Most Competitive Residencies

August 17

Table of Contents

There is a ton of false information about which medical specialties are competitive. Everyone believes that their field is competitive, and they are not mistaken. Any medical residency application process is complex. Nevertheless, certain things are more challenging to enter and more competitive than others.

There is frequently a great deal of pride at stake, but whether or not your field is regarded as competitive does not determine whether you are a good or bad doctor. It merely lists the most demanding specialties to break into.

Additionally, premeds and medical students can benefit significantly from knowing which specialties are the most difficult to enter. All specializations are competitive, so if yours is ranked lower than you would want, it does not reflect you; it is just what the data shows.

This article aims to share with you the most competitive medical residencies backed by data. 

Why are Some Medical Specialties So Competitive?

The average physician wage in 2023 will be USD 300,618, but some specializations may pay much more than that.

Some of the most lucrative medical specialties are also the most difficult to match into residency programs. 

The highest pay grades are reserved for surgical specialties, particularly neurological and thoracic surgery. 

On the other side, dermatology is a very competitive field despite having an outstanding work-life balance, even though it tends to pay less than the surgical specialties (albeit still well above average). 

Many medical students are keen to become dermatologists for various reasons, including the potential for a flexible schedule, a manageable workload, a relatively brief residency period, and competitive pay. 

How difficult it is to match into a specialty also depends on the number of resident positions available in that field. For instance, 173 U.S. MD seniors applied to interventional radiology residencies in 2023, but there were only 51 spaces open, meaning that there were 0.18 opportunities available for every applicant. 

Contrarily, internal medicine had over 9,000 open posts and attracted about 4,000 allopathic M4 candidates. Therefore, there were more than two openings for each U.S. MD senior who applied.

The most competitive residency specialties often provide one or fewer openings per allopathic M4 applicant.

What are the Most Competitive Medical Residencies? 

Is the specialty you wish to pursue competitive? You may be asking. How do you determine how many residence applications to submit? 

Even though you may have already decided on a medical specialization, do you realize how difficult it is to get matched?

The National Resident Matching Program views residencies with the most incredible fill rates as the most competitive. The programs that, in the match, fill the majority of their open places. Therefore, even if a specialty may have a high overall match rate, it does not necessarily follow that it does not also have a competitive discipline. 

For your reference, we have listed the most competitive medical residencies below.

Medical Residency

Fill Rate

Number of Positions Offered

Unfilled Programs

Average Annual Salary

Years of Training Required









































6 Tips for Medical Students to Get the Perfect Match 

Getting a residency post requires more than just having competitive test scores. You must plan, network, and put your best foot forward to show you are the ideal "match" for a program.

Listed below are a few tips on how to get the perfect match as a medical student:

Be Honest

A trustworthy resident will be an honorable and responsible applicant for residency. Trust must be earned gradually. It will be challenging to reestablish rapport and future trust in a working relationship built on mistrust.

This trust might be betrayed when an applicant fails to reveal a flaw in their application, notably criminal histories and conduct infractions. Withholding this information may result in NRMP match violations and the loss of a residency position.

Students are also requested to list any prior infractions of conduct. Be truthful about these events, own responsibility, show humility, and abstain from placing blame. Share how the circumstance drove your personal and professional development and use the experience as a learning opportunity.

Create a Secondary Plan

The phrase "backup plan" is one that plenty of residents are familiar with. A separate strategy, however, encourages students to submit applications for both specializations in September. 

Students applying to highly competitive specialties or with below-competitive scores for their primary thing of interest should take this very seriously.

The parallel strategy consists of networking in both specialties, two sets of referral letters, and designing fourth-year electives to support both specialties. 

Students are cautious about pursuing a parallel path because they are concerned that programs will not be sure of their dedication to their expertise.

A parallel decision is, however, simpler to defend in an interview than a backup strategy. 

Be truthful if questioned about a similar process in an interview. Describe your interest in and devotion to both specialties. This is preferable to saying that you applied to their program since you could not get consultations for your first-choice thing.

Be Aware of How You Come Across

Your social media footprint is an example of how this relates to any employment or residency programs screen applicants. This involves investigating a candidate's social media profiles. Be mindful of the images and opinions you submit (such as blog and Twitter comments).

Being critical of medicine, medical school, healthcare, peers, or politics could all be detrimental when applying for jobs. Remember that the interviewers' only source of information about your character is what they learn through your application, social media accounts, and word of mouth.

A blog with a lot of enthusiasm in the wrong things that serves as an applicant's first introduction might not be the best choice. Many college students choose to delete or modify their social network names. 

A program director may be concerned if they discover a candidate has altered or disguised their social media presence in preparation for an interview. Utilize a professional photo of yourself dressed in business clothing and posting on social media. Use a professional email address for your application.

Use Good Communication

A successful match season depends on effective written, spoken, and nonverbal communication. Your contacts with each person during medical school, the residency application process, and interviews can have a favorable or unfavorable effect on how well you match for a residency.

It would be best if you did not try to blend in throughout your third and fourth years of medical school; instead, make connections and create relationships for mentorships and contacts, especially during the rotations that are not of interest to you. 

Engage in conversation during clinical rotations, make introductions, network, and treat everyone respectfully.

Everyone you come into contact with in a hospital — nurses, coordinators, patient care technicians — might have an opinion on the choice. 

Finally, add formality and courtesy to your emails. Never address someone by their first name; use salutations, entire phrases, and formal language.

Be Punctual

Being on time is a sign of professionalism and work ethic. It can look awful to arrive late for interviews, dinners, or rotations. 

Similarly, submitting your ERAS application to programs on time is crucial. Application materials must be turned in by September 15th to programs. This comprises the personal statement, letters of recommendation, and USMLE Steps 1 and 2 CS/CK

According to polls by program directors, many programs do not wait for the October 1st release of MSPEs. Instead, programs begin the applicant evaluation process in September. Time is, therefore, of the essence.

Do Well In The Interview

Competent students might not be matched if they performed poorly in med-school interviews. A student should use a competitive application to help them get an interview. Once the student is interviewed, calling on the rank list will depend on their ability to communicate with others.

Do your study and preparation before the interview because showing interest in the program and conveying to the program personnel that you would be a good fit for their team will be crucial. 

Knowing the program's priorities will enable applicants to use similar language, creating the impression that they fit in. Always remember that an interview is a chance to network and make an excellent first impression.

You will be well-prepared to start the match season as you prepare an honest application, describe your parallel plan, manage your professional image, communicate effectively, demonstrate professionalism on time, and ace that interview. 

Final Thoughts

Always remember that picking a medical specialization is a personal choice that should align with your interests, abilities, and long-term professional objectives. 

Finding your ideal position and where you can contribute most significantly to patient care is critical. Regardless of specialty, matching is an accomplishment, although some residencies have much more competition for applicants than others.

Starting your preparation early and demonstrating your passion in the particular medical specialization can make it simpler for you to match to competitive residency programs. 

To earn an ideal residency match, you must have exceptional USMLE results, a high GPA, strong research and clinical skills, and a passion for that particular medical specialty.

You're no longer alone on your journey to becoming a physician

Success message!
Warning message!
Error message!