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J Surg Educ. 2018 May - Jun;75(3):546-551. doi: 10.1016/j.jsurg.2017.08.021. Epub 2017 Sep 14.

Ten Year Projections for US Residency Positions: Will There be Enough Positions to Accommodate the Growing Number of U.S. Medical School Graduates?

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Department of General Surgery, Geisinger Medical Center, Danville, Pennsylvania. Electronic address:
Department of General Surgery, Geisinger Medical Center, Danville, Pennsylvania.



Recently, a multitude of new U.S. medical schools have been established and existing medical schools have expanded their enrollments. The National Residency Match Program (NRMP) reports that in 2016 there were 23,339 categorical residency positions offered in the match and 26,836 overall applicants with 17,789 (66.29%) of the total candidates being U.S. allopathic graduates. In view of the rapid growth of medical school graduates, the aim of this study is to determine if current trends suggest a shortage of residency positions within the next ten years.


The total number of graduates from U.S. medical schools was obtained from the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) for 2005-2014 academic years and was trended linearly for a 10-year prediction for the number of graduates. The yearly number of categorical positions filled by U.S. graduates for calendar years 2006-2015 was obtained from the NRMP and was trended longitudinally 10 years into the future. Analysis of subspecialty data focused on the comparison of differences in growth rates and potential foreseeable deficits in available categorical positions in U.S. residency programs.


According to trended data from AAMC, the total number of graduates from U.S. medical schools has increased 1.52 percent annually (15,927 in 2005 to 18,705 in 2014); with a forecast of 22,280 U.S. medical school graduates in 2026. The growth rate of all categorical positions available in U.S. residency programs was 2.55 percent annually, predicting 29,880 positions available in 2026. In view of these results, an analysis of specific residencies was done to determine potential shortages in specific residencies. With 17.4 percent of all U.S. graduates matching into internal medicine and a 3.17 percent growth rate in residency positions, in 2026 the number of internal medicine residency positions will be 9,026 with 3,874 U.S. graduates predicted to match into these positions. In general surgery, residency positions note a growth rate of 1.55 percent. Of all U.S. graduates, 5.6 percent match into general surgery. Overall this projects 1,445 general surgery residency positions in 2026 with 1,257 U.S. graduates matching. In orthopedics with a growth rate of 1.35 percent and a match rate of 3.75 percent, there are projected to be 827 positions available with 836 U.S. graduates projected to match.


Despite the increasing number of medical school graduates, our model suggests the rate of growth of residency positions continues to be higher than the rate of growth of U.S. medical school graduates. While there is no apparent shortage of categorical positions overall, highly competitive subspecialties like orthopedics may develop a shortage within the next ten years.


Interpersonal and Communication Skills; Professionalism; Systems-Based Practice; medical education; medical school; physician shortage; residency

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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