Medical Residency Guide: What to Expect, Salary, and RequirementsOctober 17, 2022
If you dream of becoming a doctor, medical school is only the beginning. Once you’ve completed your medical degree, you’ll need to complete a medical residency before you can practice medicine independently.
During your residency, you’ll receive on-the-job training under the supervision of experienced physicians. Depending on your chosen specialty, residencies can last anywhere from three to seven years.
What is residency like? It’s a grueling period but also an exciting and incredibly rewarding part of your education.
What Is Medical Residency?
While in medical school, you’ll spend time in the pre-clinical and clinical phases. By the end of your third year, you will likely have chosen a specialty or patient population to focus on, and you’ll begin preparing to apply for residency training.
As of 2021, there were approximately 144,000 active medical residents in the U.S. Residents are medical school graduates who are completing an accredited medical residency program.
But what is a medical residency? In short, medical residencies are medical training programs for new doctors. These programs allow medical school graduates to receive hands-on medical experience and instruction under the supervision of licensed, experienced physicians.
How long a medical residency lasts is dependent on your area of focus. In general, residencies can last from three to seven years.
What Is Residency Like?
There’s no getting around it; being a medical resident is hard. During a medical residency, you’ll be treating patients under the supervision of an attending physician, but you’ll also be expected to take on more responsibility as you gain experience.
The hours are long, with little time off. You can expect to work 80-hour weeks, and residents are often on call, which means being available to answer questions and handle emergencies at all hours of the day or night.
But medical residency is also an exciting time. You’ll be learning new things every day, and you’ll have the opportunity to make a difference in the lives of your patients.
How Do I Apply for Residency?
If you’re in medical school, you should start researching residency programs at least a year before you plan to apply. The medical residency application process is long and competitive, so giving yourself plenty of time to prepare is essential.
There are several resources you can use to find medical residencies. You can use the American Medical Association’s FRIEDA to search for a residency and narrow down options by location, specialty, and program type.
You can also talk to your medical school’s career services office, as they may have information about medical residency programs. And finally, don’t forget to reach out to your professional network; your mentors and colleagues may be able to help you find the right residency for you.
In most cases, you’ll apply for a residency using the Electronic Residency Application Service (ERAS).
FAQs About Medical Residency
If you still have questions about what to expect as a medical resident, here are answers to some common questions:
Will I earn a salary during my residency?
You may be surprised to learn that medical residents are paid a salary. The median salary for medical residents was $64,200 in 2022. However, you’ll earn a lower amount in the early stages of your training; the median salary for first-year residents was $58,700.
How do I cover my living expenses during the residency?
While you will earn a salary as a medical resident, it may not be enough to cover all of your living expenses. You can apply for loans, scholarships, and grants to help with the cost of medical residency.
Some private student loan lenders offer loans specifically designed for medical residents for expenses not usually covered by traditional loans, such as relocation costs. Depending on the lender and the loan terms, you may be able to defer payments or make reduced payments until after your residency ends.
Is moonlighting allowed as a medical resident?
Your living expenses may be too high for your income as a medical resident, especially if you live in an area with a high cost of living. Some medical residents make ends meet by moonlighting and taking on extra work as independent physicians.
Whether moonlighting is permitted depends on your program and the hospital’s policies. Even if it is allowed, there are usually restrictions on how many hours you can work.
If you cannot moonlight, you could make money as a medical resident by picking up a side hustle instead.
How long does a medical residency last?
The length of medical residency training varies by specialty. The shortest medical residencies are three years, while the longest is seven years. The average medical residency lasts five years.
What are the benefits of completing a medical residency?
Many people talk about how challenging medical residencies can be. While that’s true, there are also many benefits to completing a medical residency beyond it being a requirement for your program.
One of the biggest benefits is that you’ll gain invaluable experience. You’ll have the opportunity to learn from experienced physicians and put your medical school education into practice. And as you progress through your residency, you’ll take on more responsibility and independence.
Completing a medical residency can help you network and build relationships with other medical professionals. These relationships can be beneficial throughout your career, providing you with referrals, advice, and support.
Medical residency can be an invaluable experience, providing you with the opportunity to learn from experienced physicians and put your medical school education into practice. If you’re considering a medical residency, research programs and start the application process early to ensure you have the best chance of securing a position in your desired specialty.