Medical Residency Requirements: Information for Aspiring Doctors

Oct 08, 2019

Learn about the education and preparation needed to become a doctor. Get a quick view of the medical residency requirements as well as details about degree programs and licensure information to find out if this is the career for you.

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A medical residency is started once a candidate completes medical school. Residents must spend three to eight years working in a hospital or other medical setting learning through on-the-job training. These residencies may include work in different specializations.

Essential Information

A residency is a standard part of postgraduate education for physicians and is required to obtain licensure in many states. The programs are rigorous and require residents to work long hours. Residencies are typically conducted in hospitals, where residents learn while actively diagnosing and treating patients. An undergraduate degree followed by graduation from medical school are required to start a residency. The following chart explains how a residency fits into the overall requirements for becoming a doctor.

Required Education M.D. or D.O. degree
Other Requirements Residency; optional fellowship for specialization
Licensure Required
Projected Job Growth (2018-2028)* 7% (for physicians and surgeons)
Median Annual Salary (May 2018)* $200,890 (for physicians and surgeons)

Source: *United States Bureau of Labor Statistics

Residency Information

Medical residencies are required of doctors and may last anywhere from three to eight years, depending upon the specialization selected by the individual. Residencies are done after the completion of the Medical Doctor (M.D.) or Doctor of Osteopathy (D.O.) degree program. A medical residency is essentially paid on-the-job training.

The Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME) has shortened the hours from a commonplace of 36-hour shifts to a current (effective July 2011) maximum of 24-hour nonconsecutive shifts and no more than 80 hours per week. While the law does not enforce this mandate, it is required for purposes of accreditation.

ACGME makes three demands to which all residency programs must adhere. The program must substantially expand the resident's knowledge of research techniques, including how information is disseminated to patients. It must involve the resident in scholarly activity and offer quality educational resources. A program that fails to do this could lose accreditation.

Career Information

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2018, physicians earned a mean annual salary of approximately $203,880. (www.bls.gov). Some physicians start their own practices, because the earning potential is much higher. Residents, however, are generally paid with only a small stipend, which generally goes to pay for their housing and other necessities.

Doctors are required to complete medical school and a residency in an accredited facility. They must also obtain a license to practice medicine. Residents are usually paid a stipend, though doctors and surgeons have a mean annual salary around $204,000.

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