Firstly, before discussing the length of Residency Programs in USA for IMGs, we make an attempt to simplify the structure of post-graduate studies in US in the field of medicine.

Post-MBBS Education in US

Unlike in India, a physician can’t treat a patient independently in US if her highest qualification is MBBS (or MD/DO in US). A physician has to at least be a post-graduate to get her license to practice in US.

Certainly, in post-graduate studies in medicine here, exposure to clinical practice is the aim. When you get clinical experience in a particular specialization during your medical PG, it is a Residency program in USA. Similarly, when this clinical experience takes you deeper into a sub-specialty of your PG specialization, it is a Fellowship Program.
However, even a Fellowship Program does not mean you are set for life. In fact, the US Healthcare system needs a doctor to continue medical education even after she becomes a specialist.

ACGME Accreditation

Firstly, both Residency Programs in US & Fellowships come under Graduate Medical Education (GME). Secondly, there is an independent, non-profit Council of Physicians that finalizes, certifies (accredits), & keeps up these GME courses. This Council is called the Accreditation Council, the ACGME in short.

Firstly, this ACGME establishes parameters to judge the effectiveness of these GME Programs (Residency/Fellowship). Also, it formally accredits these Programs if the Council feels satisfied that the Program is adhering to its parameters.

Firstly, in the US, there are 2 distinct types of medical schools. One teaches Osteopathic Medicine in which the ‘patient is treated as a whole…’ and it professes ‘the connection between the mind, body, & the spirit'. In short, it advocates ‘touch-based’ diagnosis & treatment. The other, of course, is conventional Allopathic Medicine.

Meanwhile, a graduate in Allopathic Medicine is called an M.D.(Doctor of Medicine). However, an Osteopathy Graduate is a D.O.(Doctor of Osteopathy). Also, the bodies responsible for the supervision of the latter are the American Osteopathic Association (AOA) & the American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine (AACOM).

Before February 2014, the ACGME was different from AOA & AACOM. However, now, the single GME Accreditation System has made the process uniform making the Residency/Fellowships in both schools equivalent & similar. Also, all these ACGME accredited Residencies and Fellowships are listed together in what are called the AMA Green Books.

AMA – American Medical Association

AMA is an association that brings together the medical societies of the 190+ states & specialties.

Firstly, AMA represents Physicians in legislation.

Secondly, it promotes general health care in the US.

Then, it manages public health issues, etc.

Also, the AMA publishes the Graduate Medical Education Directory k/as the Green Books.

Also, the Green Books contain a list of all the ACGME approved Residency & Fellowship programs.

Length of Residency Programs

To begin with, the duration of medical residency programs for international students varies according to specialty. Certainly, the duration of clinical exposure during Residency changes according to the nature of the specialization. In short, some specializations require a physician to continue the Residency Program longer than others.

So, how long is the residency program in USA? In general, we can safely state that specialty training in disciplines involved in Primary Care have a shorter duration than specialties in the surgical disciplines. While the former may range between 2 and 4 years, the latter can go on for as long as 7 years.

Finally, we present a list of the ACGME US medical residency training programs specialties with the length of their Residency Programs for your quick perusal below.

Duration Residency Program
3 Years Pediatrics
Preventive Medicine
Osteopathic Neuromusculoskeletal Medicine (may extend to 5 years)
Internal Medicine
Medical Genetics & Genomics
3-4 Years Pathology (anatomic & clinical)
Emergency Medicine
Family Medicine
4 Years Dermatology
Obstetrics & Gynecology
Nuclear Medicine
Internal Medicine - Pediatrics
5 Years Vascular Surgery
Radiation Oncology
General Surgery
Orthopaedic Surgery
Diagnostic Radiology

There are almost 12,000 such ACGME approved programs to choose from. Then, the medical residency programs list is there in AMA’s online database called FREIDA. Also, FREIDA expands to Fellowship & Residency Electronic Interactive Database System. One can search for programs by specialty, institution, optional criteria, and also, by state.


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