Matching to a residency program can not only be challenging but also confusing due to the vast majority of specialties. This calls for a more thorough research for all International Medical Graduates (IMG) who desire to choose the best residency program for IMGs to apply to.

The only way of getting yourself into a residency program is going through a residency match. There are no shortcuts! So, what are the best residency programs for IMGs? The answer is definitely not that simple given that every specialty has its own requirements. You have to consider various factors before you can finally choose a friendly residency program. Let’s find out these factors and the best residency programs for IMGs through this article.

Factors to Consider when Choosing a Specialty to Match

There are many aspiring physicians who apply for residency programs every year making the process competitive. For this reason, you should apply for a medical specialty that you are best at to increase your chances of getting matched to a residency program of your choice. Here are the factors to consider when selecting a medical specialty to match:

  1. Your Interest in Medical Specialty

This comes first. Only choose a specialty that you have a great interest in. For example, don’t choose Family Medicine because you “think” you will easily get matched when your real interest is in Pathology. Choosing a specialty that you are interested in will help you enjoy practicing it because is what you love, like and cherish.

  1. Your Clinical Experience

Choosing a medical specialty that you have a great experience in or a related specialty will help you go through a residency program with ease once you are matched. Also, having previous clinical experience in a certain specialty proves that you are dedicated to that specialty.

  1. Your USMLE Examination Scores

Your USMLE scores matter a lot when it comes to selecting a medical specialty. This is because of the competition for certain specialties. Some specialties, such as General Surgery are competitive and require higher expectations from residency applicants. For you to apply for such specialties you have to have higher USMLE scores.

  1. Your Financial Status

It is expensive to apply for a residency program. If you are financially stable you can apply for a couple of residency programs. However, you have to ensure that your money is well spent by carefully analyzing your specialty decision and applying to a specialty that you are best at. Every IMG candidate can apply to a minimum of 100 programs per specialty.

  1. Your Credible Supporting documents

Having genuine Letters of Recommendation and a Personal Statement that are specific to the specialty that you plan on choosing can increase your chances of getting selected to that residency program. They help prove your passion and commitment to a specialty.

Best Residency Programs for IMGs

You need to take your time, care and some consideration when picking a specialty. Although some specialties are more competitive than others, it is not a guarantee that you will be selected for a residency program by choosing the less competitive specialty. The good news however is that you have high chances of getting selected for choosing IMG friendly residency programs.

You are required to put a lot of effort into your ERAS Application materials, do some program research and beyond, no matter which specialty you plan to pick. Before you get to know the IMG friendly residency programs that you can choose, it is important to let you know the NRMP’s Results and Data 2018 Main Residency Match.



General Statics for 2018 Main Residency Match

The positions filled were 31,899.

Type of Applicants  Number of Applicants Match Rate
US Senior 19,634 94.3%
US Graduate 906 43.8%
Osteopathic 4,120 81.4%
US IMG 3,064 57.1%
Non-US IMG 4,166 56.1%


The Research Method

Establishing the most IMG friendly specialties requires analysis of NRMP Match Data. The percent of IMG was calculated by the sum of US and Non-US IMGs who acquired a position in a residency program in the specialty and calculated the percent of the total positions filled by IMGs. Here is a table with the results.


Pathology 601 69 162 231 38.4%
Internal Medicine 7,916 1,028 2,042 3,070 38.7%
Neurology 859 65 180 245 28.5%
Family Medicine 3,629 600 267 867 23.8%
General Surgery 1,319 66 66 132 10.0%
Emergency Medicine 2,278 77 28 105 04.6%
Obstetrics and Gynecology 1,336 58 40 98 07.3%
Psychiatry 1,556 124 131 255 16.3%
Anesthesiology 1,840 122 120 242 13.1%


The Top 5 Best IMG Friendly Medical Specialties

  1. Pathology

Pathology, the study of the sources of illness and their effects on the body, is a prime opportunity to apply to. This is because of the information released by the Intersociety Council for Pathology Information that there is an expected shortage in pathology for the next two decades.

  1. Internal Medicine

Internists provide healthcare for patients with adult diseases. These physicians are well-vast in the origin, diagnosis, prevention, and treatment of adult diseases. This specialty has a low rate of not securing a residency program. It is, therefore, a good spot to choose.

  1. Neurology

Neurologists have a good understanding of the morphology, function, and diseases of the nervous system. Though being one of the most challenging specialties, it still remains a good specialty to choose since it has a high rate in medicine. In fact, less than 1 percent of graduates who picked neurology residency failed to match according to the latest data.

  1. Family Medicine

Family medicine has higher residency programs. This makes it one of the simple specialties to match for grads who have an interest in providing preventive and acute care to all patients regardless of age.

  1. General Surgery

This covers all fields of surgery. Before applying to this program ensure that you have good clerkship and general surgery rotations.

Interesting IMG Friendly Trend Compared to 2017

  • There were highest Match Rates this year since 1993
  • The 2017 Top 5 Most IMG Friendly Medical Specialties remained the same this year.
  • There was a rise in IMG percent from 7.6% to 13.1%

Most importantly, when choosing a specialty to match for a residency program, it is advisable to assess everything. This includes your interest, experience and any necessary supporting document required for a specialty. Implement the steps above and get selected to a good residency program.