Residency match services are a pivotal part of matching graduate medical students with their ideal residency training program. The residency match can be notoriously competitive, but match services can help guide you finding the right program for you and streamline the entire application process. You can also use BeMo’s residency match calculator to see what your chances are of getting matched this year. In this blog, we’ll look at the competitive nature of the residency match, how the residency match works, the match application timeline, and how residency match programs help you. 

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9 min read

How competitive is the residency match? What residency match services do Residency match timeline SOAP and second iteration Residency match services and residency applications Are residency match services worth it? FAQs

How competitive is the residency match?

The competition of the residency match is of concern to many graduating med students. After the competition of getting into med school and the years that follow, being accepted to a residency training program is the next big challenge. The residency match can be a great way to find that perfect program and get your first position post-med school. But the annual residency match can also be extremely tough.

So how competitive is the match? Tens of thousands of applicants apply for the match, and the number is trending upwards each year. It is slightly easier for MD graduates to get into their top choice of residency program than DO students, if you’re weighing the benefits of DO versus MD. In the US, just over 46% of MD seniors matched to their first choice of residency program, with 72% of them matching to one of their top three choices. The match rates are similar for DO seniors, with 42% of them matching to their top choice and 72% of them matching within their top three program choices.

Learn more about the residency match!

In Canada, the match rates were slightly more favorable, with over 94% of Canadian applicants matching into their residency program of choice. In Canada, over 71% of IMG applicants matched into a residency program. In Canadian residency programs, there is a much higher rate of positions being filled as well, with the majority being filled in the first iteration of the residency match.

The top programs where both MD and DO seniors are likely to find a match were: internal medicine, emergency medicine, pediatrics, family medicine and psychiatry. Some of the more competitive residencies include surgery and dermatology, as there are generally fewer positions available or the programs are more selective than most.

There is also a large number of IMGs who apply to residencies in the US and Canada each year. It’s generally harder for IMGs to get accepted into their top choice of program, with the overall match rate hovering at 57% for IMG applicants in the US. The top programs for which IMGs are likely to match are internal medicine, family medicine, pediatrics, pathology and neurology, if you’re looking for IMG friendly residency programs.

IMG residency applicants who match in the US

As with getting accepted into medical school, the residency match can be very competitive. There are opportunities for students who don’t match to still find a position or get into one of their other choice of programs. But it is quite difficult to get into your top choice residency program.

This is where residency match services can help you. It’s a way of streamlining the process of applying for residencies, and it identify for you the most likely positions for you based on your experience and skillset. It also gives residency programs a chance to find you and see if you’re the person they need to fill a position. Residency programs will be able to look at your medical portfolio through the residency match, and even send you an invitation to interview to get to know you better. From there, both you and open residency programs will be able to decide who they are considering working with, in order to create a match.

What residency match services do

In a nutshell, residency match services pair resident doctors with residency programs and positions that fit their experience and needs. The match process is a system through which residency candidates can fill first and second-year postgraduate positions in programs around the country. These positions are all physician training positions accredited by the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME). In the US, the National Resident Matching Program (NRMP) maintains this national residency match system. For Canadian medical graduates, they can be matched through the Canadian Residency Match System (CaRMS).

A “match” between a residency candidate and a residency program occurs if both parties place each other on their residency rank order list. So, if you place a particular residency program on your list you would be happy to join, and the same program places you on its list of potential candidates it would hire to fill the position, you have a match. The rank order list includes all the programs you are interested in joining only, ranked from your top choice to your least desirable choice. You should only put programs you are actually interested in joining, as the residency match and rank order list are legally binding. This ranking process can help you decide how many residency programs to apply to so you can ensure a better chance of success in the match, and a higher level of job satisfaction with the program you end up working for.

To find these matches, both the US and Canadian residency match use the same mathematical algorithm in their respective systems. The outcome of this search and matching service is that you will be paired with a program of your choice.

It’s important to note that you’ll prepare your residency application package and our residency match rank order list separately. You’ll need to register and apply through the NRMP system to submit your program choices and rank order list. At the same time, you’ll complete and submit your residency application through Electronic Residency Application Service (ERAS). Your ERAS application will contain your professional and academic experience as well as any supplemental documents required by particular residency programs or documents that support and strengthen your application. For Canadian applicants, you’ll be able to submit your residency application directly through the CaRMS system and choose which programs to send any additional documents to. You’ll also be invited to interviews with residency programs through CaRMS, so be sure to brush up on CaRMS interview questions and answers before you do.

If you are not matched with any programs on your rank order list, this is called going unmatched. If this happens, look into ways to improve your residency app after going unmatched, or strengthen your skills as a physician by reading up on CanMEDS roles, and reapply for the following match cycle. The residency match goes through a yearly cycle, and match week typically occurs in March of every year. We’ll look at the residency match timeline in more detail below so you can be sure to get your applications in and rank order list completed on time.

Residency match timeline

The timeline for the NRMP and the CaRMS timeline is very similar, but there are several key dates you’ll need to know, depending on which system you’re using. Residents should begin preparing their residency apps as early as possible. The match may take several weeks or even months, but the timeline is shorter than it seems considering the work that needs to be done to prepare for it.

The NRMP match opens in September, but you can begin preparing before this. When you register for the residency match, you can also create your ERAS account at the same time. Be sure to research the best ERAS timeline as well so you know how to prep for your residency app. If you’re applying through CaRMS, it’s also best to start preparing your necessary documents early on.

This is an overview of the timeline and important dates for the NRMP and CaRMS systems. Please note this is a guide only, as specific dates change from year-to-year. Refer to the NRMP and CaRMS websites for up-to-date deadlines.

Once you’ve matched, you’ll be contacted by the residency program you’re matched with within 30 days. All residency programs begin in early July, when your residency training will begin.

If you go unmatched, you’ll still have an opportunity to be matched in the second round of the match if there are any open positions remaining. This is called the supplemental offer or second match.

SOAP and second iteration

The residency match in both the US and Canada have a second round of the match for special circumstances. In the NRMP, the Supplemental Offer and Acceptance Program provides an opportunity for residency programs to offer unfilled positions to unmatched or partially matched candidates. For the CaRMS applicants who didn’t match in the first iteration, they can apply through the second iteration or second match and fill any open positions.

Eligibility and requirements for the supplemental offer program may vary, since residency programs participate in SOAP or the second iteration only if they have unfilled positions and choose to do so.

Are you an IMG applying for the residency match? Check out our tips for matching into competitive residencies.

Residency match services and residency applications

There are also many independent services which offer help with the residency match and your residency applications. These are not associated with the NRMP or CaRMS, but act a bit like a physician career advisor by providing help with your residency application and advising you on the residency match.

Along with your rank order list, you’ll also need to prepare and submit your residency application. This can include your:

·        Residency CV

·        Residency personal statement or residency letter of intent

·        Letters of recommendation

·        Medical student performance evaluation (MSPE)

·        Medical licensing exam scores

·        Supplemental application documents

Preparing the written parts of your application, such as the residency personal statement or ERAS letter of recommendation will take some time, so it’s best to begin gathering these necessary documents early on. It’s also vitally important to use the best resources you have when preparing your application. If you’re struggling with the written parts, for instance, read some stellar examples of personal statements to guide you on writing your own. For a CaRMS reference letter, for example, it’s key to choose the best referees you know to write your letter for your application.

Your ERAS application may also include the supplemental app or the ERAS experience section, which can add some extra relevant academic or professional experience and strengthen your match. Especially if you go unmatched or have your eyes on a very competitive residency, it’s best to use anything and everything you can to include in your application and make yourself an attractive candidate for the residency programs.

Are residency match services worth it?

Residency match services do help streamline the process of applying to residency programs, and the match can be very useful in identifying the best fit for you. But the residency match is also an optional service, and it’s not required for medical graduates to register for the match to get a residency position.

Residency match services also require fees. For the NRMP, the registration fee is 85$. For CaRMS the match fee is 296.84. Additional fees apply for late applications, for applicants who want to apply to additional residency programs and other fees may apply for international medical graduates. A full list of the fees associated with the residency match can be found on the NRMP and CaRMS websites. There are also independent residency match support services and sometimes separate match services for specific medical specialties. These will have varying fees and application processes.

While you can certainly research residency programs on your own and apply to them through ERAS or another application portal, using the residency match service can help you get interviews at the most competitive residencies. It can also save you some time in applying to residencies and put residency programs on your radar you may not have considered. If you’re an international medical graduate applying for residencies in the US or Canada, using residency match services can greatly increase your chances of success.


1. What is the residency matching process?

The residency match is the system through which medical graduate students can apply for residency training positions. The match involves matching residency candidates with eligible residency programs through the use of a ranking order list and a mathematical algorithm.

2. How hard is it to get matched for residency?

The residency match is notoriously competitive, especially for certain residency specialties or programs. Many medical graduates use the residency match to streamline the application process and increase their chances of getting into competitive residencies.

3. Are residency match services worth it?

Residency match service can be extremely advantageous in getting offers from competitive residencies, and they can simplify the application process as well. Although they are not free services, they can definitely be worth it to medical graduate students.

4. What are the easiest residencies to match?

The easiest residencies to match are typically family medicine, pediatrics and internal medicine. These are also the least competitive residencies for international medical graduates, as well.

5. How much do residency match services cost?

Residency match service fees vary depending on the system and the type of applicant. The NRMP registration fee is 85$, while CaRMS costs applicants around $300.

6. Do all med students get matched?

No. Some residency match applicants go unmatched with any residency programs. However, there are still opportunities for unmatched applicants to find residency positions or reapply in the next year’s match cycle.

7. What are the most competitive residencies?

The most difficult residencies to match are usually surgical residencies, including general surgery, neurosurgery, and cardiac surgery. Dermatology is also one of the most competitive residencies.

8. How do you prepare for a residency match?

To prepare for the residency match, it’s a good idea to start early and register as soon as registration opens in the fall. You’ll also want to register with ERAS and begin putting together your residency application as early as possible.

9. What happens if you go unmatched?

If you do go unmatched, you can work on improving your residency application and make plans to reapply in the following match cycle. Or, you can register for the Supplementary Offer and Acceptance Program or the second match cycle, and get an offer for an unfilled residency position at select programs.

To your success,

Your friends at BeMo

BeMo Academic Consulting 

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