Medical education

The most competitive specialties for PGY1s and PGY2s in the 2020 NRMP Match

Neurological surgery and plastic surgery are among the most competitive specialties this year. See which others are on the list.

The 2020 National Resident Matching Program (NRMP) Match—the first combined match since the transition to a single graduate medical education accreditation system began—saw a record-high number of U.S. DO fourth-year participants, and their 90.7% PGY-1 match rate was also the highest ever.

Overall, 99% of this year’s graduating DOs who sought GME placed into postgrad training, according to the American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine (AACOM). AACOM’s report also showed that the 6,815 new DOs who placed into GME positions this year is an increase of nearly 1,000 since 2017, when 5,898 placed into GME positions.

In examining the NRMP’s recently released 2020 Match report, The DO determined the 15 most competitive specialties for all postgraduate year one (PGY1) residents—including DOs, MDs and international medical graduates—by looking at which filled all or nearly all of their open PGY1 positions. Specialties with fewer than 50 open positions and combined specialties—for instance, emergency medicine-family medicine—were not included.

Please note that while most residency programs for many specialties begin in PGY1, some specialties have a number of positions that begin in PGY1 as well as a number of positions that begin in PGY2. Most trainees who match into specialties at the PGY2 level do so in their final year of medical school, then complete a preliminary training year before beginning training in their specialty the following year. We have also listed the top 5 most competitive specialties filling slots at the PGY2 level using the same methodology.

The charts below list the most competitive specialties at the PGY1 and PGY2 levels, along with how many physicians matched in each.

The 15 most competitive specialties for PGY1s in the 2020 NRMP Match
Specialty No. of matches % of positions filled
Neurological surgery 232 100%
Plastic surgery (integrated) 180 100%
Physical medicine & rehab 151 100%
Anesthesiology 1,369 99.9%
Obstetrics-gynecology 1,440 99.8%
Surgery (categorical) 1,531 99.7%
Emergency medicine 2,652 99.5%
Orthopedic surgery 844 99.4%
Otolaryngology 348 99.4%
Psychiatry 1,838 98.9%
Pediatrics (categorical) 2,812 98.2%
Neurology 665 97.5%
Pathology 587 97.3%
Vascular surgery 73 97.3%
Internal medicine (categorical) 8,324 95.7%

2020 NRMP Match Report

The 5 most competitive specialties at the PGY2 level in the 2020 NRMP Match
Specialty No. of matches % of positions filled
Anesthesiology 396 99.5%
Physical medicine & rehab 312 98.7%
Neurology 240 98.4%
Dermatology 469 98.1%
Radiology (diagnostic) 967 97.7%

2020 NRMP Match Report

Related reading:

How these DO students matched to their top-choice residencies

The 10 most competitive specialties for PGY1s in the 2019 NRMP Match


  1. BadApplicant

    The percentage of filled positions is not an accurate indicator of specialty competitiveness, as it says nothing about the applicant pool which is self selecting.

    1. Fatal

      This is true. If a specialty is very selective, it will often elect to not match anyone rather than matching an applicant that fails to meet their very high standards.

      Looking at which fields matched most of their open positions reveals two things:
      1. Desire for that specialty is high
      2. The specialty is willing to fill all their positions with the applicant pool they have been given. This could be due to a variety of factors including but not limited to need for able and willing working bodies to man their hospitals

  2. DrEye

    This list appear poorly designed.

    PMR and Emergency medicine is more competitive than orthopedic surgery?

    I highly doubt it.

    Ophthalmology not even on list?

  3. martin porcelli D.O>

    we need more FP’s the back bone of D.O.’s…we trn fam med for nearly 130 yrs… we supply pats. for our colleagues…we are the mill…we are L 5… dr porcelli pomona ca… 40 yrs in the box.. wish you all well… ” it is a good day to be a DO”…past pres. ACOFP..

Leave a comment Please see our comment policy