Top 5 Most Competitive Doctor Specialties in 2022

Top 5 Most Competitive Doctor Specialties in 2022

Choosing a medical specialty is a major decision for aspiring doctors. With so many options available, it can be overwhelming to figure out which path is right for you. One important factor to consider is the competitiveness of each specialty. Some specialties are more competitive than others, meaning that more applicants apply for residency positions than there are available spots.

In 2022, the National Residency Matching Program (NRMP) released data on the competitiveness of various medical specialties. This data can be helpful for medical students and residents who are trying to decide which specialty to pursue. The data is based on the Match Score Index (MSI), which is a measure of how competitive a specialty is. The higher the MSI, the more competitive the specialty.

Top 5 Most Competitive Doctor Specialties in 2022

Here are the top 5 most competitive doctor specialties in 2022, based on the NRMP data:

  1. Dermatology: Dermatology is consistently ranked as one of the most competitive specialties. This is due to a combination of factors, including the high demand for dermatologists, the relatively short training period, and the high earning potential. The MSI for dermatology in 2022 was 1.81.
  2. Orthopedic Surgery: Orthopedic surgery is another highly competitive specialty. The demand for orthopedic surgeons is high, and the training is rigorous. The MSI for orthopedic surgery in 2022 was 1.78.
  3. Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery: Otolaryngology, also known as ENT, is a specialty that deals with the ears, nose, and throat. This is a highly competitive field, with a strong demand for ENT specialists. The MSI for otolaryngology in 2022 was 1.69.
  4. Plastic Surgery: Plastic surgery is a highly specialized field that focuses on reconstructive and cosmetic surgery. The demand for plastic surgeons is high, and the training is very competitive. The MSI for plastic surgery in 2022 was 1.67.
  5. Neurosurgery: Neurosurgery is one of the most demanding and competitive specialties in medicine. Neurosurgeons are highly skilled and trained to perform complex surgeries on the brain, spine, and nervous system. The MSI for neurosurgery in 2022 was 1.65.

Factors Contributing to Specialty Competitiveness

Several factors contribute to the competitiveness of a medical specialty. These factors include:

  • Demand for specialists: If there is a high demand for a particular specialty, there will be more applicants for residency positions than there are available spots. This will make the specialty more competitive.
  • Length and rigor of training: Specialties with longer and more rigorous training programs tend to be more competitive. This is because fewer applicants are willing to commit to the long and demanding training.
  • Earning potential: Specialties with high earning potential tend to be more competitive, as they attract more applicants. This is because aspiring doctors are often motivated by financial rewards.
  • Lifestyle: Some specialties offer a more desirable lifestyle than others. For example, specialties with more predictable schedules and less demanding work hours tend to be less competitive.

Trends in Specialty Competitiveness

The competitiveness of medical specialties can change over time. Some specialties may become more competitive, while others may become less competitive. This is due to factors such as changes in healthcare policy, advancements in medical technology, and shifts in patient demand.

For example, the demand for primary care physicians has been increasing in recent years, as the population ages and the need for preventive care grows. This has made primary care a less competitive specialty than it was in the past.


Choosing a medical specialty is a complex decision that should be based on a variety of factors, including your interests, skills, and career goals. The competitiveness of a specialty is one important factor to consider, but it should not be the only factor. It is important to research different specialties and talk to doctors in those fields to get a better understanding of what each specialty entails.