Matching into a residency program can be tough, but we’ve got you covered! Follow along for a complete list of the least competitive residencies.
So, you’re ready to start applying to residency programs, but you’ve heard it can be hard to match into one. You may be wondering, “what are the least competitive residencies?” If you are, you’re in luck!
Here we break down the least competitive residency programs by specialty and discuss why. We’ve also included statistics on each program to help you make an informed decision on which residencies you should apply to.
Let’s get started!
Here’s our list of the least competitive medical residency programs by specialty. Our list has been determined by fill rate, positions offered, number of applicants, and more.
Family medicine is one of the most common medical specialties. This specialty exists within the domain of primary care and provides continuing health care for each individual member of a family, no matter the age, gender, or disease. Because this specialty is in high demand, many positions are offered each year, and most students who apply are able to secure a match.
In 2022, The Match data shows that Family Medicine offered 4,916 positions across 745 programs, which is the highest number of positions offered since 1992. Of these positions, 4,451 were filled, meaning that the fill rate was almost 91%. About 30% of these positions were filled by DO seniors, which is also quite a high percentage compared to previous years.
Fill Rate: 90.5%
Number of Applicants: 7,425
Number of Positions Offered: 4,916
Pediatrics is the branch of medicine dedicated to the care of infants, children, and teenagers. Generally speaking, the demand for pediatricians is quite high, and it is a popular specialty choice. What makes this a less competitive residency program than others is the large number of positions that are typically offered.
The 2022 Match data shows that an all-time high of 2,942 pediatric (categorical) positions were offered to new residents across 235 programs. About 57% of the positions offered were filled by MD seniors, while DO seniors made up about 20% (US citizens). Together, the specialty presented an overall fill rate of 97%.
Fill Rate: 97.2%
Number of Applicants: 3,824
Number of Positions Offered: 2,942
Psychiatry is the medical specialty focused on the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of all types of mental disorders. Mental disorders treated by psychiatrists can relate to mood, perceptions, behavior, and/or cognition.
This specialty is widely considered one of the least competitive residency programs to get into, although the reason for this is a bit of a mystery. There doesn’t seem to be a lack of interest, salary, or job satisfaction.
The 2022 Match data shows that psychiatry offered 2,047 positions across 352 programs. In total, there were 2,030 matches into the specialty, making the fill rate an excellent 99.2%. Of the positions filled, 61.2% were MD Seniors.
Fill Rate: 99.2%
Number of Applicants: 2,908
Number of Positions Offered: 2,047
Emergency medicine is the medical specialty dedicated to the diagnosis and treatment of urgent care patients. Emergency doctors see all kinds of ailments that require immediate care in all ages, from broken bones to parasites. The number of available positions, which has grown steadily since 1983, shows that emergency doctors are in high demand.
This year, 2,921 positions in emergency medicine were offered across 277 programs. Of those positions, 2,702 were filled, giving the specialty a fill rate of about 93%. In total, 54.5% of the total positions offered were filled by MD seniors, and 25.8% were filled by DO seniors (US Citizens).
Fill Rate: 92.5%
Number of Applicants: 3,081
Number of Positions Offered: 2,921
Internal medicine is devoted to diagnosis, prevention, and treatment of internal illnesses. Internists will also manage severe long-term internal illnesses and help patients with chronic conditions.
Internal medicine (categorical) physicians are high in demand as their responsibilities are so broad. This is reflected in the positions offered, which was 9,380 in 2022, the highest number of positions on record. Of those, 8,915 were filled, meaning the program has an overall match rate of 95%.
Fill Rate: 95%
Number of Applicants: 13,844
Number of Positions Offered: 9,380
Anesthesiology focuses on the administration of anesthesia and other medicines while monitoring patients’ reactions and behavior throughout procedures. Anesthesiology is considered one of the least competitive medical specialties, though the reason for this is unclear; job satisfaction and salaries are generally on the higher side.
The 2022 Match data shows that anesthesiology offered 1,509 positions across 165 programs. There were 2,691 applicants in total, with 69% of those successful applicants being MD seniors. Additionally, there were 1,508 total matches, bringing the fill rate to nearly 100%.
Fill Rate: 99.9%
Number of Applicants: 2,691
Number of Positions Offered: 1,509
An OB-GYN is a physician that specializes in the female reproductive system and pregnancy. This specialty encompasses obstetrics and gynecology in order to meet their patients’ broad needs. As an OB-GYN, your responsibilities and typical procedures vary greatly, from STI testing to ultrasounds.
The 2022 Match data shows that obstetrics-gynecology offered 1,503 positions in total across 288 programs. The total number of applicants to the specialty was 2,161. Of those applicants, 1,499 were matched into obstetrics-gynecology programs to equal a fill rate of almost 100% (73.6% MD seniors).
Fill Rate: 99.7%
Number of Applicants: 2,161
Number of Positions Offered: 1,503
Pathology is a less popular specialty, which focuses on the study of disease or injury, and their causes and effects. Additionally, the meaning of the word pathology references the study of the essential nature of a disease, which incorporates the fields of biology, research, and multiple other medical practices.
Pathology is a smaller specialty than the others on our list. In total, the 2022 Match data shows that 631 positions were offered across 168 programs. There were 994 total applicants to the programs. There were 619 matches in total, bringing the fill rate to a respectable 98% (36.6% MD seniors).
Fill Rate: 98.1%
Number of Applicants: 994
Number of Positions Offered: 631
Neurological surgery focuses on the brain. As a specialty, this is one of the longest and most challenging programs you can take—mainly due to the complexity of the procedures and systems you’ll be working with. This specialty is highly competitive in terms of academic prowess, though few actually apply for these programs.
In 2022, The Match data shows there were a total of 240 neurological surgery positions offered across 115 programs. In total, there were 391 applicants to these programs. Of those applicants, 240 matched into neurosurgery programs, making the fill rate an impressive 100%. Over 84% of the matched applicants were MD seniors.
Fill Rate: 100%
Number of Applicants: 391
Number of Positions Offered: 240
Here are our answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about the least competitive residencies.
There are multiple factors that go into deciding which residency programs are the least competitive, including fill rates, total applicants, and total positions offered. Some of the least competitive residencies in 2022 were:
If you’re concerned about the competitiveness of a residency, consider taking a look at the NRMP Match data.
Generally speaking, some of the least competitive medical fields are psychiatry, internal medicine, and emergency medicine. However, when it comes to which medical field is the least competitive, the answer is challenging to find.
On one hand, you can take a look at Match data to see how many residents applied to each program and how many positions were filled. On the other, you can take into consideration the popularity of the specialty according to things like salary, complexity, and job satisfaction rates.
The shortest residency programs are typically in the following specialties and only take about two to three years to complete:
Other shorter medical residencies include family medicine (three to four years), neurology (four years), and pathology (four years).
Not necessarily. Competitive residency programs generally have to do with the popularity of the specialty, job satisfaction, salary, etc. While more competitive residency programs are likely to be considered prestigious, it is not always the case.
While some residency programs are less competitive and perhaps easier to get into, you should choose your residency program based on your passion. Your years in residency will be taxing and ultimately lead to a long career in whichever specialty you choose. Because of this, your residency program should reflect your own personal interests and needs.
Some factors to consider when selecting a residency program in your specialty are reputation, location, and length. Don’t be afraid to go for a more competitive program if you feel you would truly be a good fit for that program. Just make sure to build excellent application materials and show up prepared for your interviews.