how long is residency

How Long is Residency: The Answer Is Simple, It Depends on What You Want to Be

You may have asked how long is residency? It’s a question that many people ask themselves when they are deciding what to do with their life. While the answer can vary depending on your specialty, it will be anywhere from 3-7 years of your life. Whether you’re a pre-med or just starting medical school, this post provides some insight into how long is residency and how you can make educated decisions about how much time you want to spend as a doctor.

Length of Residency Programs

In this first section, I will literally just go through the length of some common programs.

  • Internal Medicine is 3 years in length
  • Emergency Medicine is 3 years in length
  • Family Medicine is 3 years in length
  • Most surgical residencies will be a minimum of 5 years, including general surgery residency.
  • Obstetrics and gynecology is 4 years in length

The truth is though that residency training will vary depending on how much you subspecialize. For example, there is a surgery subspecialty called surgical critical care which requires another year of training in addition to general and cardiothoracic surgery residency. This means that those individuals will be spending six years becoming an attending surgeon instead of five as they have to complete both types of residency.

This is just an example of how long it can take to become a surgeon and this doesn’t even include fellowship! There are many surgical subspecialties that require another year or two after completing your residency before you will be eligible for the board exam. These programs typically have fellowships included in their training, so they may not count as additional training. For example, neurosurgery is usually five years in length which includes a year long fellowship after completing residency.

Do all medical students go to residency

This is the goal, but unfortunately it is not how it works. There are some students who do not complete residency and become a licensed physician via the completion of their medical degree only.

how long is residency

There are many reasons that people may decide to not go into residency. In fact, there are many factors that influence how long your training will be such as the state you live in and how competitive of a specialty it is.

For example, dermatology is very difficult to get into so some students decide they would rather take another route than completing five more years of training by doing a dermatology residency. This is especially common for students who are married and plan to start a family because they want more stability before going back into the workforce.

In some cases, students don’t match into a residency program because they may have had poor performance in medical school and on certain exams.

How to choose a residency program

There are so many factors that come into play when it comes to picking a residency program. Things to think about are where is the program at, what is the call schedule like, who are the other residents, do you have support close by?

There are so many things that you need to consider when picking a residency.

how long is residency

This means that you should be taking time to ask residents who have recently done the residency match for their recommendations on what program is best. This means that you will want to do your research and pick a place that has everything that interests you such as location, night schedule, etc. A lot of people don’t realize how hard it can be when they are in medical school, but once you are in the real world it is a lot more difficult to pick where you want to spend your time.

This will take some research and self-reflection when thinking about what specialty interests you based on location, schedule, etc.. These questions need to be answered before applying for residency because there are many factors that come into play.

Make sure you consider all the options when you are thinking about residency, and please don’t hesitate to reach out to me if you have questions.

Why to consider fellowship training

If you are thinking about fellowship it is likely because doing so will provide you will a smaller subset of patients that you are incredibly interested in.

Or, maybe you really like the procedures or the lifestyle of that specialty.

There are so many reasons why medical students choose to do a fellowship.

how long is residency

For example, there are medical subspecialties like pediatric cardiology that typically only take three years and people may decide they want to cut it short in order for them to start having their own family earlier or pursue another career path sooner than later. This can also provide you with more money as many specialties will pay better than non specialists.

Do medical schools help you get into residency

Most medical schools will help medical students find a residency.

This is because medical schools want their medical graduates to be successful and they know that having a medical degree with no job prospects can be very difficult for some people.

Some students do run the risk of going unmatched in residency. This is because medical students are only ranked by residency programs for their application.

Residency is one of the most difficult processes that medical students will go through, however it can be worth it in the end when you get to know your fellow classmates and really like where you live.

Point of this is to say that pretty much all medical schools will help their students get into residency because they want their students to be successful.

A lot of this is on you as a residency applicant, but at the end of the day your school will help you, but you absolutely need to put forth the effort.

What is the shortest Residency

There are multiple residency programs that are three years in duration. Family medicine, internal medicine, pediatrics, emergency medicine, are the main ones that come to mind.

Some medical students will graduate medical school and start their residency right away while others will take two or three years off before starting (internship-residency). This is something that you need to talk with your medical school counselor about further details on, but it all comes down to the individual person.

This means that if you are looking for a residency that is as short as possible then you should be looking at family medicine or internal medicine. However, if you are thinking about going into medical school and graduate medical education this may not be the best option for you because of how competitive it can become to find a residency program in those specialties.

If you are looking for a residency program that is as short as possible then I would suggest family medicine or internal medicine.

What is the longest Residency

The longest residency is a medical specialty that is typically 5+ years in length. Neurosurgery is 7 years, so without fellowship this means it is the longest.

Other long ones are general surgery, orthopedic surgery, otolaryngology (ENT), and neurosurgery.

Once you graduate medical school with your M.D. or D.O. these specialties will require a residency before you can become board certified to practice medicine.

When you think about a residency that is 7 years in length, it might be easy to not realize that 7 years is literally almost as long as undergrad and medical school! That is a super long time!

What comes after residency

There are really two options go onto fellowship or go get your first real attending job!

Medical school is a long time, so if you have been out of medical school for more than three years then your peers will likely be getting their first attending job.

This means that there is less competition and it also means that at some point you can become an attending physician! That’s pretty cool!

Fellowship is a period of typically 1-2 years after residency, where you get a focus. For example if a cardiologist wants to do pacemakers, then they can do an electrophysiology fellowship on top of their cardiology fellowship and sub specialize in their field.

Do doctors get paid during residency


Doctors do get paid during residency.

Residency programs typically will pay a base salary. This is great because it means that you are not having to strike out on your own, but instead can stay at home with family while getting paid!

It is nice to finally get paid after so long in medical school. This is where you start to see your hard work pay off!

If you are looking for a medical specialty that may be the shortest than family medicine or internal medicine may be good options for you.

On the other hand if you want something more long lasting then medical specialties like neurosurgery, general surgery, orthopedic surgery, otolaryngology (ENT), and neurosurgery are good medical specialties to consider.

The pay of residents is based on how long you have been in training. So, those residencies that are longer and if you do a fellowship on top of those you will get paid about 3% more each year you are in training.


The length of your residency depends on what specialty you choose. If you want to do a fellowship, it will make the overall training period longer. It’s completely up to you which direction you take your medical career in and how long that path will be! What are some of your thoughts about this? Where do you think is the best place for me to start if I am interested in becoming a doctor?

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