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Steps to a Successful Residency Match

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Home  >  Specialty  >  Emergency Medicine

Step 1: Explore the Specialty

Before you pursue a career in Emergency Medicine, it's important to be well informed about the specialty. We've put together a great collection of articles and resources which are essential reading for the aspiring emergency physician.


These articles will give you a better idea of the pros and cons of a career in the field, trends in the specialty, and hot-topic issues for trainees. 


Hot Topics, Concerns, and Future Directions in Emergency Medicine

Step 2: Review Emergency Medicine Match Data

Emergency medicine is a moderately competitive specialty. In working with residency applicants and examining Match data, we have seen the popularity of emergency medicine as a career increase in recent years. 

"This year's applicant class was especially competitive. In fact, there were no unmatched emergency medicine residency positions after the match [2012 NRMP Match]," says Dr. Lance Hoffman, Program Director of the Emergency Medicine Residency Program at the University of Nebraska. "To me, this is an excellent illustration of emergency medicine's increasing popularity and competitiveness." 

Emergency Medicine-Charting Outcomes in the Match for U.S. MD 2018

Charting Outcomes in the Match: U.S. All

National Resident Matching Program, Charting Outcomes in the Match: U.S. Allopathic Seniors, 2018. National Resident Matching Program, Washington, DC 2018.

Emergency Medicine-Charting Outcomes in the Match for U.S. DO 2018

Charting Outcomes in the Match: U.S. Osteopathic Seniors

National Resident Matching Program, Charting Outcomes in the Match: U.S. Osteopathic Seniors, 2018. National Resident Matching Program, Washington, DC 2018.

Emergency Medicine-Charting Outcomes in the Match for IMGs 2018

Charting Outcomes in the Match: Internat

National Resident Matching Program, Charting Outcomes in the Match for International Medical Graduates, 2018. National Resident Matching Program, Washington, DC 2018.

Step 3: Understand Residency Selection Criteria

"We receive more than 500 applications annually for the six residency positions," writes the University of California Irvine Department of Emergency Medicine. 


To maximize your chances of matching with your first-choice residency program in emergency medicine, you must become well informed as early as possible. In particular, you need to know the criteria residency programs use to select residents. 


We recommend beginning with the following resources:


Emergency Medicine-2018 NRMP Program Director Survey

Results of the 2018 NRMP Program Directo

National Resident Matching Program, Data Release and Research Committee: Results of the 2018 NRMP Program Director Survey. National Resident Matching Program, Washington, DC. 2018.

Check out these other recommended resources

Step 4: Develop your Strategy for Success

As competition for positions in the emergency medicine residency match intensifies, it's more important than ever to have in place the "right" strategy for success. To develop the optimal strategy, use our book, The Successful Match. It's been designated recommended or required reading by the Association of American Medical Colleges, American Medical Women's Association, and numerous allopathic and osteopathic medical schools. AMSA wrote the book "provides the medical student reader with detailed preparation for the matching process." For more powerful information, sign up for our weekly update.

Step 5: Make the Most of your Preclinical Years

The preclinical years of medical school are important for students considering a career in emergency medicine. “The knowledge gained during preclinical years provides the essential foundation for clerkship success,” writes Dr. Shahram Lotfipour, Associate Dean and Professor of Emergency Medicine at the University of California Irvine School of Medicine

Step 6: Apply for Scholarships and Awards

“It was a great honor. I was not expecting to win,” said Nathaniel Hunt when he won the Best Medical Student Presentation Award at the Society of Academic Emergency Medicine Regional Conference. “(I) didn't know there were even awards for medical students. I was proud to be able to represent my group’s work well.”


Winning medical school scholarships and awards can provide a major boost to your residency application, and set you apart from your peers. Awards can be placed in the application, MSPE (Dean's Letter), letters of recommendation, and CV. We have found that interviewers often ask about awards during residency interviews.

Step 7: Assess your USMLE Step 1 Score or COMLEX 1 Score

Your USMLE Step 1 or COMLEX 1 exam scores are a major factor used by EM residency programs in the selection process. In 2018, 24% of U.S. medical school seniors with USMLE Step 1 scores of less than 220 failed to match and 31% of osteopathic students with COMLEX 1 scores less than 500 failed to match.

Step 8: Strive for Success During Clerkships, Observerships and Externships

Grades in required or core clerkships are very important to emergency medicine residency programs. In a NRMP survey of emergency medicine residency programs, 75% cited "grades in required clerkships" as a factor in selecting applicants to interview." Emergency medicine rotations are also of obvious importance to international medical graduates seeking positions in the field.

Step 9: Prepare a Powerful Residency Application

In my experience working with applicants, errors are common in the ERAS Application.  Although spelling and grammatical errors are frequently seen, equally common and dangerous are the less well-appreciated errors. 

Step 10: Develop a Powerful Personal Statement

In a survey of emergency medicine residency programs, 62% cited the personal statement as a factor in selecting applicants to interview. To better assess fit between the applicant and the program, some emergency medicine residency programs ask applicants to address specific questions in the statement.

Step 11: Deliver an Impressive Interview Performance

An invitation to interview is exciting news, and confirmation that you're considered a competitive candidate for a residency position. However, your work is not done, and you need to be diligent in your interview preparation to maximize your chances of success. 

In a study done to determine applicant factors which best predict performance during emergency medicine residency, the interview was found to a strong predictor.

 What if I didn't match?

If you were unsuccessful during your initial match cycle, you'll need to sit down with your dean or advisor to review your match strategy. In planning your reapplication, each of the steps above becomes even more important.


For those who seek additional expert assistance, we can provide that. Dr. Desai has had significant experience in helping re-applicants match successfully. 


This is provided via a Strategy for Success Session. Dr. Desai will perform a comprehensive review of your credentials, assess your strengths and weaknesses, and provide you with a specific plan to implement tailored to your unique situation.

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