Career Information: Obstetrics & Gynecology

Specialty: Obstetrics & Gynecology
Completed by: Patty Robertson, MD
Date completed/updated: April 2013

  1. What can students do in the 1st and 2nd years to explore and/or prepare for this career? 
    During your first year, enroll in the one or more of the following electives, U-Teach, Surgical Assist, Reproductive Health, Introduction to Ob-Gyn Clinical Skills, African-American Health Disparities (includes a lot of obgyn), Health Workshops at the San Francisco Jail, Ob-Gyn Global Health Issues. Also enroll in the Homeless Clinic elective and then come to the Sunday evening Women’s Clinic to work with our attendings and residents, attend the ob-gyn career dinners  twice a year (see email invites from Julie Lindow) where you get to know ob-gyns who practice in the community,  attend the seminar about research opportunities for ob-gyn for the summer following the first year of medical school, visit with an ob-gyn career advisor even if you are not 100% sure about ob-gyn. 

    Second-year students should consider becoming an elective student coordinator for one of the courses listed above.
  2. What common variations exist in the length/content of residency programs for this career?
    All ob-gyn residencies are 4 years in length. The first year is 6 months of ob-gyn and 6 months of medicine (geriatrics, ER, ward, etc) and then the last three years are all ob-gyn. Elective time varies from 0 to 3 months depending on the residency. The second year is all ob-gyn, the third year usually has the elective time if there is any, and the fourth year, all residents serve as Chief Residents and lead teams in ob-gyn. There are residency programs at academic centers as well as community hospitals.
  3. What common variations exist in this career after training?
    There are formal three-year fellowships in maternal-fetal medicine, gyn oncology, reproductive endocrinology. Occasionally at some fellowship, gyn oncology is four years. There are variable-length residencies in uro-gynecology, family planning, minimally invasive surgery, global health, and reproductive infectious diseases. There are also opportunities to do other fellowships like preventive health, hematology, epidemiology, palliative care, etc.

    Most residency graduates go into practice after training, either at Kaiser, community practices, or private practice. However, some graduates are hospital-based such as laborists, ob-gyns who decide to devote the next part of their career to women having babies. Some residency graduates do international health, either full-time or part-time. Some enter academic medicine as generalists, or having done a fellowship. The opportunities are limitless.
  4. What is a typical work day for someone in this field?
    There is no typical work day: it depends on where you practice. For instance, at a Kaiser, you might have 6 clinic sessions per week, a day in the operating room, 1-2 nights on call a month for extra $$, and ½ day per week for education. If you are in private practice, you might start by rounding on your hospital patients, go to the office to see patients, have call once a week or once or twice a month, operate one day per week. As an academic, you usually have a mix of clinic sessions, administrative meetings (head a clerkship or a residency), research, teaching. You can work part-time or full-time.
  5. What is the culture of this career?
    It is fast-paced, diverse, joyful to help families bring new life into their lives, hard when an outcome doesn’t happen that was anticipated, and longitudinal: usually you take care of your patients during a span of years and get to know them well. Also, you get to perform surgery.
  6. How compatible is this career with raising a family? How is this different for men and women?
    Depending on what you choose for your work environment, it can be compatible with raising children and having a strong relationship with a spouse. The current work conditions vary drastically from the old days when the number of hours worked per week were 100 – 120. Typically the work week for someone working full-time is 40 – 60 hours plus one to two nights of call per month. Many ob-gyns work 4 days per week, or sometimes half-time. The opportunities abound for both men and women. Sometimes for men, a patient panel will take a little longer to fill out at the beginning of one’s career, but research shows that the compassion and caring is more important to women choosing an ob-gyn than gender.
  7. What are the most important qualities or character traits for a person in this field?
    Strong interpersonal skills to work as a team and to communicate effectively and easily with patients; enjoyment of being in the OR or Labor and Delivery; ability to adapt to different environments quickly whether  at your office and then running to the L and D unit to delivery one of your long-term patients; energetic and enthusiastic.
  8. How competitive are the residency programs in this field?
    University residency programs are competitive. Community residency programs are less competitive. Get career counseling early in the field if you  have low Step 1 scores or did not pass Step 1 on your first attempt.
  9. How competitive is the job market after residency?
    here is a shortage of ob-gyns nationally so there are many job opportunities.
  10. What programs have been popular among UCSF applicants, or how should applicants go about considering programs?
    Talk to an ob-gyn career advisor individually about this fit of programs for you.
  11. What resources (eg, websites, books, professional groups) would you recommend for students interested in learning more about this field?
    Become a Junior Fellow in the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. At their annual meeting, there is a wonderful panel on residency matching, as well as an essay contest that if you win, you have free ride to the meeting! Also, look at the Associate of Professors in Ob-Gyn (APGO) website.
  12. How important are each of the following for admission to a competitive program?

Very Important

Somewhat Important

Not Important


volunteer work










Honors in third year









Not necessary but of course helpful










May be helpful, ask Dr. Robertson