What is the Least Popular Specialty for Residency?

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Whilst data on the least competitive residencies is relatively easy to find, information on the least popular (aka the residencies with the least raw applications, rather than the lowest chance of successfully matching) is a little harder to find. However, two specialties do seem to stand out from the rest. Note that we only considered the major specialties – some of the smallest or least well-known specialties, like Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation for example, might boast even lower numbers of applicants.

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The Residency with the Fewest Applications

The data we found indicates that only 3.8% of total applications were submitted to Radiology programs, whilst only 5.1% were submitted to Psychiatry. Compare this with about 20% being submitted to Internal Medicine and we begin to see how pronounced the difference is between the most popular of the major specialties and the least.

Radiology is typically a four year residency, which in turn leads to fellowships in a range of specialist areas within radiology. The most lengthy fellowship one could take would be neurointerventional radiology, which would add another three years of training to the initial Residency – making a total of 4 years of pre-med, 4 years of medical school, 4 years of residency and 3 years of fellowship for a total of 15 years education and training after finishing high school! However, most training would be complete with one year of subspecialty fellowship. The median wage for a diagnostic radiologist in the US is $441,000 per year, making it one of the best paid specialties.

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Psychiatry training takes place across a four year residency, although this may be slightly longer in some programs. After the four years are complete a number of different fellowships are available, the vast majority of which take just one year. These include Forensic Psychiatry, Addiction Medicine, or Sleep Medicine. The sole fellowship which takes longer than one year is Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, which takes two. The median wage for a psychiatrist (fully trained) in the US is $227,000 per year. This makes psychiatry one of the worst paid specialties, and is perhaps illustrative of the difference in competition between these two (relatively) less popular specialties.

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