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Most Competitive Residencies 2021

Here are the specialties that are most difficult to match.

It is well known that medical residency programs in the United States are amongst the best training programs globally, and that is why residencies in the United States are classically competitive, among local applicants and international medical graduates.

Various residencies are not the same and depend on the hospital itself and the specialty.

What are the most competitive residencies?

First, you’ll need to understand How The Match works. Medical students are matched into residency programs using a computer algorithm that considers the preferences of both students and the programs.

Matching to a residency program, no matter what the specialty, is no easy feat. The competitiveness for residency positions varies greatly between specialties, as some are more competitive and harder to get into than others.

You may be asking yourself, is the specialty I want to pursue competitive? Whether you are looking for the easiest residency specialty to match, or the most competitive, you’ve come to the right place.

Most Competitive Residency Programs Based on Fill-Rate

In the most recent Match, these specialties had more than 30 positions available and every open position was filled at the conclusion of all rounds of matching.

Meaning that these specialties had a total fill-rate (MD seniors, DO seniors, as well as other applicants) of 100 percent by the end of Match Week.

Here are the specialties that are most difficult to match:

1. Dermatology

Total number of matches among MD Seniors: 31

Total percentage filled by MD Seniors: 100%

American dermatologists have an average USMLE Step result of 251 which makes them one of the most competitive residencies to match. Vacant positions are very rare with a salary amounting to $400,989. No doubt why most MDs try to compete for this position.

2. Surgery

Total number of matches among MD Seniors: 1532

Total percentage filled by MD Seniors: 99.7%

Soon-to-be surgeons have USMLE results with an average of 238.5. MD seniors compete for 1.1 open surgeon positions because of a promising salary of $360,933.

3. Orthopedic Surgery

Total number of matches among MD Seniors: 844

Total percentage filled by MD Seniors: 99.4%

One of the most competitive residencies in the USA, aspiring orthopedic surgeons has USMLE scores of 248. They compete for only 0.83 positions in the USA. But if they’re the best of the best, once accepted, they can earn an average of $535,668 every year. This residency training completion takes 5 years.

4. Neurological Surgery

Total number of matches among MD Seniors: 232

Total percentage filled by MD Seniors: 100%

The average USMLE score of neurological surgeons is 245.5. They compete for a 0.93 ratio of vacant neurological positions. Quite rare but once accepted, one can earn annually up to $609,639.

5. Psychiatry 

Total number of matches among MD Seniors: 1838

Total percentage filled by MD Seniors: 98.9%

Perhaps, this is the trendiest residency program today given the increased number of doctors who desired to go into this field. Mental health problems have become emergent worldwide. If you are interested in taking care of people’s mental health, then this would be a rewarding program for you. On top of that, you could earn as much as $260,000 a year. If you want to get matched with Psychiatry, you must have a USMLE score of 220.

6. Otolaryngology

Total number of matches among MD Seniors: 348

Total percentage filled by MD Seniors: 99.4%

Otolaryngology is the oldest medical specialty in the United States. Yet today, it has been one of the most competitive residencies of all-time. It’s not easy to get in as an aspiring otolaryngologist must have an average USMLE score of 250. Positions are quite rare as they compete for a salary of $369,790 a year.

7. Integrated Plastic Surgery

Total number of matches among MD Seniors: 180

Total percentage filled by MD Seniors: 100%

As opposed to otolaryngology, integrated plastic surgery is one of the youngest in the US medical field. It has attracted the eyes of many doctors due to the opportunity to earn a mid-year salary of $407,709. However, for you to get in, you must at least have an average USMLE test score of around 248.5.

8. Anesthesiology

Total number of matches among MD Seniors: 1369

Total percentage filled by MD Seniors: 99.9%

To have a greater chance to get matched, you must have at least a 220 USMLE score. The higher, the better. An average annual salary of an anesthesiologist is $261,730. It may not be the highest-paid specialty compared to the others I listed, but anesthesiologists are in demand for almost any procedure.

9. Integrated Interventional Radiology

Total number of matches among MD Seniors: 37

Total percentage filled by MD Seniors: 97.4%

The average salary of an interventional radiologist could be as high as $600,000 a year. They are one of the highest-paid doctors in the USA. If you plan to be accepted, you must have a USMLE score of at least 246.

10. Radiation Oncology 

Total number of matches among MD Seniors: 11

Total percentage filled by MD Seniors: 78.6%

Closely related to cancer treatment, radiation oncology has been in demand recently. An average USMLE score of 244.5 will help you get a residency in Radiation Oncology. Many doctors eye for this specialization as it could get them to earn as much as $418,288 every year.

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