Medical Residency: Overview of Medical Residency Programs

A medical residency program is one of the final steps in educating and training aspiring doctors who must have graduated from medical school. Before they can start practicing, they must complete one of these programs.

Essential Information

After finishing medical school, student doctors can work in paid resident positions where, under the supervision of resident doctors in hospitals and health care facilities, they begin treating patients for various conditions. Residents get hands-on experience in their first year and continue gaining autonomy as they progress through the program as junior, senior and chief residents. A residency can last anywhere from 3-8 years.

In addition to undergraduate and medical school transcripts, applicants are required to submit scores from the Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT). Most schools receive many more qualified applicants than they are able to accept, and competition for admission can be high. While certain courses may be available online, residency programs require on-site presence.

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Medical Residency

Having completed medical school, doctors at this stage in their education no longer participate in traditional classroom learning programs. Teaching rounds are generally performed on the hospital floor with actual patients. In lieu of classwork, most residency programs require student doctors to attend conferences and seminars. Depending on the program, these could be held weekly or throughout the year. Programs offer student doctors the opportunity to choose from an array of medical specialties like emergency medicine, psychiatry, surgery, pediatrics, family medicine, neurology or rehabilitative medicine. Seminar and conference topics could include:

  • Ambulatory care
  • Diagnosis methods
  • Patient communication
  • Evidence-based medicine
  • Psychosocial factors
  • Safe patient treatment

Popular Career Options

Upon completion of a residency, a doctor is qualified to enter into a permanent position at a hospital, clinic or private practice. Depending on the type of residency program, he or she can pursue career options that include:

  • Hospital attending physician
  • General practitioner
  • Internal medical doctor
  • Pediatrician
  • General surgeon

Career Outlook and Salary Information

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that employment opportunities for all physicians and surgeons will grow by 14% between 2014 and 2024. Salaries for these workers vary by specialty. For instance, family and general practitioners earned an average salary of $192,120 as of May 2015, while pediatricians earned $183,180 and obstetricians and gynecologists earned an average of $222,400 at that same time, per the BLS.

Continuing Education

Following a residency program, doctors can become board certified through the American Board of Medical Specialties by complying with the particular requirements for their specialty. Doctors can also keep abreast of the latest treatment options and medical technology by attending conferences and symposia offered by universities and professional organizations in their specialty. In addition, doctors must maintain licensure by complying with state laws regarding continuing education.

Doctors can refine their expertise or focus on sub-specialties by entering into fellowship programs. Fellowship opportunities include general medicine, primary care, toxicology, pathology, gastroenterology, psychology, vascular surgery, transplant surgery, pediatric and numerous others.

The final step in the educational process for medical doctors is the residency. In these programs, aspiring doctors receive supervised instruction in medical settings.

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