Top 10 IMG Friendly Specialities

IMG Friendly Specialities


International Medical Graduates (IMGs) make up a critical portion of the US healthcare framework. They serve in diverse positions ranging from primary care, to under-served areas, and in subspecialities. In 2019, IMG match in the US had its most successful year. In all, 58.8% of IMGs successfully matched, an increase from 56.6% the year before. This is due in part to increased number of residency openings available. In total, IMGs accounted for 32.7% of all successfully matched applications. In this article we detail the top IMG friendly specialities

Top 10 Specialities

The following are the most popular IMG specialities to match in.

  • Internal Medicine
  • Family Medicine
  • Pediatrics
  • Psychiatry
  • Neurology
  • General Surgery
  • Pathology
  • Anesthesiology
  • Radiology
  • OBGyn

The “Big 3” IMG Friendly Specialties

Internal Medicine, Family Medicine, Pediatrics

If you look at the published NRMP data, you can see that by far and away the most popular IMG specialty is Internal Medicine. 3635 non-US IMG applicants matched in 2018 into Internal Medicine which is more than any other specialty by a large margin. If you ask your friends, you will mostly find they are also applying for Internal Medicine. The second most commonly matched field is Family Medicine with only 679 applicants. Finally, the third most popular specialty is Pediatrics with 491 non-US IMG applicants. This data does not keep into account that applicants frequently apply to more than one specialty. They only keep track of the matched and unmatched applicants, without giving us information on how many of these applicants were the same across different fields.

Key Points to Note

Internal Medicine may be the most popular choice but the number of positions available is not as great as its popularity! In 2018, there were 7916 positionings IM positions available for a total of 10032 applicants (among all applicants IMG or AMG), leaving 1.27 applicants per position.
However, if you look at Family Medicine, the ratio of positionings to applicants is better – there are 3629 positionings for 4402 positionings for a ratio of 1.21.
If you take a look at Pediatrics, there are 2858 positions for only 3059 applicants – leading to a ratio of ONLY 1.07. Consider this as you position yourself for a speciality.

Keys to a Successful Match

USMLE scores – some specialities tend to require a higher USMLE score compared to others. For example, Anesthesiology and General Surgery have some of the highest average USMLE scores.
Proving your commitment – all specialities want to know that you are interested in joining the field but some specialties want to see that you have specific experience in their speciality. This may be in the form of research experience, externships or observerships.
Applying to multiple specialties – this is a strategy which can increase your chances is fairly common among IMG applications. Often times, an applicant uses Internal Medicine as a backup specialty to apply to.
Cost of application – this may be a limitation for some as the number of applicants increases.

Choosing the speciality you want to apply for is a very important decision because you are in effect decision what type of practice you want for the rest of your career. While the data shows there may be more openings in certain areas compared to others, make sure that you think carefully about whether you could see yourself in that field for decades. Most programs are good at selecting those applicants who truly are passionate about the field, rather than just wanting a position. You will still need good scores, a solid CV, and strong interview skills to convince the program that you are ready and able to take the challenge!