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How Long is Residency: Medical Residency Timeline and Length (2022-2023)

Should residency training length matter?

Medical Residency Timeline and Length

Residency lengths and structures vary by specialty and can be intimidating aspects of planning your career following medical school. Primary care residency programs are the shortest whereas surgical residencies are longer.

No matter how long your residency training, your level of responsibility, autonomy, and independence will increase every year of residency so by the end of your residency training, you’re functioning severally in your chosen specialty. All residency specialties also provide the choice for further specialization after residency, known as fellowship training.

Whether you’re applying to the most or least competitive residencies, this guide will provide you with useful data to give you a better sense of what lies ahead on any of your potential paths forward.

Residency Lengths: Why it Matters

Transitioning from the school of medicine to a residency program should be a time for celebration and revived perspective. Creating it through four of the toughest years of your academic life is not any little feat, and one of the rewards of that onerous work is aiming to opt for a medical specialty that engages your strengths and interests as a budding medical professional.

This can be no small decision though—although physicians sometimes change specialties once in practice, doing so needs completing another residency also because of the chance of a pay cut and relocation. It’s crucial to create the best decision you’ll for your initial residency, and a big part of that’s considering residency lengths.

Residency involves tremendous dedication and long hours worked inside a selected specialty. The term “residency” comes from the historical tradition of trainee physicians literally residing within their appointed hospitals, effectively spending each moment in-hospital during their placement.

For higher or worse, not much has changed since those early years of sleep deprivation and intimidatingly long shifts, with current weekly work hours in the U.S. averaging around 60-80 hours, with shifts of up to twenty-four continuous hours on-duty.

With this in mind, it’s essential to see that residency programs can permit you to mature and thrive instead of collapse under the pressure. This can be where the length of residency programs comes into play. For instance, you’ll have a strong interest in neurosurgery, however, the fact of nearly seven years of surgical resident workload/scheduling isn’t to be underestimated.

It’s in your best interest in the short- and long-term to think about the length of commitment concerned in each type of residency program with respect to your strengths and limitations. Residency could be a challenge regardless of what, of course, but unless you’re the rare person who’s inextricably drawn to only one specialty, you’ll need to approach the choice with a couple of choices in mind.

Thus if that 7-year neurosurgical residency track appears like perhaps quiet you’ll handle, and you’re equally curious about pediatrics, it should be a better suited for you to embark upon a 4-year pediatrics track and lower your risk of burning out.

Categorical Versus Preliminary Programs

Residency programs that lead to board certification in this specialty are called categorical residency programs. Residency programs that are one year and don’t lead to board certification, are known as preliminary or transitional programs.

There are some specialties that start residency training within the second year after school of medicine or post-graduate year 2 (PGY2). These are called advanced positions. Residents that start specialty training in the PGY2 year should also complete a 1 year transitional or preliminary program in the PGY1 year.

The following specialties provide advanced positions and begin in the PGY2 year, however, some can also start in the PGY1 year:

  • Anesthesiology
  • Dermatology
  • Diagnostic Radiology
  • Neurology
  • Ophthalmology
  • Physical Medicine And Rehabilitation
  • Psychiatry
  • Radiation Oncology
  • Urology

How Long Is Medical Residency? (By Specialty)

The typical length of residency training is concerning four and a half years. The shortest residency training programs are three years and therefore the longest is seven.

After residency training, some individuals pursue fellowship training which might aim length from one to 3 years, on average. So, keep in mind that your overall training could be extended by one to three years depending on whether or not you decide to subspecialize.

Residency Specialty

Program Length

Transitional/Preliminary Year 1 year
Family Practice 3 years
Internal Medicine 3 years
Pediatrics 3 years
Anesthesiology 3 years plus PGY-1 Transitional/Preliminary
Dermatology 3 years plus PGY-1 Transitional/Preliminary
Neurology 3 years plus PGY-1 Transitional/Preliminary
Ophthalmology 3 years plus PGY-1 Transitional/Preliminary
Physical Medicine 3 years plus PGY-1 Transitional/Preliminary
Emergency Medicine 3-4 years
Obstetrics-Gynecology 4 years
Pathology 4 years
Psychiatry 4 years
Diagnostic Radiology 4 years plus PGY-1 Transitional/Preliminary
Radiation Oncology 4 years plus PGY-1 Transitional/Preliminary
General Surgery 5 years
Orthopedic Surgery 5 years (includes 1 year of general surgery)
Otolaryngology 5 years (includes 1 year of general surgery)
Urology 5 years (includes one year of general surgery)
Plastic Surgery 5-6 years (includes 1 year of general surgery)
Neurological Surgery 6 years (includes 1 year of general surgery)
Thoracic Surgery General surgery training plus two additional years
Colon and Rectal Surgery General surgery training plus one additional year completing a colon and rectal surgery residency
Gynecologic Oncology Four years in an Obstetrics and Gynecology residency training program plus a minimum of 2-3 years in gynecological oncology
Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery A four-year graduate degree in dentistry plus a minimum of four years in a general surgery training program
Pediatric Surgery General surgery training plus two years of full-time education in an approved pediatric surgery fellowship program
Vascular Surgery General surgery training plus one to two years of training in the specialty of vascular surgery

What to Expect

Applying To Medical Residency

You may apply for residency through The Electronic Residency Application Service (ERAS) through MyERAS for the majority of specialties. Ophthalmology and plastic surgery use the SF Match service.

For each system, you will be got to embrace your biographical and academic data. Additional documents you need are a personal statement, information concerning your experiences (work, volunteer, and research), letters of evaluation, your medical school transcript, and standardized test reports (USMLE or COMLEX).

What to Expect in Residency

All residencies have graduated levels of responsibility throughout the training which suggests that you may become more independent and responsible for once a year of your residency training. The ultimate goal is that, by the end of the residency, you’re functioning independently in your specialty.

As you gain more knowledge, expertise, and skill, you will feel comfy taking over more responsibility and your attendings will welcome the help. Additionally, you will have enhanced supervisory and teaching roles throughout your residency.

By the end of the residency, you will be supervising your interns and junior residents. Therefore, you will get to delegate roles and duties, administrate your interns and junior residents, and sometimes you will be the one those junior doctors communicate with questions.

After Medical Residency

After residency training, residents choose to either practice in the chosen specialty or pursue further fellowship training. Within one to 2 years of finishing residency, doctors additionally take specialty boards to become board certified in the specialty within which they trained. These specialty boards invariably involve a written exam and a few specialties have an oral exam element as well.

Medical Residency Salary

Residency salaries don’t vary much between specialties and residency salaries increase every year of training. There tend to be salary variations between geographic areas with areas that have higher prices of living paying slightly more than areas wherever the cost of living is lower.

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