Education and Training Requirements

High School

You can prepare for a future in medicine by taking courses in biology, chemistry, physics, algebra, geometry, and trigonometry. Courses in computer science are a must, as well, since the computer is changing the way medical records are kept and the way medical knowledge is communicated and shared by medical professionals. Also important are courses such as English and speech that foster good communication skills.

Postsecondary Training

In order to earn an M.D., you must complete four years of medical school. For the first two years you attend lectures and classes and spend time in laboratories. You learn to take patient histories, perform routine physical examinations, and recognize symptoms. In your third and fourth years, you are involved in more practical studies. You work in clinics and hospitals supervised by residents and physicians and you learn acute, chronic, preventive, and rehabilitative care. You go through what are known as rotations, or brief periods of study in a particular area, such as internal medicine, obstetrics and gynecology, pediatrics, psychiatry, and surgery. Then you must complete a minimum of four years in residency, three of them entirely in obstetrics and gynecology, with a one-year elective.

After completing a residency in obstetrics and gynecology, a specialist in obstetrics and gynecology may pursue additional training to subspecialize in critical care medicine, gynecologic oncology, maternal-fetal medicine, or reproductive endocrinology. Throughout their careers, all medical doctors, including OB/GYNs, are required to take refresher courses to keep up to date in the latest medical knowledge and procedures.

Certification, Licensing, and Special Requirements

Certification or Licensing

All states require that physicians be licensed. Although physicians licensed in one state usually can get a license to practice in another without further examination, some states limit reciprocity. To practice in the United States, physicians must also pass the United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE).

Certification by the American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology (ABOG) is highly recommended. In the last months of your residency, you take the written examination given by the ABOG. Candidates for certification take the final oral examination after two or more years of practice. You must have successfully passed the written portion of the certifying exam before you are eligible to take the oral portion. The ABOG also offers certification in the following subspecialties: maternal-fetal medicine, reproductive endocrinology and infertility, and gynecologic oncology.

Experience, Skills, and Personality Traits

An OB/GYN is experienced in assisting not only patients but coworkers and other caregivers; analyzing and evaluating information in order to choose the best solution to a medical problem; and establishing and maintaining interpersonal relationships with others in order to achieve the best results. To make this experience most effective, the OB/GYN employs critical thinking, listening, reading, writing, and speaking skills, as well as problem solving, decision making, and assessment skills. Personality traits of the effective OB/GYN are integrity, dependability, attention to details, ability to tolerate stress and exercise self-control even in difficult situations, empathy for others, persistence in spite of difficulties, adaptability in the case of changing conditions, and self-reliance in achieving goals.

Communication skills are essential, as most of your time is spent with patients, talking to them and listening to their histories and problems. The intimate nature of both the patient's condition and the examination requires that an OB/GYN be able to put the patient at ease while asking highly personal questions.