Medical Residency Length by Specialty

April 4, 2023


Reviewed by:

Rohan Jotwani

Former Chief Resident in Anesthesiology, Weill Cornell Medicine, & Admissions Officer, Columbia University

Reviewed: 4/4/23

When deciding which residency program you might want to attend, you need to consider how long it will take. Learn the medical residency length for any specialty. 

Medical residency length depends on what specialty you decide to pursue. Some specialties are longer, requiring more expertise in complicated medical treatments or procedures. For example, surgery residencies are at least five years long. 

We’ll illuminate how long residencies are for each specialty and explain factors contributing to program length. 

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Factors That Affect Residency Length

The main factor that affects residency length is how specialized the field is. For example, a general surgeon will have a shorter residency than a neurosurgeon. The anatomy you need to know as a neurosurgeon is much more complicated than that of a general surgeon, which is why there’s a difference in residency length.

Another factor influencing residency length is if the program requires a transitional year between medical school and the specialization. Some programs require residents to do more general training before specializing. This adds a year to the medical residency length.

Medical residency program lengths might differ depending on which program you match with. Though programs tend to follow similar timelines, some might have longer or shorter programs.

It is also important to know which programs require further training in the form of fellowships. For some specialties, you’ll be expected to do a fellowship program after residency. This means more training and time before you’re considered a fully qualified doctor.

All these factors are important to remember when deciding on a specialty program. Consider what your life might look like for the next three to ten years before deciding. 

How Long Is Medical Residency?

Now that we’ve outlined the factors that affect the length of residencies, let's look at the numbers.

The following list is from the American Medical Association (AMA) and represents residency lengths by specialty: 

Table outlining the residency length by specialty
Table outlining the residency length by specialty part 2

This list gives you the most up-to-date information on residency length for specialization, but always remember to check with individual programs.

Medical Residency Lengths FAQs 

Still have questions about how many years residencies are by specialty? Read on for more answers! 

1. What is the Shortest Medical Residency? 

The shortest residencies include internal medicine, medical genetics and genomics, osteopathic neuromusculoskeletal medicine, pediatrics, preventive medicine, and emergency medicine

2. What Doctor Has the Longest Residency? 

Neurological surgeons complete the longest residencies (seven years). 

3. Do Medical Students Get Paid During Residency? 

Yes, medical residents are paid for their work – salaries tend to increase each year of residency. 

4. What Residency is Six Years? 

Six-year-long residencies include plastic surgery and some programs in interventional radiology and thoracic surgery. 

5. How Long is Residency for Internal Medicine? 

Internal medicine residencies are one of the shortest programs, taking three years to complete. 

6. How Long is a Urology Residency? 

The length of urology residencies is typically five years. 

7. How Long is a Dermatology Residency? 

Dermatology residencies are typically four years long. 

Final Thoughts

Picking a specialization in medical school can be challenging. Before committing to a particular specialization, it's best to know exactly what you’re getting into. By looking at medical residency lengths, you can find a specialization that fits your life plan. 

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