Radiology’s shine fades a bit among medical students

April 14, 2009

Radiology may no longer be the fairest of all the possible specialty choices for U.S. medical school seniors, according to results of the 2009 National Residency Matching Program. Still, it remains within the top 10 most popular medical specialties.

Radiology may no longer be the fairest of all the possible specialty choices for U.S. medical school seniors, according to results of the 2009 National Residency Matching Program. Still, it remains within the top 10 most popular medical specialties.

Radiology was the fifth most popular specialty back in 2007 among U.S. senior med students who participated in the NRMP program. By 2009, the specialty had fallen three positions.

Results reported by the NRMP's "Match Day" ranked the top 10 most popular medical specialties:
• Neurological surgery
• Dermatology
• Orthopedic surgery
• Emergency medicine
• Obstetrics/gynecology
• Surgery
• Otolaryngology
• Radiology
• Internal medicine
• Neurology

The number of U.S.-based and foreign medical students and physicians who applied for radiology residency and internship slots this year rose slightly more than 2%, with 1085 positions filled, or nearly 99% of positions offered. Last year, 1063 applicants filled 98% of the available slots.

Despite this growth, the annual increases have become progressively smaller in the last five years, said Dr. Howard P. Forman, chair of the American College of Radiology's Committee on Radiologist Resources.

All metrics in the current match suggest that radiology may have reached the peak of its popularity. Medical students still perceive radiology as an attractive and highly competitive specialty, however.

International medical graduates historically apply to specialties that tend to be less appealing to U.S. applicants. In 2005, about 20% of spots in radiology were filled by non-U.S. medical graduates. In the 2009 match, the number went down to about 15%, Forman said.

"If you look at similar competitive specialties, you can see that's a trend that's being followed by all the most competitive specialties," he said.

Nearly 30,000 applicants -- more than half U.S. medical school seniors -- applied for this year's residency program, the largest match in history, according to NRMP officials.

"This is likely the result of medical school expansion across the nation in anticipation of a future physician shortage," said Mona M. Signer, NRMP executive director. "Existing medical schools have increased their class sizes, and new medical schools are in development."

For more information from the Diagnostic Imaging and SearchMedica archives:

Radiology stars as career choice despite federal funding limitsResidency programs face sweeping changesRadiology shows growing appeal for residency applicants