What is the Most Difficult Medical Specialty?

When it comes to medical specialties, there is often a lot of pride involved. But the fact that your specialty is considered competitive or not does not make you a good or bad doctor. It simply says which specialties are the hardest to get into. Knowing which specialties are more difficult to enter can be very useful information for medical and pre-med students. All specialties are competitive, and if your specialty is ranked lower than you would like, it's not a judgment at all, it's simply what the data says.

According to our comprehensive analysis, Plastic Surgery came in first place, followed closely by Dermatology in second place.


ranked third, with a notable jump in total points. Then there are Orthopedic Surgery in the fourth and ENT in the fifth. Plastic surgery is an innovative field in which you will experience a wide variety. The pay is more variable than other specialties, but you'll still have a pretty good lifestyle, since the compensation is above average.

If you are precise, meticulous and have an obsession for detail, plastic surgery may be a good choice for you. The specialty of dermatology takes a leap down, reaching a total of 116 points. This specialty is strong in each of our data categories, with a slightly lower ranking for the match rate. Dermatologists manage skin, hair and nail diseases, both medically and procedurally. A dermatologist can identify and treat more than 3000 conditions, such as eczema, psoriasis and skin cancer.The specialty of neurosurgery is far behind in third place with 114 points.

It ranks quite high in all six categories. This specialty is tied for third with ENT also with 114 points. Neurosurgery deals with CNS and PNS surgeries. Neurosurgeons can touch, change and augment the central nervous system in real time. Neurosurgery is one of the few specialties that can really save people's lives.

Although it can be an exciting race, at one point, you may be called to the hospital to save someone's life. It is a fascinating specialty that satisfies the intellectually curious, but it has one of the most challenging lifestyles of any specialty. In fourth place is the ENT specialty (Otorhinolaryngology), with 114 points. This specialty ranks fairly high for all categories, with a high rank for the top 40 NIH, CK Step 2 score and match rate. This includes the vocal cords and larynx, nose and sinuses, ears and endocrinology, including thyroid and parathyroid, as well as head and neck cancers. Orthopedic surgery ranks fifth with 104 total points.

It ranks quite high in all six categories, except in the NIH Top 40, in which orthopedic surgery occupies the middle rank of 22 specialties. Orthopedic surgery focuses on the musculoskeletal system, which includes fractures and broken bones. Surgeries also involve tendons, ligaments, and nerve or vascular injuries. There is a notable satisfaction in being an orthopedic surgeon since orthopedics usually has good results. Most patients experience substantial improvement in their condition after. If a specialty has a low match rate then it needs to be more competitive right? Not exactly.

I recently saw an analysis of someone who only relied on match rates and in doing so suggested that general surgery and psychiatry were the third most competitive specialties. Anyone who is in medical school or residency will tell you that's certainly not the case. This is not a judgment against general surgery; this is simply an explanation for their low match rate. AOA or Alpha Omega Alpha Honor Medical Society is an honor society in medicine. What you need to know for the purposes of this analysis is that being an AOA is a good indicator of being a high-achieving student. The top 40 NIH-funded medical schools tend to be more competitive meaning that students who entered these schools were on average stronger students. I'm not surprised by these results and it's a good sign. I also noticed an interesting pattern that the top 5 were highly paid specialties; Neurosurgery and Orthopedic Surgery are almost always the 2 highest-paying.

Angie Licata
Angie Licata

Award-winning zombie evangelist. Proud pizza advocate. General zombie practitioner. Tvaholic. Award-winning travel maven.

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