From the moment you decide to pursue a career in medicine till your fellowship, you will find yourself competing not only against a scoring benchmark but also against your peers to get selected for a position in your preferred field, school, or residency program. Competition is quite a natural phenomenon when you have to choose a specialization.

What does it take to get into a residency program?

Getting into any residency program needs you to score well in your 4 years of medical school. Factors that matter in being selected for residency are match rate, average Step 1 and Step 2CK scores, number of publications, percentage of matriculants who are AOA, and the percentage from a top 40 NIH-funded medical school. Besides your scores, you will also have to express your capability and passion through your application and interviews. 

Apart from knowing the most competitive specialties, you may also want to understand the least competitive medical specialties, which may ease the application process for you. 

Here is a list of the 6 least competitive specialties:

  1. Family medicine: This is one of the least competitive specialties to opt for. It deals with the treatment of patients of all age groups. Usually, doctors practicing family medicine cater to all members of a family through regular check-ups and tests, assessment of health-risk factors, immunisation, and preventive treatment. They often act as the first point of contact for the patient and for specialists who want to understand the patient’s health history.  

Residency may continue for 3 – 4 years. Further specialization can be done in geriatrics, sports medicine, sleep medicine, and hospice and palliative care. 

  1. Pediatrics:  This specialization deals with the care and treatment of infants, children, and adolescents. Working with children is fulfilling as well as emotionally overwhelming as you often have to witness the child in distress. As a doctor in this field, you also have the secondary responsibility of managing the child’s parents or family. This specialization needs you to be extremely patient and persevering.

    Residency continues for 3 years. Combined with internal medicine, it opens up specializations like pediatric cardiology, emergency medicine, nephrology, oncology, infectious disease, and many more.

  2. Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation: Known as PM&R or physiatry, it deals with restoring functional abilities of people with physical impairments or disabilities. It also aims to reduce pain and enhance the quality of life. Doctors in this field treat chronic pain, sports injuries, and musculoskeletal disorders. This role can be taxing since progress in the patient is slow.

    Residency continues for 4 years. Further specialization can be in musculoskeletal and spine, stroke, multiple sclerosis, neurorehabilitation, electrodiagnostic medicine, cancer rehabilitation, or occupational medicine.

  3. Psychiatry: It deals with the treatment and management of mental disorders with medicine. Although fascinating to deal with different disorders of the mind, it is also mentally and emotionally tiresome. Progress is slow and even regressing.  Residency continues for 4 years, after which you can choose a sub-specialization in addiction, child and adolescent, forensic, geriatric, psychosomatic, etc.

  4. Anesthesiology: It deals with the safe use of drugs for perioperative care of the patient before, during, or after surgery or other procedures to minimize pain. It is commonly prevalent in dentistry and obstetrics to provide local anesthesia to ease the discomfort of the patient. During surgery, the anesthesiologist has to constantly monitor the patient’s vitals and keep them stable. Residency continues for 4 years. You can also specialize in pain management, sleep medicine, cardiothoracic, pediatric, neuro, regional/ambulatory, obstetric anesthesiology, or critical care medicine.

  5. Emergency Medicine: It deals with providing immediate treatment, care, and even surgery for patients suffering from critical illnesses or injuries. It is a fast-paced field that keeps you on your toes, around the clock. Residency continues for 3-4 years. Further specialization can be in palliative care, critical care medicine, medical toxicology, sports medicine, disaster medicine, hyperbaric medicine, and more.


Please be mindful that although these fields are less competitive than others, they are not that easy to get into. They also need you to be passionate, committed, and knowledgeable to gain credibility and respect. Remember, your specialization is not an indicator of how good a doctor you are. After all, you will be known for making a difference in a person’s life in a way very few people can!