Medicine is vast and diverse, with numerous specialties requiring years of rigorous academic training and practical experience. While each specialty has its unique challenges, some are known to be more demanding than others. One frequently debated topic among medical professionals and students is the hardest doctor specialty.

In this article, we will explore this topic in-depth and provide insights into the factors that make some medical specialties more challenging than others.

What is the Most Difficult Doctor Specialty?

Those interested in making a career as a medical practitioner often wonder — what is the most difficult doctor to become? And while all medical fields are difficult, a few others require aspiring individuals to persevere more.

So, let us look at the top 5 most competitive specialties that conclude the debate of what is the hardest doctor to become.

Plastic Surgery

Instead of working with bones as orthopedic surgeons do, plastic surgeons concentrate on soft tissue, such as skin, muscle, and fat. The word “plastic” derives from the Greek verb “plastikos,” which means “to mould,” and refers to how tissues are reshaped and manipulated during plastic surgery.

Plastic surgery requires individuals who are thorough, systematic, and detail-oriented. Compared to other professions, the pay is less predictable, but one can still enjoy an above-average standard of living.


Dermatologists treat conditions affecting the skin, hair, and nails from a medical and surgical standpoint. More than 3,000 disorders, including eczema, psoriasis, and skin cancer, can be diagnosed and treated by a dermatologist.

The good lifestyle and work-life balance offered to practitioners of dermatology are not provided by most other medical specialties. Dermatologists often rank among the top 5 highest paid medical specialties.


The central nervous system (CNS) and the peripheral nervous system (PNS) are the two primary parts of the nervous system that neurological surgery focuses on. The brain and spinal cord are included in the CNS, and all other bodily nerves are included in the PNS. Surgery on the CNS and PNS are both covered by neurosurgery and is one of the few disciplines that can save lives.

Neurosurgeons can directly touch, alter, and enhance the central nervous system. Though it has one of the most difficult lifestyles, as one might be summoned into a hospital at the last minute to save someone’s life, it is an intellectually stimulating and fascinating field with an exciting career. When weighing the options of what is the hardest doctor to become, those pursuing neurosurgery undeniably make up a considerable number. 


The surgical subspecialty of ENT treats conditions affecting the head and neck. This comprises malignancies of the head and neck, thyroid, parathyroid, larynx, nose, sinuses, ears, and endocrinology, as well as cancer in the head and neck.

The lifestyle of an ENT is great, with high pay while maintaining a healthy work-life balance. For individuals who desire to be able to prioritize their family along with their job, this makes it the perfect specialization. The disadvantage is that it deals with a very small, intricate, and challenging body area.

Orthopedic Surgery

The musculoskeletal system, including fractures and shattered bones, is studied under orthopedic surgery. Tendons, ligaments, and nerve or vascular damage are also dealt with during surgeries.

Being an orthopedic surgeon is incredibly satisfying because the results are typically positive. After surgery, most patients see a significant improvement in their health. Orthopedic surgery, like many surgical specialties, can involve demanding hours, but as a trade-off, orthopedic surgeons are typically the top or second-highest-paid doctors.

Factors Influencing the Difficulty Level

When it comes to determining the difficulty level of a task or activity, there are a multitude of factors that can come into play. Some of the most common factors include:

Education and training

It’s important to take into account the duration and level of education needed for a particular field of expertise. This entails completing undergraduate studies, attending medical school, participating in residency programs, and possibly completing fellowship programs. Keep in mind that certain specialties necessitate more years of training than others.


Certain medical fields are more difficult to get into than others when it comes to securing a residency or fellowship program spot. The degree of competitiveness can be affected by various factors such as the number of positions that are available, the number of applicants, and the degree of popularity of the specific specialty.

Board certification requirements

The standards for board certification can differ depending on the area of specialization, such as the completion of specific case logs or written and oral exams. The difficulty level of obtaining a board certification may vary depending on the field.

Technical and procedural skills

Certain fields demand a greater level of technical proficiency and procedural expertise that can be difficult to attain. For instance, neurosurgeons and cardiothoracic surgeons require advanced surgical abilities, whereas radiologists must have a sound grasp of interpreting intricate imaging studies.

Emotional and mental stability

The difficulty of becoming a doctor in a particular field can be influenced by the level of stress and emotional demand required for that specialty. Specialties that have a high level of responsibility for making critical decisions, determining patient outcomes, or dealing with ethical dilemmas may pose greater challenges for some individuals.

Work-life balance

Some medical specialties require long work hours, on-call shifts, and high levels of pressure, making work-life balance difficult and influencing the perceived difficulty of becoming a doctor in that field.

Financial considerations

Factors such as the expense of education, the level of student debt, and the expected income in the future can impact the level of difficulty in pursuing certain medical specialties. The specialties that offer higher earnings potential may be more challenging to pursue or require more advanced and prolonged training.

The Bottom Line

There is no straightforward answer to the question of what is the hardest doctor specialty. Each medical specialty comes with its unique set of challenges and requires rigorous academic training, practical experience, and a deep passion for the field. The difficulty level of a specialty also varies depending on individual strengths, interests, and preferences.

It is essential to choose a medical specialty that aligns with your passion and career goals, as this will provide the motivation and drive needed to overcome any challenges that may come your way.


What is the most difficult type of doctor specialty?

Neurosurgery is known to be particularly challenging because of the intricate nature of the nervous system and the significant risks involved in surgical procedures. Neurosurgeons are medical professionals with specialized expertise in performing surgical procedures to address conditions affecting the brain, spinal cord, and nerves outside of the central nervous system.

What is the easiest doctor specialties?

Among the easiest specialties to get into are Family Medicine, Emergency Medicine, Internal Medicine, Pathology, and Preliminary Surgery.

What’s the rarest type of doctor?

There is no specific data on the rarest type of doctor. However, medical geneticists, also known as clinical geneticists, are believed to be among the rarest types of doctors. They specialize in diagnosing and treating genetic disorders that affect a relatively small percentage of the population. In the United States, there are only about 1,200 medical geneticists.

What is the most demanding doctor?

Some of the most in-demand medical specialties include

1. Primary care physicians:
2. Internal medicine
3. Emergency medicine
4. Psychiatry