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What is the Most Popular Specialty for Residency?

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Note that the most ‘popular’ residency choice is certainly not the same as the most competitive – the most competitive Residencies often have relatively fewer overall applicants, as fewer will apply to a program or career that they know to be very competitive. As such, the most popular choices, listed below, are often some of the least competitive.

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The Most Popular Specialties for Residency

The number 1 most popular specialty for Residency in the US is Internal Medicine. This branch had 10,032 applicants in 2018. This is the general branch of Medicine that deals with a range of adult disease, focusing on the major body systems, and the Residency is relatively short at only three years. Those who specialise in this area are called internists. As it is a broad specialty it allows one to build up a wide array of knowledge, and treat patients with a true range of different conditions. It can therefore be a great choice for those who don’t wish to become overly specialised.

The second most popular residency choice is Family Medicine. In 2018 there were 4402 applicants to this specialty. Family medicine is akin to a mixture of ‘general practice’ in other countries and Internal Medicine, with a doctor trained in this specialty having the skills to assess and treat patients suffering from a variety of different diseases. Unlike Internal Medicine, a Family Medicine specialist (or generalist) will be able to treat patients of all ages, including newborns, children, and adults (through to geriatric). A large part of the job of a physician in this field is knowing when to refer, and who to refer to – shifting patients on to those with greater specialist knowledge and acting as an initial gatekeeper.

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The third most popular Residency choice is paediatrics. In 2018 there were 3059 applicants to this training route. Paediatrics, of course, is the branch of Medicine that deals with disease in newborns, infants, children and adolescents. A Paediatric residency, like Internal Medicine, is relatively short – typically taking only three years to complete. As such this is another great choice for those who wish to remain somewhat more generalised, and be able to move quickly from medical school to being an attending.

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