If you’re looking for a career that pays better and provides long-term job security, getting into a career as a fertility specialist might be what you’re looking for. Fertility specialists are there to help families who struggle to start their own families, and it can be an advantageous career choice.
In this article, we’ll be looking over what it takes to become a fertility specialist and what kind of salary you can expect to make once you’ve established yourself as a fertility specialist.
We’ll take a look at some of the environmental work conditions that a fertility specialist is expected to work through and whether or not this career choice is right for you.
What Is A Fertility Specialist?
If you’ve ever heard of a fertility specialist, or have known somebody who has seen a fertility specialist, then you know that they help couples find ways to deal with their inability to conceive children naturally. On a more technical level, a fertility doctor may also come across as being known as a reproductive endocrinologist.
These kinds of doctors practice what’s known as a sub-specialty of obstetrics and gynecology that focuses on reproductive endocrinology and infertility, also known as REI. REI specifically addresses hormonal functions that pertain specifically to reproduction and infertility that affect both men and women.
Typically when you go to see a fertility specialist, an infertility work-up will be done which usually includes the following:
- Patient history
- A physical examination
- Tests for ovulation
- The measurement of your uterine lining
These tests are crucial to helping your fertility specialist determine what part of your reproductive hormones are out of balance. Sometimes these tests can include a hysterosonography or a hysterosalpingogram which may be required to diagnose certain conditions like fibroids, blocked fallopian tubes, or polyps.
Not everyone can claim to be a fertility specialist many medical professionals claim that they can diagnose and treat you for your infertility problems, however, only certified fertility specialists with the proper qualifications are considered capable of handling issues with your reproductive system.
Aside from the rigorous amount of schooling that fertility specialists have to undergo, there are an additional seven years of training required, and then a further certification process that’s provided by the American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology. You’ll want to make sure your fertility specialists hold membership in the Society for Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility.
Work Environment Of A Fertility Specialist
All forms of reproductive specialists will more often than not work in medical offices as a part of a medical team, or if they wanted to, they could set up their private practice which would maximize their salaries. Usually, they have a staff of nurses and technicians available and may work with administrative personnel.
Typically, when a reproductive specialist is working directly with a client to get pregnant, they will be working with the same client for an extended period while suggesting different treatments in accordance to the patient’s needs.
However, fertility specialists do have to deal with failure. Only 42 percent of women under the age of 35 will conceive a live birth through IVF treatment cycles. After the age of 35, the rate drops down to 32 percent, and then for women between the ages of 38 and 40, their success rate falls to 22 percent.
These statistics can be both frustrating and emotional for both the patients and their doctor, and given the fact that fertility specialists work with their patients long-term, the rate of failure can make the job extremely difficult.
Because of these low percentage rates, some patients will become desperate, and this may cause a strained relationship between the fertility specialist and their patient.
To combat this, fertility patients will need emotional reassurance and maybe even counseling, as well as any medical attention they might need.
As a fertility specialist, you will not always get to work a standard eight-hour shift. Most of the time, while they are putting in long hours during the week, some specialists find they also have to come in on the weekends due to monitoring needs of their patients.
In vitro fertilization and egg retrievals sometimes must take place before or after typical office hours, depending on a woman’s egg release cycle. While this can typically be controlled using medications that suppress this release, some women’s bodies do not respond in the same manner.
There can be ethical dilemmas that arise as well when working as a fertility specialist. What many fertility specialists come to have an issue within fertility treatments is what to do with embryos that a couple doesn’t use, or if unused embryos are something that should go towards research through donation.
Some other common ethical issues that have come up for fertility specialists are whether or not there should be a cut-off age for women who want to use donor eggs to get pregnant, and if couples should use fertility treatments to impact the sex of their child directly.
To become a fertility specialist, you’ll need around 12 years of post-secondary education. What this typically includes is graduating from a four-year medical school with a masters degree in medicine, and then choosing the educational path of an ob-gyn before taking on more specialized education.
As with any position in the medical field, earning your bachelors degree is the first big step. Students should consider enrolling in a pre-med program and take any courses that medical schools require. These courses include:
- Organic chemistry
Make sure to study hard, and work towards obtaining the highest level GPA that you can get. Doing this increases your chances dramatically of getting into a good medical school.
Once you get into medical school by passing the medical college admissions test, you’ll dedicate the first two years there learning a large variety of underlying medical subjects, such as anatomy, pharmacology, and even psychology, depending on where you go.
The next two years will be spent doing clinical rotations, where you’ll work with actual patients while supervised by licensed physicians. You’ll take part in a residency program after you’ve finished medical school to sharpen your knowledge and skills and to give the best care to your patients.
Students who are studying to become a fertility specialist will take the same residency program as anyone going into ob-gyn. There they will perform the duties of an ob-gyn including seeing patients and responding to births and emergencies.
At the end of the residency, students will have to become certified as an ob-gyn to become certified as a reproductive specialist in the future. To become certified, you will have to go through the American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology, which require an oral and written exam.
After you’ve managed to achieve all of that, the final step that’s required of you to make a career as a fertility specialist is to obtain a fellowship. Fellowships are nothing like you’ve had to experience so far. They are intense, but they also allow all future fertility specialists to receive valuable knowledge and experience.
You’ll see numerous patients that have a variety of forms of reproductive conditions in both males and females, and you will do this under the supervision of licensed fertility specialists. Once the fellowship has come to completion, you will be able to become board certified through the American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology.
You will need to become licensed as a physician, which is done through the United States Medical Licensing Examination. You’ll have three sections to complete, and each chapter will achieve completion at some point during your medical education.
The first step will achieve completion after the second year of med school, the second part happens during your fourth year of med school, and the third step you’ll find that you achieved that in the final part of your first year of residency.
What Can You Expect To Earn As A Fertility Specialist?
According to a survey conducted by the American Medical Group Association, the average income of a reproductive specialist was $317,312 per year. To put this into perspective, physicians in gynecology and obstetricians average a salary of $235,240 per year.
While it may seem like a lot, there is a considerable amount of schooling required to achieve this field. Other factors determine the amount of money a fertility specialist may make, such as that the location may determine how much money you’ll make versus in other states where you can make more.
All in all, despite some of the drawbacks that you can experience as a fertility specialist, this is a gratifying career with a stable job market, and there are predictions that by the year 2020 the demand for fertility specialists will rise thanks to a rise in the need for IVF treatments.
The overall growth in the infertility market is already projected to continue to increase at a rate of three and a half percent every year which is a good sign for anyone who is looking into becoming a fertility specialist.
Most doctors agree that the need comes from the fact that many women are waiting until they’re more established in their careers before thinking about starting a family. While it’s not unheard of for many women to postpone it, the longer they take to reach that point may result in lower chances of carrying a child.