Top IMG Friendly Specialties of 2020 Residency Match

If you are an International Medical Graduate (IMG), picking which medical specialties to apply to starts with first learning about the top IMG friendly specialties themselves. Using the information provided by NRMP’s® Results and Data 2020 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 2020 General Statistics   

34,266 PGY-1 Positions Filled 

18,108 US Senior (93.9% Match Rate)

693 US Graduate (45.6% Match Rate)

6,215 Osteopathic (86.9% Match Rate)

3,154 US IMG (61.0% Match Rate)

4,222 Non-US IMG (61.2% Match Rate)


Top IMG Friendly Specialties of 2020 by Ratio

PGY-1IMG %Filled PositionsUS IMGNon-US IMGMD SeniorMD GradDO SeniorDO Grad
General Surgery (Preliminary)41.5%5838216029015315
Internal Medicine (Categorical)38.9%8324112321163496140138959
Family Medicine27.6%43137874051543120138265
General Surgery (Categorical)11.6%15319880103310520213
Transitional Year10.4%12307850822132607
Emergency Medicine7.0%26521553017134368328
Internal Med-Peds6.3%3811593165360
Child Neurology2.6%151311112200
Orthopedic Surgery1.4%84457686281126

Top IMG Friendly Specialties by Number of IMGs

Internal Medicine3239
Family Medicine1192
General Surgery (Preliminary)242
Emergency Medicine185
General Surgery (Categorical)178
Transitional Year128
Internal Med-Peds24
Orthopedic Surgery12
Child Neurology4


According to the NRMP:

The top five IMG friendly specialties for US-IMGs were:

Internal Medicine (categorical) (1,123)

Family Medicine (787)

Pediatrics (categorical) (222)

Psychiatry (164)

Emergency Medicine (155)


The top five IMG friendly specialties for Non-US IMGs were:

Internal Medicine (categorical) (2,116)

Family Medicine (405)

Pediatrics (categorical) (340)

Neurology (categorical, advanced, and physician positions) (235)

Pathology (232)


Other IMG Friendly 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. Learn more at  
  • 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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