Obstetricians are licensed medical doctors who care for women during and after pregnancy. They monitor the health of pregnant women and their fetuses, diagnose and treat abnormal conditions, and deliver babies. A person who wants to become an obstetrician is usually required to complete about eight years of full-time college and participate in a four- to six-year residency program. An individual must also pass extensive licensing exams administered by a nationally-recognized governing board. Once licensed, a professional becomes eligible to work in general hospitals, specialty clinics, and private practices.
A person who wants to become an obstetrician must first enroll in a four-year bachelor's degree program at an accredited college or university. Most prospective doctors major in premedical studies, an educational path that includes several classes in health, anatomy, physiology, and biology. Many students take additional courses in communications, psychology, math, and physics to broaden their knowledge and skills. Students can pursue internships or entry-level medical aide positions at hospitals to learn more about different health-care professions to help them determine if they really want to pursue careers in the field.
Near the end of a bachelor's degree program, an individual can begin applying to medical schools and take requisite computerized or written admissions tests. When selecting applicants, medical schools generally choose the students who have the strongest grades, admissions test scores, recommendation letters, and personal essays. After being accepted, a medical student meets with advisers and professors to tailor a degree program that will best prepare him or her to become an obstetrician.
Medical school programs typically last four years and entail classroom studies, laboratory research, and clinical practice. Students usually spend their first two years primarily in classroom environments, taking advanced courses in a range of medical subjects. The last two years of a program are designed to provide practical education in conducting medical research, making diagnoses, and treating different conditions. Prospective obstetricians often have the opportunity to take specialized courses in gynecology and obstetrics to better prepare them for their eventual careers. By completing an internship, excelling in coursework, and producing a quality dissertation based on original research, a student is awarded a Doctor of Medicine degree.
Following graduation, a person who wants to become an obstetrician can begin a four- to six-year residency program. Most new doctors spend their first two or three years in emergency rooms or hospitals, practicing general medicine under the supervision of licensed physicians. The latter half of a residency is usually spent in a specialty clinic or obstetrics wing of a hospital to gain experience working directly with pregnant women.
In most countries, an individual is required to pass both a general medicine and specialty obstetrics exam to officially become an obstetrician and begin working independently. Governing boards such as the American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology in the United States grant certification to successful test-takers. Most obstetricians choose to specialize in a sub-field, such as fetal medicine or oncology. Additional licensing and certification tests must be passed in order to work as a specialist.