Home » 2023 Top Most IMG Friendly Residency Specialties

2023 Top Most IMG Friendly Residency Specialties

A globe, stethoscope and hear plushy.


Moving to a different country can be scary, and for an IMG applying for residency in the US may certainly be stress-inducing. With this blog post, we hope to help ease your stress and suggest some of the most IMG-friendly residency specialties you should consider applying to this year! For any additional help in matching for a residency program, consider enlisting the help of a residency advisor!


Based on the latest data from the 2023 National Resident Matching Program (NMRP), International Medical Graduates (IMGs) achieved an unprecedented level of success in the recent application last cycle. Notably, there was a substantial increase in the number of IMGs applying for the 2023 match cycle compared to previous cycles. Additionally, there was a record-breaking match rate, with an impressive 62.4% of IMGs successfully matching.


Every residency specialty brings its own competitiveness to the match, but this competitiveness is intensified even more for IMG candidates. Historically, IMGs usually match into a select number of specialties. This year, 70.1% of IMG applicants matched in Internal Medicine, Pediatrics, and Family Medicine. Among IMG applicants who matched, here are the most popular specialties in 2022:



#1: Internal Medicine


Percentage of IMGs entering IM: 46.5%

Percentage of IM PGY-1 positions filled by IGMs: 38%

Internal Medicine (IM) is consistently the most popular residency specialty to match into among IMGs. This shouldn’t come as much of a surprise though, as even among U.S. medical graduates, IM continues to comprise the greatest number of filled positions with at least 1 in every 4 graduating U.S. students matching into IM (26.2% of all matches in 2022). IM also has the greatest number of PGY-1 positions available at an astonishing 9,380 spots.



#2: Family Medicine


Percentage of IMGs entering FM: 16.1%

Percentage of FM PGY-1 positions filled by IGMs: 25%

Family Medicine is consistently the 2nd most popular specialty since 2018 for both IMGs and US medical graduates (13.1%). Similar to IM, FM has a surprising number of available positions each year, 4,916 in the 2022 match.  



#3: Pediatrics


Percentage of IMGs entering Pediatrics: 7.5%

Percentage of Pediatric PGY-1 positions filled by IGMs: 20%

More information regarding matching into a peds residency.



#4: Psychiatry


Percentage of IMGs entering Psychiatry: 4.2%

Percentage of Psychiatry PGY-1 positions filled by IGMs: 16%

More information regarding matching into a psych residency.



Other specialties:


These 4 specialties have consistently ranked the top 4 most popular specialties since 2018. However other notable specialties that had >3% of IMGs match include: neurology (3%), pathology (3.6%), and surgery-preliminary (3.1%).  



The Residency Application Process for an IMG:


So after you have figured out your future specialty, the next step is deciding where to apply. Luckily, there are numerous programs for IM, FM, and pediatrics in just about every location throughout the United States. Similarly, to U.S. graduates, IMGs should really consider where they would be happy living. If you have any ties to an area whether it be previous work experience, family, or even friends, it may help get you an interview. The top 3 states that IMGs match are: New York, Florida, and Pennsylvania. 

Doing an observership program in the region you may want to pursue residency may also be very valuable in securing an interview. Observership programs allow IMGs to practice U.S. medicine before making the transition to residency. Programs are typically 2-4 weeks per specialty/rotation and may show the IMGs dedication and genuine interest in practicing medicine in the United States. More information can be found at https://www.ama-assn.org/member-groups-sections/international-medical-graduates/establish-observership-international-medical.

The wait time between submitting residency applications to receiving an interview can vary greatly among programs. There are typically “waves” of interviews that get sent out, the first occurring 1.5-2 weeks after application submission and then a second wave 3-6 weeks after. Residency interviews then begin to trickle in depending on how many students accept or decline the offered invitations. If you still haven’t received correspondence from a program, it isn’t unreasonable to reach out to them. Usually, the recommendation is to wait at least a month. There are generally two reasons to contact programs:


A Drastic Change in Your Application


Maybe you just completed an observership program or received a new letter of recommendation. Perhaps you just published a paper in JAMA or scored in the top percentile for Step 2. You can update programs on any significant experience or educational achievement that has occurred since your initial submission. The best way to do this is to contact the program coordinator(s) and inform them of the change, and provide any documentation to support it. For letters of recommendation, make sure they are uploaded to ERAS (or another residency application) prior to emailing the program. If you aren’t sure if you should update a program, a good question may be: Would I put this on my resume? If the answer is yes, odds are it likely can’t hurt your application. It may give you that extra push towards getting an interview.


Expressing Continued Interest in a Residency Program as an IMG


The truth is, many medical students start declining interviews after receiving a certain number, especially as interview invitations die down, typically around January. This is a perfectly acceptable time to send a short, concise email to the program coordinator(s) stating your continued interest in the program and enthusiasm for the potential opportunity to receive an interview If you have any ties to the area or even went and visited around the hospital, feel free to mention it in the email. I myself received 2 interviews just by reaching out programs towards the end of November. It may also be helpful to reach out to your top priority program to let them know about your interest.


Applying to residency is a stressful time for any medical student, especially as an IMG. However, it is possible to get a U.S. residency and there are some helpful ways to boost your application. Remember to first consider your specialty, be realistic about your potential to match, then think about what location or patient population you would thrive in. After submitting your ERAS application, most of the process is out of your hands but consider reaching out to programs if you have an update to your application or just to express your interest in receiving an interview. Elite Medical Prep does offer residency advising for a more personalized approach to the application process. For more information schedule a free consultation here!



Additional Resources for an IMG Applying to Residency in the US:


Read about more ways to improve your chance of matching visit: https://elitemedicalprep.com/us-residency-matching-for-imgs/

To read more about the residency application process visit: https://elitemedicalprep.com/us-residency-matching-for-imgs-3/

To read more about SOAPing: https://elitemedicalprep.com/understanding-the-supplemental-offer-and-acceptance-program-soap/



Need additional
help with an exam?

Elite tutors are qualified, professional, and 100% online.

Schedule a Consult