Top IMG-Friendly Specialties for 2021 Match - IMGPrep

Top IMG-Friendly Specialties for 2021 Match

September 13, 2022


When deciding your specialties for the 2023 match, it’s essential to know which specialties have been IMG-friendly in the past. IMG-friendly means that a specialty has historically been quite receptive to training applicants who are international medical graduates.

Top IMG Specialities for US and Non-US IMGs in 2021

A US IMG is a US citizen/Green Card holder  who completed medical school outside the United States. Meanwhile, a Non-US IMG is a foreign national who has attended medical school outside the united states

According to the NRMP (National Residency Matching Program), these were the top five IMG friendly  specialties for both IMG types. 

Top 5 US IMG-Friendly Specialities Top 5 Non-US IMG-Friendly Specialities 
Internal Medicine (categorical) (1,204)Family Medicine (781)Pediatrics (categorical) (223)Psychiatry (176)Emergency Medicine (143)Internal Medicine (categorical) (2,212)Family Medicine (443)Pediatrics (categorical) (329)Pathology (231)Neurology (179)

The numbers in brackets show the number of matches in every specialty. As evident, internal medicine and family medicine top the list in both cases.

Meanwhile, pediatrics takes third place. While US IMGs are more likely to get into psychiatry and emergency medicine, non-US IMGs had  better outcomes from pathology and neurology.


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Top 10 IMG-Friendly Specialities by Ratio 2021 

Besides the number of IMGs selected in each specialty, it’s also important to consider the ratio. NRMP data shows that IMGs were selected mainly in pathology, general surgery, internal medicine (categorical), neurology, family medicine, pediatrics, and child neurology. 

Here are the top 10 IMG-friendly specialties by ratio. 

Specialty US IMGNon-US IMG Total Filled Positions IMG Percentage 
Pathology 70231589 51.1% 
General Surgery (Preliminary) 7819161244% 
Internal Medicine (Categorical) 12042212863239.6%
Neurology 4717970232.2%
Family Medicine 781443447227.4% 
Child Neurology 62214719% 
Psychiatry 176133190416.2% 
Radiology 8811813.6% 
General Surgery (Categorical) 8373156410% 

Top IMG-Friendly Positions for PGY-2 Positions 2021 

PGY-2 positions refer to second-year positions in a medical residency program. In order to be eligible for a PGY-2 position, candidates must have completed a minimum of one year in a PGY-1 program.

NRMP data indicates that PGY-2 positions are not very friendly for IMG applicants. Here are a few specialties with relatively higher IMG acceptance rates. 

Specialty US IMG Non-US IMG 
Radiology (Diagnostic) 3784
Radiation Oncology 522
Neurology 1245
Physical Medicine and Rehab 1513
Dermatology 210 

In total, 92 US and 193 Non-US IMGs were selected for PGY-2 positions. 

Factors Affecting IMG-Friendliness

Statistics are the primary criteria to judge the friendliness of a specialty for an IMG. However, there are some other factors IMGs must consider to determine how likely they are to be eligible for a particular specialty.

Previous Clinical Experience

IUSCE US Clinical experience with letters of recommendation showing acclimation to the US clinical environment and commitment to specialty

For instance, if you’re applying for family medicine or neurology, it would help you to have prior clinical experience in FM with a letter of recommendation from a Family Medicine Physician.

USMLE Scores

The United States Medical Licensing Examination, or USMLE, is a three-step exam all medical students and graduates must take before practicing medicine in the United States.

The first two steps of the USMLE assess your knowledge of the basic sciences and clinical sciences, respectively. The third step is a clinical skills examination.

Some specialties require higher USMLE scores than others. To see sample populations of score averages per specialty the NRMP publishes their annual charting outcomes broken down by type of applicant.  USMLE scores may be one of the first things residency programs look at.

Letters of Recommendation

Letters of recommendation from physicians you have worked with in the past can also play a role in your residency application. Letters of recommendation are weighted in two rounds of selection; Personal Characteristics and Other Knowledge of Applicants Considered in Deciding Whom to Interview and Personal Characteristics and Other Knowledge of Applicants Considered in Deciding Whom to Rank

For example, if you’re applying for a residency in Neurology it would be important to have a letter of recommendation from a neurologist you have worked with. The letter would provide insight into your clinical skills and abilities and illustrate commitment to specialty, which goes beyond your USMLE scores.

Program Choices

It’s important when choosing programs to apply to look closely at the current residents. 

If a specific program has a history of not matching any IMGs, then it is likely that the programs will do the same this year.

When deciding on a specialty, it is essential to consider all factors affecting your chances of matching. These include, but are not limited to,USMLE scores, number of publications, and previous work experience all of which factor into your unique SUVY Scores US Clinical Experience Visa and Year of Graduation. 

How to select the correct Residency Program with your unique SUVY?

IMGPrep Customized Residency Program filter by SUVY. IMGPrep’s lists treat each applicant as a unique individual, and tailor results in a way that is truly unprecedented. No other program out there offers anything close to this degree of detail and analysis! 

If you know your SUVY, then let’s get started in identifying the most competitive U.S. Residency Programs for you!

To get started? Click here to see programs that match your SUVY!

IMGPrep is a leading educational consulting firm dedicated to assisting IMGs in reaching their goals, dreams, and potential. Check out our other Articles and learn more about IMGPrep services at:

IMGprep is not associated with the NRMP® or the MATCH® ECFMG®