If a woman has a bladder infection, she might see a gynecologist or a urologist, but a man would see a urologist, because gynecologists treat only women and urologists treat both men and women. Urology and gynecology are both medical specialties and there may be some overlap in medical care, such as the treatment of urinary infections in women or disorders such as infertility. However, most of the duties of these physicians are different.
Urologists and gynecologists spend many years in training -- college, medical school and residency can last 10 or 11 years. In the last year of medical school and residency, each begins to learn more about her specialty. For example, the gynecologist will begin to learn how to perform surgeries such as hysterectomies, while the urologist learns how to treat prostate cancer. As specialists, they are also likely to go on for an extended period of training called a fellowship that may last three to six years. Both types of physician must be licensed to practice medicine, and most also choose to become board-certified.
Gynecologists are often called obstetrician-gynecologists, because they frequently practice both specialties. Obstetrics is the care of pregnant women, and gynecology is the specialty that deals with disorders and diseases of the female reproductive system. OB-GYNs take care of women who are pregnant and deliver babies. In addition, an OB-GYN or a gynecologist might provide birth control education and treatment, screen a woman for cancer, treat a sexually transmitted disease, manage symptoms of menopause or perform surgery such as a hysterectomy.
Urologists specialize in the treatment of diseases, injuries and disorders of the kidneys and bladder. Whether you're male or female, your sex organs and your urinary tract are connected or co-located in the same area of the body, so urologists may treat some conditions also treated by gynecologists. Some urologists specialize. They may focus on kidney transplants, or only treat men who have problems with erections. Others may limit their practice to only men or only women.
Infertility is one area where urologists and gynecologists work together. Infertility can be a male or female problem, or it can be a combination. The urologist might perform a physical examination of the male partner, analyze the sperm cells or treat any sexually transmitted diseases in either the man or woman. The gynecologist would assess the woman’s uterus and ovaries, confirm she is ovulating normally or perform a surgery to ensure the lining of the uterus is healthy.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics does not track salary data for either urologists or gynecologists separately. The BLS groups gynecologists with the combined specialty of obstetrics and gynecology, and places urologists under the category of surgeons. Obstetrician-gynecologists earned an annual average salary of $218,610 in 2011, according to BLS. Surgeons had an average annual salary of $231,550 in 2011. However, a Merritt Hawkins salary survey in 2010 reported that urologists earned an average annual salary of $401,000, while OB-GYN specialists earned $266,000.
Beth Greenwood is an RN and has been a writer since 2010. She specializes in medical and health topics, as well as career articles about health care professions. Greenwood holds an Associate of Science in nursing from Shasta College.