You know you want to be a doctor, and you’ve narrowed the field to gynecology or family practice. Although each physician is a specialist, the scope of their practices are different. Gynecologists limit their practice to women, while family practice physicians see people of all ages. There are also some differences in education between the two types of physicians, and a big difference in income.
No matter what medical specialty you choose, you’ll need to plan on a long period of schooling. You’ll begin with a bachelor’s degree -- many aspiring physicians choose a degree in one of the sciences. After four years in college, you’re off to medical school. Medical schools are highly competitive -- and expensive. You’ll need to work hard to maintain your academic standing and you should have a good idea of how you will finance your education. Residency is the next step, for a minimum of three years; gynecologists usually spend even longer learning their specialty.
Doctors who specialize in health issues that only affect women may practice both obstetrics and gynecology or either specialty alone. They may also specialize in a particular area, such as fertility management, oncology -- cancer care -- or female reconstructive surgery. Gynecologists who also practice obstetrics manage prenatal care, labor and delivery, including cesarean sections. In addition to pregnancy care, a gynecologist might provide care for reproductive cancers, hormonal disorders or menopause symptoms, or perform surgeries such as a hysterectomy or tubal ligation.
About Family Practice
A family practice doctor was once called a general practitioner, because the nature of the practice is so broad. The term “family” means just that; you might deliver a baby and continue to care for the child until she is an adult, as well as caring for her parents, siblings and perhaps even her grandparents. The long-term relationships these doctors develop with their patients are one of the most important aspects of family-centered care. In addition to basic health care such as immunizations and screenings, a family doctor can usually take care of routine gynecologic needs, such as an annual well-woman exam.
Doctors generally earn a good income, which is a fair trade-off for all those years in school, and whether you choose family practice or gynecology, you probably won't be short of pocket change. If money is more important to you than the medical specialty, do consider the difference in income between a family practitioner and OB-GYN. Family practitioners earned an average annual salary of $177,330 in 2011, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. OB-GYNs, on the other hand, had a considerably higher income, with an average annual salary of $218,610.
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Physicians and Surgeons
- American Osteopathic Association: Visiting the Gynecologist
- KidsHealth: Is a Gynecologist the Same as a Primary Care Doctor?
- American Academy of Family Physicians: What is a Family Doctor?
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: May 2011 National Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates United States
- American College of Surgeons: Obstetrics and Gynecology
- Stockbyte/Stockbyte/Getty Images