Top IMG Friendly Specialties of 2021 Residency Match

If you are an International Medical Graduate (IMG), picking which medical specialties to apply to starts with learning about the top IMG-friendly fields. Using the information provided by NRMP’s® Results and Data 2021 Main Residency Match®, we’ve determined the top IMG friendly specialties. First, let’s review some general Match statistics to understand the big picture.

Match 2021 General Statistics

35,194 PGY-1 Positions Filled

18,435 US Senior (92.8% Match Rate)

806 US Graduate (48.2% Match Rate)

6,597 Osteopathic (66.7% Match Rate)

3,152 US IMG (59.5% Match Rate)

4,356 Non-US IMG (54.8% Match Rate)


Top IMG Friendly Specialties of 2021 by Ratio

PGY-1IMG %Filled PositionsUS IMGNon-US IMGMD SeniorMD GradDO SeniorDO Grad
General Surgery (Preliminary)44.0%6127819127217476
Internal Medicine (Categorical)39.6%8632120422123523146148263
Family Medicine27.4%44727814431606125144077
Child Neurology19.0%1476221001180
General Surgery (Categorical)10.0%15648373102913322818
Transitional Year8.6%12726049845143022
Emergency Medicine6.3%28261433517656279031
Internal Med-Peds6.0%3857163132470
Orthopedic Surgery0.9%866536994010712


Top IMG Friendly Specialties by Number of IMGs

Internal Medicine (Categorical)3416
Family Medicine1224
General Surgery (Preliminary)269
Emergency Medicine178
General Surgery (Categorical)156
Transitional Year109
Child Neurology28
Internal Med-Peds23
Orthopedic Surgery8

According to the NRMP:

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

Internal Medicine (categorical) (1,204)

Family Medicine (781)

Pediatrics (categorical) (223)

Psychiatry (176)

Emergency Medicine (143)

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

Internal Medicine (categorical) (2,212)

Family Medicine (443)

Pediatrics (categorical) (329)

Pathology (231)

Neurology (179)

Other IMG Friendly Factors

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

  • 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 Residency Experts. You can also check out Residency Experts’ helpful tips on Letters of Recommendation by reading Your Complete Residency Letter of Recommendation Guide.
  • Finances –  Applying to residency can be expensive. The suggested minimum applications for IMG candidates is 100 programs per specialty which adds 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 MyERAS Application materials, program research, and more.

We hope this information about the top IMG friendly specialties has been insightful. Visit Match A Resident to see how our Customized Program Lists can help you prepare for a successful Match season!

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