. They may also do research on procedures and treatments for disease. Advances in medicine require doctors to update their skills regularly.

Related careers

This career is part of the Health Science cluster of careers.

Related careers include:

Military careers

Job duties

Task list

The following list of tasks is specific to obstetricians and gynecologists.

Common work activities

Obstetricians and gynecologists perform the following tasks. These tasks are common to many careers.

Work requirements

Working conditions

In a typical work setting, obstetricians and gynecologists:

Interpersonal relationships

Physical work conditions

Work performance


Physical demands

Obstetricians and gynecologists frequently:

It is important for obstetricians and gynecologists to be able to:

It is not as important, but still necessary, for obstetricians and gynecologists to be able to:

Skills and abilities

Obstetricians and gynecologists need to:


Reason and problem solve

Use math and science

Manage oneself, people, time, and things

Work with people

Perceive and visualize

Education and training

Educational programs

The programs of study listed below will help you prepare for the occupation or career cluster you are exploring.

Programs of study directly related to this occupation

Other programs of study to consider


To work as an obstetrician or gynecologist, you typically need to:

Education after high school

To become a doctor, you must complete medical school. Medical schools grant a Doctor of Medicine (MD) degree or a Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (DOM) degree. You spend the first two years of medical school in classrooms and labs. You study anatomy, biochemistry, and medicines. You also learn how to take a medical history, examine patients, and make a diagnosis. During the next two years, you work in hospitals and clinics under the supervision of physicians.

You usually need a bachelor's degree to get into medical school. While you do not need to be a pre-medicine or science major, these programs are good preparation. If you earn a liberal arts degree, be sure to take courses in physics, biology, and chemistry.

On-the-job training

While in medical school, you spend two years working as an intern in a hospital or clinic. As an intern, you rotate through internal medicine, family medicine, obstetrics, oncology, and other hospital departments.

After medical school, you complete a residency program in obstetrics and gynecology. Residency usually lasts four years. Residents usually work in hospitals. After your residency, you take additional exams to become board certified.

Military training

The military provides advanced training for doctors. However, it does not provide the initial training to become a doctor. Scholarships for advanced medical training are available in return for a required period of military service.

Helpful high school courses

In high school, take classes that prepare you for college. A college preparatory curriculum (external link) may be different from your state's graduation requirements (external link). You need a very strong background in math and science to become a doctor. Take as many math and science courses as you can.

You should also consider taking some advanced courses in high school. This includes Advanced Placement (AP) and International Baccalaureate (IB) courses if they are available in your school. If you do well in these courses, you may receive college credit for them. Advanced courses can also strengthen your college application.

Helpful electives to take in high school that prepare you for this career include:

The courses listed above are meant to help you create your high school plan. If you have not already done so, talk to a school counselor or parent about the courses you are considering taking.

You should also check with a teacher or counselor to see if work-based learning opportunities are available in your school and community. These might include field trips, job shadowing, internships, and actual work experience. The goal of these activities is to help you connect your school experiences with real-life work.

Join some groups, try some hobbies, or volunteer with an organization that interests you. By participating in activities you can have fun, make new friends, and learn about yourself. Maybe one of them will help direct you to a future career. Here are examples of activities and groups (PDF file) that may be available in your high school or community.

Things to know

Many obstetricians and gynecologists begin work in a group practice or clinic. Some go to work for the hospital where they complete their residency.

Costs to workers

Obstetricians and gynecologists who have borrowed money to pay school expenses have large debt payments for the first few years after graduation. The average debt for medical students who graduated in 2018 was $196,520 with 83% percent owing at least $100,000. Malpractice insurance is expensive. Obstetricians and gynecologists have some of the highest insurance premiums.

To enter private practice, physicians must invest in equipment, office space, and staffing costs. Estimated costs range from $75,000 to $100,000 or more.

#Updated debt info from AMA pdf https://members.aamc.org/iweb/upload/2017%20Debt%20Fact%20Card.pdf

#Looked at ama site no new figures 2/16/12 lh

#Updated malpractice data from Medical Economics: http://medicaleconomics.modernmedicine.com/medical-economics/news/modernmedicine/modern-medicine-feature-articles/malpractice-premiums-continue (external link) and AMA debt info 4/11/13 cj. Updated debt for 2014 from printout from Leo from aamc.org/first;didn't see any recent specific malpractice figures so deleted that for now (source being Medical Economics) 3/10/15 cj.
#"A survey by Medical Economics showed that the median malpractice premium in 2011 for obstetricians and gynecologists was $43,400."

#Updated debt info from AAMC First 2016 debt card linked to from this page https://students-residents.aamc.org/financial-aid/ 12/12/16 cj. Updated to 2018 data from same source 4/8/19 cj.


Obstetricians and gynecologists must be licensed by the State of Washington as either medical or osteopathic physicians. Licensing requirements include:

For more information on the US Medical Licensing Exam, call 215.590.9500 or go to the National Board of Medical Examiners (external link) website.

Osteopathic doctors must complete 150 hours of continuing education every three years and medical doctors must complete 200 hours of continuing education every four years.

Licensing fees vary ranging from $491 (medical physicians) to $391 (osteopathic physicians) for the application. The annual renewal fee for osteopathic physicians is $441 and the biannual renewal fee for medical physicians is $657. The combined fee for an application and state exam for osteopathic practitioners is $516. The licensing and the renewal fees generally include an access fee for health-related online library journals and publications and a Washington physician health program surcharge.

For more information on medical doctors, contact:

Washington Medical Commission (external link)
PO Box 47866
Olympia, WA 98504-7866

For information on osteopathic doctors, contact:

Washington State Board of Osteopathic Medicine and Surgery (external link)
PO Box 47877
Olympia, WA 98504-7865


Job listings

Listed below are links to job categories from the National Labor Exchange that relate to this career. Once you get a list of jobs, you can view information about individual jobs and find out how to apply. If your job search finds too many openings, or if you wish to search for jobs outside of Washington, you will need to refine your search.

To get a listing of current jobs from the WorkSource system, go to the WorkSource website (external link).


Costs of establishing a practice are high, so net income during the first year(s) is low for new physicians. Earnings rise as the practice develops.

Obstetricians and gynecologists (SOC 29-1064)

Pay Period
Washington Hourly $77.74 $96.92 (1) (1) (1)
Monthly $13,472 $16,796 (1) (1) (1)
Yearly $161,700 $201,600 (1) (1) (1)
    Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue Hourly $80.91 $98.08 (2) (2) (2)
Monthly $14,022 $16,997 (2) (2) (2)
Yearly $168,309 $203,996 (2) (2) (2)
    Spokane-Spokane Valley Hourly $93.14 (2) (2) (2) (2)
Monthly $16,141 (2) (2) (2) (2)
Yearly $193,734 (2) (2) (2) (2)
    Vancouver Hourly $82.50 $88.76 $98.98 (2) (2)
Monthly $14,297 $15,382 $17,153 (2) (2)
Yearly $171,600 $184,623 $205,877 (2) (2)
    Yakima Hourly (2) (2) (2) (2) (2)
Monthly (2) (2) (2) (2) (2)
Yearly (2) (2) (2) (2) (2)
United States Hourly $44.25 $82.75 (1) (1) (1)
Monthly $7,669 $14,341 (1) (1) (1)
Yearly $92,040 $172,130 (1) (1) (1)

(1) Wages are greater than $90/hour or $187,200/year.
(2) Wage estimate is not available.

Wages vary by years of experience, area of the country, and hours worked. The doctor's skill, personality, and professional reputation also affect wages. Self-employed OB/GYNs generally earn more than those who are not self-employed.

OB/GYNs usually receive benefits. Typical benefits include sick leave, paid vacation, health insurance, and a retirement plan. 

Employment and outlook

Washington outlook

The table below provides information about the number of workers in this career in various regions. It also provides information about the expected growth rate and future job openings.

Obstetricians and Gynecologists (SOC 29-1064)

Location Current employment Growth over 10 years Annual openings
Washington 339 21.8% 16.1% 24
    Clallam, Jefferson, and Kitsap Counties 16 25.0% 11.9% 1
    Clark, Cowlitz, and Wahkiakum Counties 23 17.4% 15.2% 1
    King County 194 22.7% 19.6% 14
    Kittitas, Klickitat, Skamania, and Yakima Counties 15 26.7% 13.8% 1
    Spokane County 47 21.3% 13.9% 3
United States 20,700 1.9% 5.2% 700

National employment

Major employers:

National outlook

Growth for this occupation will show little to no change over the next few years. Factors that will limit growth are advances in technology that allow more patients to be seen each day. Also more people see nurse midwives and nurse practitioners.

Obstetricians and gynecologists who are willing to move to rural and underserved areas should have little trouble finding a job.

Other resources

American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine (external link)
5550 Friendship Boulevard, Suite 310
Chevy Chase, MD 20815
American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology (external link)
2915 Vine Street
Dallas, TX 75204
American Medical Association (external link)
American Medical Association - Medical Student Section (external link)
American Osteopathic Association (external link)
142 East Ontario Street
Chicago, IL 60611
Aspiring Docs Website from the American Association of Medical Colleges (external link)
The Student Doctor Network (external link)
Washington Osteopathic Medical Association (external link)
PO Box 1187
Gig Harbor, WA 98335
Washington State Medical Association (external link)
2001 Sixth Avenue, Suite 2700
Seattle, WA 98121


Career cluster

Career path

O*Net (external link) occupation

O*Net job zone (external link)

DOT occupations

Strong Interest Inventory

Holland occupational cluster