Choosing a Residency specialty of one’s choice is a very important decision. Before you can apply for the residency program, you will have to choose the specialties that are best for you to practice in. Choosing specialty is requires your passion for the particular specialty, reflection, a lot of dedicated research and most importantly-time. Choosing your specialty doesn’t start after your graduation or after you are done with USMLE steps. The decision to choose a specialty should be taken seriously very early during your med-school depending upon your skills, interests, and experiences along with the information and the practicing environment for the chosen specialty. To begin with, the processes of choosing a specialty, remember following tips:

Think Broadly: Be open to everything. Do not think about taking only one specialty. Be broader in choosing a specialty. Sometimes, keeping a backup option for another specialty gives you the best environment for practicing and may bring satisfaction to you.

Make Accurate Strategy: To make yourself a strong candidate, and to stand out of the crowd, be strategic to your knowledge and skills. Maximize your experience to add additional points to your candidature.

Who are you? To best fit to a specialty depends on exploring yourself. Go for the self-assessment of yourself. Know who you are and what you want in life? Try to find out the career options which are best for you and fit your life goal.

Do not miss Clinical Opportunities: Even when you are a med-student, try to take more and more clinical shifts by shadowing physicians or even taking more and more night shifts. Try to take more specialty panels as well in your med-school.

Gathering Information: Try to gather more information on your clinical rotations in different specialties. The best way to is to self-assess yourself about, how you feel dealing with patients, healthcare teams, problems, and procedures. Try to evaluate your experiences; reflect upon them and take regular notes so, as in decision making for any specialty, you may have much information.

Visiting Student Rotation: For US citizens there are almost 140 US host medical schools and teaching hospitals. Try considering doing a clinical rotation in these institutions. For IMG’s there are almost 38 med-schools and teaching hospitals in different countries which will provide this opportunity to the IMG’s.

Advisor: This is the most important point you should focus on. Talking to an advisor is very important as they can guide you about a specialty program that may suit you best.

Switching a Residency Program | Chossing Speciality 

Although possible, switching a residency program is an extremely difficult process, and maybe impossible. Each and every residency program is actually funded by the federal government. Switching a residency program depends on how GME is being funded and how much it can support you.

Most of the residency programs are also being sponsored by many different organizations. Your request of being switching your residency program also being considered by these organizations as they might not be having a budget enough to support you.


How many Residency Programs you should take?

Taking multiple residency programs is a very healthy decision but at the same time, it depends on the cost of every single program you want to take. An honest and true assessment of your qualifications will give you a clear idea relating to choosing multiple residency programs. Compare your qualifications with the competitiveness of the residency programs you’re interested in pursuing and the programs themselves. Some of the suggestions you can count on are:

  • Try discussing with your specialty advisor. It can really help you choosing multiple specialty programs
  • Consider applying to multiple programs in different tiers
  • Research
  • Compare
  • Review competitiveness

Be confident about any program you are going to choose. Let your specific information be your guide.

  • Apply to at least 40 different programs (total programs are 9500)
  • Interview in at least 15 different programs
  • Rank those programs where you want to train (rank order list)

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How To Get Residency Program Match

Rank Order List (ROL)

Rank order list contains the preferred programs ranked in order. After your registration and interviews, you will have to submit this list to the match programs for the selection.

Another Rank Order List will also be submitted by the program directors to the match programs. A computer run algorithm matches applicants to the highest program on their list that has ranked the applicant.

In order to create a rank order list try considering following suggestions:

  • Research residency programs (dedicated research), using student affairs dean’s help or some other specialty-specific advisor
  • Only include those programs in your ROL which you truly prefer to practice in pursuing a career
  • If you do not want to regret in the end, matching to a program, include only programs you are willing to take
  • Avoid all quick changes to your ROL at the last moments

If you are matched to any of the programs, you will have to take it even if it is not of your choice. So, consider ROL a serious part of choosing a specialty.

A word from Author:

Follow the below links to get a complete overview of all the USMLE Steps.

USMLE [A General Study Guide To All USMLE Steps]

USMLE Step-1 [A Comprehensive Guideline] 

USMLE STEP-2 CK [Study Guideline]



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