The most International Medical Graduates (IMG) friendly specialties in the USA are
- Internal Medicine
- Family Medicine
- Emergency Medicine
This is based on my analysis of the recent NRMP data which is the National Resident Matching Program data. With this, you will know where to focus your effort as you’re going through the matching process.
Let’s jump to find out more about what percentage of IMGs matched into these top 11 IMG-friendly specialties in the USA.
Dr. Rajeev Iyer MBBS, MD, FASA
Associate Professor of Anesthesiology
The University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, USA
Who are International Medical Graduates?
International Medical Graduates are graduates of medical school from outside the USA or Canada. The NRMP classifies two types of IMGs:
- US IMGs and
- Non-US IMGs.
US IMGs are those who are typically US citizens and most of them live in the USA. They just step out of the U.S. to do medical school or Medical College and then they come back to the US to do residency and they continue their life in the U.S.
Non-US IMGs are those graduates who basically have lived all their life outside the U.S. They finish their medical school or residency in their home country or elsewhere. They then move to the USA on one of the following Visas: J-1, H1B, or an O1 visa.
Non-US IMGs must obtain ECFMG Certification to be eligible for matching. ECFMG has announced that starting in 2024, the process for medical college verification will change. I have an entire blog on this that you can check out here.
In the USA, Non-US IMGs take the following paths
- Do a residency
- Repeat their residency after their residency from the home country
- A few outstanding IMGs certify through the American Board of Medical Specialties Alternate Entry Path Program.
What are the top 11 IMG Friendly specialties in the USA?
I will give you the list of IMG Friendly specialties based on NRMP Data along with the approximate match rate I calculated. This data is for PGY1 or the internship year.
11. Diagnostic Radiology, Match Rate 8%
Diagnostic Radiology is one of IMG’s favorites. Eight percent of non-us IMGs matched into Diagnostic Radiology. However, I am surprised that the number of residencies spots for Diagnostic Radiology is less than 200 at least according to the recent NRMP data. Although eight percent of IMGs matched into Diagnostic Radiology, the number wise would be pretty less since it is proportional to the total number of residency spots.
10. Family Medicine, Match Rate 9%
Family Medicine is another IMG’s favorite. Nine percent of IMGs are matched into family medicine and given the thousands of spots in Family Medicine the number of IMGs in this specialty is relatively high. I personally know of quite a few Family Medicine IMGs. My own Family Physician is an IMG from India, and coincidentally from my own Medical College.
Family Medicine Physicians are diplomates of the American Board of Family Medicine.
9. Radiation Oncology, Match Rate 10%
Radiation Oncology is a specialty many non-US IMGs may not be familiar with. 10 percent of IMGs are matched into radiation oncology. I caution you when you think of 10% that the number is significantly less. For example, if there are 10 radiation oncology spots and ten percent matches so it’s only one person matching into that spot.
8. Pediatrics Categorical, Match Rate 12%
The next IMG friendly specialty is Pediatrics. 12 percent of IMGs matched into categorical Pediatrics. If you’re not familiar with the term categorical it just means that the internship and the whole Residency program are done in one Hospital. Like Family Medicine, I have personally seen many IMG pediatricians. My children’s pediatrician is also an IMG. In fact, I have quite a few friends who are pediatricians and are IMGs.
7. Pediatric Neurology, Match Rate 13%
The next specialty is pediatric neurology. 13% of IMGs matched into pediatric neurology. I again want to caution that the number of spots in pediatric neurology is quite less. I personally know of a successful pediatric neurologist who is my friend and an IMG.
6. Pediatrics-Medical Genetics, Match Rate 20%
Specialty number six is a combination of Pediatrics medical genetics where twenty percent of IMGs matched into this specialty. However, the number of spots in this combined program is again less than 100. I do caution you on the way you want to interpret this data. Although the match rate is 20%, the total number of IMGs who would be matched is quite less in pediatric neurology.
A special agreement exists between the American Board of Pediatrics (ABP) and the American Board of Medical Genetics and Genomics (ABMGG) based on which the resident fulfills the training requirement for both pediatrics and medical genetics and genomics in 4 years of combined training.
5. Neurology, Match Rate 21%
The next IMG friendly specialty is neurology. 21% of IMG matched into neurology. Entry into a neurology residency starts after a 12-month ACGME-accredited graduate training in the United States or Royal College Accredited training in Canada. This training is typically in general internal medicine. ACGME-approved residency training programs in neurology must provide three years of graduate education in neurology.
4. Medicine – Primary, Match Rate 26%
The next on the list is medicine. This is the medicine that is focused on Primary Care. One-fourth of IMGs are matched into Primary Care Medicine. This is big with respect to being IMG friendly.
3. Internal Medicine – Categorical, Match Rate 26%
The next big IMG friendly specialty is Internal Medicine Categorical residency. I always thought that based on the number of IMGs in internal medicine and medical specialties this would be number 1. Internal Medicine is still probably number 1 based on the number of IMGs who enter this residency program.
There are a little over 9,000 residency spots in Internal Medicine. If 26% match, this is approximately 2,000 to 2,500 IMGs who enter PGY1 each year. This is huge and makes it a very IMG friendly specialty.
Internal Medicine has the most subspecialties amongst the American Board of Medical Specialties. Internal Medicine Physicians are diplomates of the American Board of Internal Medicine.
2. Pathology, Match Rate 34%
Spot number two is taken by pathology where 34 percent of IMGs have matched into pathology. This means one-third of all pathology spots in the country have been taken by non-US IMGs. This is a pretty big piece.
Pathology has two components
- Anatomic Pathology
- Clinical Pathology
1. Pediatric – Primary Care; Match Rate 34%
The number one spot is taken by Pediatrics with a focus on Primary Care. Similar to pathology, 34% of all spots are taken by non-us IMGs so it’s almost one-third. However, I again caution you that the number of spots with Pediatrics as a primary focus is less than 100 so although you see one-third, the total number is quite less.