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What's the Journey to Residency Like?

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You may be just beginning to apply to medical school, but have you thought about how you become a resident after graduation? Here’s a quick crash course on what to expect.

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residents pictured in white coats

Your first two years of medical school will be dedicated to acquiring much of the medical knowledge you will need throughout your career. After that, you will focus on improving your clinical skills and deciding on your future specialty. 

During your third year of medical school, you will begin clinical rotations, which are where you get to apply what you learned in the classroom at a hospital or clinic. You will see various specialties firsthand during “core rotations” that will give you the opportunity to discover and explore which specialty areas you may want to pursue after graduation. 

By the beginning of your fourth year, you can apply for an “away rotation.” An away rotation gives you a chance to get additional training at another institution — away from your home medical school. These rotations usually last four to six weeks. The away rotation is a great way to gain a better understanding of a certain specialty, hospital, or residency program you are interested in pursuing.  

Before graduating from medical school, you will research and find residency programs that are right for you. Residency will be your first official job as a physician, so it’s a big decision. There are many specialties to consider — well over 50. Depending on the specialty you choose, your residency training can last from three to seven years.   

Applying to a residency is very similar to applying to medical school. You apply and submit your supporting documents online and go through an interview process — except this time, it’s with a hospital program for a job opportunity.   

Most students start the process of applying to residency during their third or fourth year of medical school. The Electronic Residency Application Service® is the centralized online application service you will use to deliver your application and supporting documents to residency programs.   

Once you submit all your applications, you will then interview with interested programs. Once the interviews are complete, you will discover which program you have “matched” to on a specific date and time. This day marks an exciting and memorable day in a student’s medical journey and signifies your transition from being a medical student to becoming a physician!

medical students celebrate match day over zoom
Students at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical School gathered in the online videoconferencing platform Zoom to share Match Day announcements. Courtesy of Melanie Sulistio, MD/University of Texas Southwestern Medical School.

Last year, students celebrated being matched to their chosen specialty virtually. To see how students celebrate being matched this year, search the hashtag #Match2021 on Friday, March 19, at 12 p.m. ET!

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