Top 5 Most IMG Friendly Specialties 2019 Match

If you are an International Medical Graduate (IMG), picking which medical specialties to apply to starts with first learning which medical specialties are the most IMG friendly. Using the information provided by NRMP’s® Results and Data 2019 Main Residency Match®, we were able to figure out which medical specialties had the highest percentage of US and Non-US IMGs in the positions filled for each specialty from last year’s Match. First, however, it is good to review some general match statistics in order to understand the big picture.

Match 2019 General Statistics   

30,538 PGY-1 Positions Filled 

17,763 US Senior (94.3% Match Rate)

674 US Graduate (43.8% Match Rate)

5,076 Osteopathic (81.4% Match Rate)

2,997 US IMG (57.1% Match Rate)

4,028 Non-US IMG (56.1% Match Rate)

Research Method

Discovering which medical specialties are the most IMG friendly requires deep and thorough analysis of NRMP Match Data. The IMG percentage was calculated by adding together the US and Non-US IMGs who obtained a residency position in the specialty, and calculated what percent of the total positions filled were IMGs.

For example, in Emergency Medicine there were:

2,458 Total Positions Filled

112 Positions Filled by US IMGs

27 Positions Filled by Non-US IMGs

139 Total Positions Filled by IMGs

5.66% Positions Filled by IMGs

This process was repeated for all of the medical specialties in order to uncover the most IMG friendly specialties. Below is a chart with the results.

The Top 5 Most IMG Friendly Medical Specialties

Specialty Rank in Highest Percent of IMGsSpecialtyTotal Positions FilledPositions filled by IMGs**Percent of total positions filled by IMGs
2General Surgery (Preliminary)5818242.69%
3Internal Medicine (Categorical)7892110740.59%
4Neurology (Categorical)5945834.51%
5Family Medicine382774429.08%

**Includes U.S. and Non-U.S. IMGs

Please note, the chart does not take into account the total amount of positions available.For example, while Pathology has a higher percentage of IMGs accepted into residency programs, there are fewer positions available than Family Medicine.

Other Popular Specialties

Anesthesiology (PGY-1): 11.35% IMGs

General Surgery (Categorical): 10.61% IMGs

Pediatrics: 18.97% IMGs

Psychiatry: 16.22% IMGs

Transitional Year: 9.26% IMGs

IMG Friendly Trends

Compared to the 2017 NRMP Match, there were some surprises in the 2018 NRMP Match. Some surprises include:

  • Preliminary General Surgery dropped from the 5th position all the way up to second!
  • However, these are the same 5 Most IMG Friendly specialties and did not change this year, remaining the same as they were last residency season
  • Psychiatry is showing a troubling trend of becoming less IMG friendly than it has in the past. Since the 2016 NRMP Match, the IMG friendliness percentage has dropped from 21.4% to 16.22%


Other IMG Factors

Beyond statistics, there are other factors IMG residency candidates should consider when choosing medical specialties such as:

  • Specialty-wide USMLE score expectations – Some specialties are more competitive and have increased expectations of residency candidates. For example, General Surgery programs typically require higher USMLE scores than Psychiatry.
  • Previous work and clinical experiences – All specialties like to see some evidence of commitment and deep interest in the specialty. Specialties such as Family Medicine highly prefer to see some history of Family Medicine experience to prove your dedication.
  • Supporting documents – Another way to prove your interest and dedication to a specialty is having specialty specific supporting documents. You should work hard to obtain specialty specific Letters of Recommendation and a Personal Statement for each specialty you plan on applying to.
  • Finances –  Applying to residency can be expensive. The suggested minimum applications for IMG candidates is 100 programs per specialty which add up to thousands of dollars. Make sure you assess your specialty decision carefully to make the best use of your resources.
  • Program choices and opportunities – Your choice may depend on how large the specialty you choose is and the number of programs you qualify to apply to based on your professional credentials and each program’s application requirements. If you pick too narrow a specialty, you may need to prepare a backup specialty.   

Choosing a specialty will take time, care and consideration. While some specialties are less competitive than others, no one specialty is a guaranteed “In.” No matter which specialty you pick, you will still have to put lots of hard work into your ERAS Application materials, program research, and beyond.


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