Your Medical Career Starts Here

Everything you've heard is true. Residency training will be the most challenging part of your medical career.

What is ‘Residency’?

“Residency” is a 3-6 year training program that med students and International Medical Graduates must complete at a postgraduate hospital. Think of it as “on-the-job training” for doctors. International Medical Graduates (IMGs) and US Med students decide to which specialties and programs they want to apply. Applications for residency are submitted to specific residency programs in the fall of the year prior to the start of residency. Interviews are conducted in the fall and early winter months. The “Match” occurs in March (more on that later). Most residency programs begin July 1.

There are over 8,000 residency programs in the US. The Program Director at each residency program has sole discretion in hiring resident. Therefore, each program director is looking for something a little different. There are no national standards. The task of each person seeking a residency is to find the program director who likes what they have to offer.

In general, program directors evaluate students by:

Passing all four tests of the United States Medical Licensing Exam® (USMLE) sequence is required for any doctor to obtain a license to practice medicine in the United States.

  1. USMLE scores
  2. Written application material, including personal statement and letters of reference
  3. Face-to-face interview
  4. Relative strength of other applicants to the same program

Residency Process for International Medical Graduates: With a limited number of residency positions each year, and a surplus of applicants, International Medical Graduates may need to work hard to find the right position. Many IMGs apply to multiple programs AND multiple specialties to increase their chances of securing a position. IMGs will apply in the fall, once they have completed the requirements for ECFMG certification.

Residency Interviews: In late fall and early winter, the programs review applications they have received and conduct interviews with selected candidates. The interview is an opportunity for the residency program to evaluate the candidate, and the candidate to review the residency program. Much like a job interview, the goal is to find a good fit between the applicant and the residency program.


Sometime during or just after the interview, a candidate may be offered a “contract” by the program director. If accepted, then the student agrees to enter that residency program and withdraw from the Match. Note that this agreement is binding legal contract. If offered a contract, we recommend that students accept, because it means that they are in!

The Match: After the interviews, the process enters the “Match” phase. Most residency positions in the United States are awarded through a centralized, computerized system known simply as “The Match”. This computerized system assigns individuals to residency programs, based upon a rank-order list from both residency programs and applicants. Programs who give candidates a high ranking are matched with candidates who give high ranks to those programs.

During a 5-week period from mid-January to late February, both the applicants and residency program directors submit lists (via the web) to the National Residency Matching Program (NRMP). The residency programs rank the top candidates they’d like to have in their program. The applicants also provide a rank order of the residency programs for which they are interested. These two lists are then entered into a computer and residency positions are assigned. Results are typically released on the Internet in mid-March.

Important Note: The match generated by the computer is contractually binding for both the program and the applicant.