If you have completed your medical residency, you can branch out in two ways. If you have cleared your USMLE, you can start practicing in your specialised field. However, some doctors choose to go the extra mile and pursue medical fellowship. But what is a fellowship in medicine?

What is Medical Fellowship?

A medical fellowship is when you pursue a subspecialty to gain expertise in a specific area of medicine, after your residency. A fellowship allows you to research and gain in-depth knowledge to become a specialist. A few examples of areas where you can pursue a fellowship are specialised surgery, emergency medicine, oncology, etc. 

Typically, the duration of a fellowship program is 1-3 years. More specialised fields like neurosurgery or plastic surgery may take as long as 6-7 years. To be eligible for a fellowship, you need to have graduated from medical school and completed your medical residency. 

Before you decide on pursuing a fellowship, you need to ascertain if this is actually what you want to do. You ideally would have already completed at least 11 years of studies in medicine before you start considering a fellowship. 

Some of you would have spent longer in your residency program – not to mention all the exams you have already taken. Adding another 2 -3 years of studying along with a rigorous and hectic schedule may not be everyone’s cup of tea.

To opt for a fellowship, you will need to be passionate about the field since it can get quite competitive and challenging. You will need to allot study time into your schedule. 

Another factor that will affect your decision is money. The salary of a ‘fellow’ is not substantially higher than that of a resident. Depending on the program, you can expect to earn between $60,000 to $70,000 annually. Sometimes, there could be a 20% increase in the salary post-residency. Of course, once you complete your fellowship, you will have considerable leverage to earn more.    

How Can I Apply for a Medical Fellowship? 

If you have performed exceptionally during residency, you may be selected for a fellowship program; as only the best performers are chosen this way. 

Application to a fellowship program needs you to submit a detailed resume, application letter, letters of recommendation, and sometimes even take an entrance exam. This will be followed by an interview. Interviews can be individual (one-on-one) or sometimes panel, where you will need to communicate your achievements, strengths, abilities, and aspirations in the chosen field.

You could also be a part of a group interview, where you will be asked to discuss a subject with peer applicants. 

Fellowship positions are limited and hence competitive; so, you will have to prepare well and present yourself effectively to get through. Fellowship applications can be submitted through the Electronic Residency Application Service (ERAS).

What Is a Medical Fellowship and its Purpose? 

As a fellow, you will act as attending or consulting physicians in your respective specialty fields. You will also be practising and performing surgical procedures under a senior surgeon. 

The schedule of a fellow is extremely hectic with a typical day consisting of patient rounds, surgeries, documentation, and planning for the next day. Time for research projects has to be adjusted in your schedule. Extra study time needs to be created after work. 

You may also get a chance to independently handle simpler cases once you complete your fellowship, as you will no longer need supervision. You will also be expected to brainstorm and create prognosis, diagnosis reports, and surgery and treatment plans proactively.  


Medical fellowship programs are aimed to create expert physicians in a specific area of medicine. Hence, there is a lot of emphasis on gaining in-depth knowledge and taking on more responsibilities voluntarily.

Although the program is grueling at all levels, the rewards of your perseverance, initiative, and optimism are many. You will find all of this worth it when you become a highly sought-after specialist in your field!