Gynecologist (OBGYN)

Women’s health issues are unique and, as such, require the care of doctors who have received specialized training. Gynecologists specialize in women’s reproductive health and due to the personal and sensitive nature of the care they provide, they must develop a strong rapport and trust with their patients. They are compassionate and caring physicians who practice patient-centered care and are experts at calming nervous or embarrassed patients.

Gynecologists are primary care doctors of medicine or doctors of osteopathy who have completed four years of residency in women’s health. They can diagnose and treat diseases, perform surgery, and provide preventative care in reproductive health. While most gynecologists work in private practice, they can also be found in hospitals, outpatient treatment centers, and public health clinics. Gynecologists who also practice obstetrics care for women during pregnancy, delivery, and post-partum.

Currently, there are not enough gynecologists to serve all the women who need one. According to the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), there was a projected shortage of 9,000 obstetrician-gynecologists in 2020, and by 2050, that number will rise to 22,000. This shortage is primarily driven by an aging workforce, with roughly 35 percent of gynecologists being over the age of 55.

This specialty field of primary care is essential to women’s well-being. Continue reading to learn what it takes to become a gynecologist and discover some of the top programs training these valuable doctors.

Gynecologist Specializations & Degree Types

Gynecologists are board-certified doctors of medicine (MD) or doctors of osteopathy who have completed a gynecology residency. They have years of education and specialized training to provide quality reproductive care to women. Some gynecologists also practice obstetrics, which is the care of women during pregnancy, birth, and postpartum.

Gynecologists are not necessarily obstetricians, but all obstetricians are gynecologists. Other subspecialties in gynecology include oncology, female pelvic medicine, and reproductive endocrinology and infertility.

Admissions Requirements for Gynecologist Programs

Aspiring gynecologists must first complete medical. Admission requirements to medical schools are stringent, with only about 40 percent of applicants being admitted. Students who are planning to attend medical school should focus on doing well on the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT), which can often be the deciding factor.

Other admission requirements to medial school include prerequisite coursework in biology, chemistry, organic chemistry, physics, and English, pass a background check, proof of English proficiency for international students, and an in-person interview.

Gynecologist Program Accreditation

Gynecologists must attend medical school. The Liaison Committee on Medical Education (LCME) accredits doctor of medicine (MD) programs, and the Commission on Osteopathic College Accreditation (COCA) accredits doctor of osteopathy (DO) programs.

Gynecology residencies and fellowships are overseen by the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME).

On-Campus Gynecologist Residency Programs

Gynecologists must attend medical school and complete a four-year gynecology residency. Below is a list of on-campus medical schools with top gynecology residency programs.

University of California, San Francisco – School of Medicine

The gynecology and obstetrics residency program at the University of California, San Francisco School of Medicine is ranked number one in the nation by US News & World Report. While the medical students in this program are required to perform rotations in all specialties, aspiring gynecologists will have the opportunity to complete rounds in the country’s top program. Building relationships with staff and professors in this program can be critical to obtaining one of the ten coveted residency spots at this prestigious program.

Women’s health is woven throughout every component of a student’s education at UCSF. Students also have the opportunity to choose electives in women’s health and participate in fieldwork and research. UCSF has also adopted a required anti-racism curriculum all students must complete.

  • Location: San Francisco, CA
  • Duration: Four years
  • Accreditation: Liaison Committee on Medical Education (LCME)
  • Tuition: $55,036 per year

Johns Hopkins University – School of Medicine

The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine has one of the top gynecology residency programs in the country. Students who attend this medical school will participate in rotations with top doctors and residents in gynecology.

Medical students can also apply for the student clerkship in gynecology. These eight clerkship positions provide students with more in-depth experience and education in gynecology with rotations at three hospitals. Completing a clerkship also helps students be competitive in residency application, and they can show dedication, interest, and additional skills in this field.

Only eight or nine students are offered residencies in gynecology at Johns Hopkins each year. This program encompassed gynecology and obstetrics, giving residents well-rounded experience in well-woman care, fertility, oncology, and labor and delivery. Residents are also required to continue their didactic education with Friday classes that teach patient-centric evidence-based practices.

  • Location: Baltimore, MA
  • Duration: Four years
  • Accreditation: Liaison Committee on Medical Education (LCME)
  • Tuition: $54,900 per year

University of Pennsylvania – Perelman School of Medicine

Medical students at the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine receive a strong foundation in obstetrics and gynecology. They attend lectures, review case studies, and participate in rounds in women’s health during reproductive and post-reproductive years.

One aspect that sets Penn State apart is its state-of-the-art simulation center, where students can safely learn hands-on techniques without needing to practice on patients. Skills gynecology students practice in the simulation center include pelvic exams, suturing, venipuncture, and more.

Clerkships are available to students who want more experience in gynecology while still in medical school. This six-week rotation encompasses a wide variety of skills and procedures. Clerkship is also an excellent way to get to know the staff who will make decisions about residency.

  • Location: Philadelphia, PA
  • Duration: Four years
  • Accreditation: Liaison Committee on Medical Education (LCME)
  • Tuition: $59,910 per year

Rowan University – School of Osteopathic Medicine

Students completing their doctor of osteopathy education at Rowan University School of Osteopathic Medicine will have the opportunity to perform rotations in the obstetrics and gynecology department. During medical school, students will learn osteopathic medical principles and how to apply those skills to women’s health. Students will interact with infertility, cancer, and other conditions.

Not only will students learn preventative care, but they will also learn gynecological surgical techniques. Hands-on training happens at two local hospitals and two clinics.

  • Location: Stratford, NJ
  • Duration: Four years
  • Accreditation: Commission on Osteopathic College Accreditation (COCA)
  • Tuition: $41,339

Online or Hybrid Gynecologist Degree Programs

Due to the hands-on nature of medical school and residency, there are no hybrid or online programs, although some online course components may be available.

How Long Does it Take to Become a Gynecologist?

Gynecologists must complete an undergraduate degree, medical school, and residency, which means it can take 12 years or more of education and training.

How To Become a Gynecologist (OBGYN) – Step-by-Step Guide

Step 1: Graduate from High School or Obtain a GED (Four Years)

The path to becoming a gynecologist starts with completing high school or obtaining a GED. Not only does this demonstrate a minimum level of education, but this is a requirement for most undergraduate degree programs. Students should focus on classes such as biology, physics, psychology, and anatomy. Volunteering at clinics and hospitals can provide students with valuable experience prior to graduating from high school.

Step 2: Complete a Bachelor’s Degree Program (Four Years)

Medical schools require applicants to have completed a bachelor’s degree. Earning a bachelor’s degree exemplifies a student’s ability to complete rigorous college-level coursework. Also, students must complete extensive prerequisite coursework in order to be prepared for medical school. Typical majors aspiring doctors complete include pre-med, biology, psychology, chemistry, nursing, or molecular biology.

Step 3: Take the MCAT (Timeline Varies)

The Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) is required for admission to medical school. Students should strive to do well on this test as it can be the most significant factor affecting admission. Students will take this exam in the spring of their junior year of their undergraduate degree.

Step 4: Apply for Medical School (Timeline Varies)

Medical school applications are typically submitted during the summer between students’ junior and senior years of college. Most medical schools utilize the American Medical College Application Service (AMCAS), allowing students to upload their documents and apply to multiple medical schools.

Step 5: Attend Medical School (Four Years)

It takes four years to complete medical school. Coursework includes lectures, case studies, and rotations. Students are required to participate in a variety of disciplines, so aspiring gynecologists should choose a medical school with a strong gynecology department. Clerkships can give students additional experience in gynecology as well as improve chances of residency admission.

Step 6: Apply for a Gynecology Residency (During Medical School)

During the final year of medical school, students will apply for a residency in gynecology. Strong references, work experience, and an outstanding essay can improve students’ chances in this competitive process. Residency matches are announced in March.

Step 7: Fulfill Residency Requirements (Four Years)

Gynecology residency is four years. During this time, doctors receive the final training necessary to be excellent gynecologists. Top programs will give students experience in all aspects of gynecology, including oncology, preventative care, and surgery.

Step 8: Sit for the National Licensing Exams (Timelines Vary)

Doctors must pass a national licensing exam based on the type of medical school they complete. Doctors who earned an MD must pass the United States Medical Licensing Exam (USMLE), and those who have completed a DO will take the Comprehensive Osteopathic Medical Licensing Examination of the United States (COMPLEX-USA). These rigorous exams evaluate skills and knowledge obtained during medical school and residency.

Step 9: Obtain State Licensure (Timelines Vary)

Once education, residency, and nationality are complete, doctors must apply for licensing from their state’s medical board. Requirements vary by state, so doctors should contact their local authorities to ensure they have the necessary qualification.

Step 10: Take the Exam to Become Board Certified (Timelines Vary)

Gynecologists must be board certified by the American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology (ABOG) in order to practice. Requirements for certification include completing medical school and residency and passing a certification exam.

What Do Gynecologists Do?

Gynecologists work primarily in private offices, outpatient clinics, and hospitals. They specialize in women’s reproductive health. While day to day duties can vary based on where they work, typical responsibilities of gynecologists include:

  • Meeting with patients one on one in a clinic or hospital
  • Performing physical examinations to look for disease or for preventative care, including pelvic and breast exams.
  • Ordering medical tests such as labs, biopsies, or scans
  • Prescribing medications including birth control
  • Diagnosing medical conditions relating to fertility or the female reproductive system
  • Performing surgery when indicated
  • Maintaining client records

Gynecologist Certifications & Licensure

Gynecologists must be licensed to practice medicine by their state’s medical licensing board. Requirements vary by state, so doctors should contact their local board to learn more. Typical requirements include education, residency, and a comprehensive national licensing exam.

Board certifications for gynecologists are through the American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology (ABOG). To be eligible for board certification, doctors must complete medical school, a residency in gynecology, and pass a certification exam.

Specialty certifications are available in female pelvic medicine and surgery, oncology, and reproductive endocrinology, and infertility. To be eligible to sit for the specialty certification exams, gynecologists must complete a fellowship in that field.

How Much Do Gynecologists Make?

On average, Gynecologists earn $233,610 per year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (May 2019). Currently, there are approximately 18,620 gynecologists in the US. The percentiles for wages are:

  • 10th percentile: $81,200
  • 25th percentile: $171,780
  • 50th percentile (median): >$208,000 per year
  • 75th percentile: >$208,000 per year
  • 90th percentile: >$208,000 per year

Please note that the BLS does not give specific figures for ranges in excess of $208,000.

Kimmy Gustafson

Kimmy Gustafson


Kimmy is a freelance writer with extensive experience writing about healthcare careers and education. She has worked in public health, at health-focused nonprofits, and as a Spanish interpreter for doctor’s offices and hospitals. She has a passion for learning and that drives her to stay up to date on the latest trends in healthcare. When not writing or researching, she can be found pursuing her passions of nutrition and an active outdoors lifestyle.

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