Top 5 Most IMG Friendly Specialties 2017 Match

Top 5 Most IMG Friendly Specialties 2017 Match

If you are an International Medical Graduate (IMG), picking which medical specialties to apply to can be made more challenging by the need to figure out which medical specialties are IMG friendly. Using the information provided by NRMP’s® Results and Data 2017 Main Residency Match®, we were able to figure out which medical specialties had the highest percent of US and Non-US IMGs in the positions filled for each specialty from last year’s Match.

IMG percentage was calculated by adding together the US and Non-US IMGs who obtained a residency position in the specialty, and calculated what percent of the total positions filled were IMGs.

For example, in Emergency Medicine there were:

2,041 Total Positions Filled

86 Positions Filled by US IMGs

20 Positions Filled by Non-US IMGs

106 Total Positions Filled by IMGs

5.1% Positions Filled by IMGs

Below is a chart with the results.

The Top 5 Most IMG Friendly Medical Specialties

Specialty Rank in Highest Percent of IMGs Specialty Total Positions Filled Positions filled by IMGs** Percent of total positions filled by IMGs
1 Pathology 545 272 49.9%
2 Internal Medicine


7,101 3,033 42.7%
3 Neurology (Categorical) 479 164 34.2%
4 Family Medicine 3,215 995 30.9%
5 General Surgery (Preliminary) 817 250 30.4%

**Includes U.S. and Non-U.S. IMGs

Please note, the chart does not take into account the total amount of positions available. For example, while Pathology has a higher percentage of IMGs accepted into residency programs, there are less positions available than Family Medicine.

Other Popular Specialties

Anesthesiology (PGY-1): 13.8% IMGs

General Surgery (Categorical): 10.4% IMGs

Pediatrics: 16.9% IMGs

Psychiatry: 20.0% IMGs

Transitional Year: 7.6% IMGs

IMG Friendly Trends

Compared to the 2016 NRMP Match, there were some surprises in the 2017 NRMP Match. Some surprises include:

  • Psychiatry was bumped from the Top 5 by the appearance of Neurology
  • Pathology overtook Internal Medicine as the most IMG friendly specialty (Note: Internal Medicine is a much larger specialty and still has more opportunities for IMGs).
  • Family Medicine dropped to 4th position by dropping from 35% to 30.9% IMGs

Other IMG Factors

Beyond statistics, there are a other factors IMG residency candidates should consider when choosing medical specialties such as:

  • Specialty-wide USMLE score expectations – Some specialties are more competitive and have increased expectations of residency candidates. For example, General Surgery programs typically require higher USMLE scores than Psychiatry.
  • Previous work and clinical experiences – All specialties like to see some evidence of commitment and deep interest for the specialty. Specialties such as Family Medicine highly prefer to see some history of Family Medicine experience to prove your dedication.
  • Supporting documents – Another way to prove your interest and dedication to a specialty is having specialty specific supporting documents. You should work hard to obtain specialty specific Letters of Recommendation and a Personal Statement for each specialty you plan on applying to.
  • Finances –  Applying to residency can be expensive. The suggested minimum applications for IMG candidates is 100 programs per specialty which adds up to thousands of dollars. Make sure you assess your specialty decision carefully to make the best use of your resources.
  • Program choices and opportunities – Your choice may depend on how large the specialty you choose is and the amount of programs you qualify to apply to based on your professional credentials and each program’s application requirements. If you pick too narrow a specialty, you may need to prepare a backup specialty.   

Choosing a specialty will take time, care and consideration. While some specialties are less competitive than others, no one specialty is a guaranteed “In.” No matter which specialty you pick, you will still have to put lots of hard work into your ERAS Application materials, program research, and beyond.


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