Specialty Competitiveness

When picking a medical specialty to devote a minimum of three years post-graduate study, and a lifetime to, there are many considerations.

For example:

  • Your passions and interests in medicine – Are you surgical or do you prefer the puzzle of diagnosis?
  • Your professional credentials – Test scores, clinical experience, etc.
  • Your resources – Finances, documents, etc.

Among the many factors medical residency candidates have to think about when picking a specialty or specialties to apply for is how competitive the specialty is to get a residency in. This is especially true for IMGs who have even more considerations such as visas and ECFMG Certification.  

Unless you are a US medical graduate, just out of medical school, with perfect USMLE scores, knowing how competitive a specialty is will help you avoid difficult specialties and help you pick the specialty you have a greater chance of Matching with.

Below is a list of 18 specialties provided by Match A Resident with a competitiveness rating provided by AAMC®:

                                      Low            Medium             High           Extreme

Also provided will be the percentage of positions filled by IMGs per specialty from the 2015 Match as outlined in NRMP’s® Results and Data 2015 Report.

Anesthesiology

  • Competitiveness Level: Medium
  • Positions Filled by IMGs 2015 Match:
    • 10%
    • 15% (PGY-2 only)

Child Neurology

  • Competitiveness Level: Extreme
  • Positions Filled by IMGs 2015 Match
    • 12% (PGY-1 only)
    • 47% (PGY-2 only)

Combined MedPeds

  • Competitiveness Level: High
  • Positions Filled by IMGs 2015 Match:
    • 6%

Dermatology  

  • Competitiveness Level: Extreme
  • Positions Filled by IMGs 2015 Match:
    • 0% (PGY-1 only)
    • 2% (PGY-2 only)

Emergency Medicine

  • Competitiveness Level: Medium
  • Positions Filled by IMGs 2015 Match:
    • 6%

Family Medicine

  • Competitiveness Level: Low
  • Positions Filled by IMGs 2015 Match:
    • 34%

General Surgery

  • Competitiveness Level: High
  • Positions Filled by IMGs 2015 Match:
    • 9%
    • 29% (PGY-1 only)

Internal Medicine

  • Competitiveness Level: Low
  • Positions Filled by IMGs 2015 Match:
    • 41%
    • 6% (PGY-1 only)

Neurology

  • Competitiveness Level: Low
  • Positions Filled by IMGs 2015 Match:
    • 32%
    • 26% (PGY-2 only)

Neurosurgery

  • Competitiveness Level: High
  • Positions Filled by IMGs 2015 Match:
    • 7%

Obstetrics & Gynecology

  • Competitiveness Level: Medium
  • Positions Filled by IMGs 2015 Match:
    • 9%

Orthopaedic Surgery

  • Competitiveness Level: Extreme
  • Positions Filled by IMGs 2015 Match:
    • 1%

Pathology

  • Competitiveness Level: Low
  • Positions Filled by IMGs 2015 Match:
    • 38%

Pediatrics

  • Competitiveness Level: Low
  • Positions Filled by IMGs 2015 Match:
    • 16%

Physical Med & Rehab

  • Competitiveness Level: Medium
  • Positions Filled by IMGs 2015 Match:
    • 16%

Psychiatry

  • Competitiveness Level: Low
  • Positions Filled by IMGs 2015 Match:
    • 25%

Radiology

Diagnostic Radiology

  • Competitiveness Level: Medium
  • Positions Filled by IMGs 2015 Match:
    • 22%
    • 14% (PGY-2 only)

Radiation Oncology

  • Competitiveness Level: Extreme
  • Positions Filled by IMGs 2015 Match:
    • 0%
    • 0% (PGY-2 only)

Transitional Year

  • Competitiveness Level: Medium (High for IMGs)
  • Positions Filled by IMGs 2015 Match:
    • 7% (PGY-1 only)

Knowing how competitive a specialty is can help you narrow down your specialty choices along with the other factors you have in mind such as personal preferences and professional credentials.

However, don’t let competitiveness scare you away from a specialty you really love. If you are truly passionate about a specialty you may just have to change your strategy for getting a residency position. You will need to be willing to put in more work or take a less direct path.

For example, for more advanced specialties, you may have to pad your application with extra work, research, or volunteer experiences. You may also have to complete a preliminary year or Transitional Year before applying to some specialties.

Once your application is strong, you can further improve your chances by applying to programs that you are best suited for and applying to enough programs. Match A Resident can help you cut down you research time and provide you with a list of programs based on your credentials.

 

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