How Long Is Medical Residency?

How Long Is Medical Residency?

Medical residency is a crucial experience in your transition from medical graduate to skilled physician. It requires intensive training and practical experience. During this time, you’ll gain hands-on experience and grow professionally under the guidance of seasoned mentors in a particular field of medicine. Therefore, the specialty you choose to pursue will determine the length of your medical residency. 

But how long is medical residency?

In this blog, we’ll delve deeper into the lengths of medical residencies across different specialties and what you can expect to learn in each one. Join us as we explore various medical residencies and discover which branch of medicine is right for you. 

What Is Medical Residency?

Medical residency is a period of practical training for medical graduates in a chosen specialty in a clinic or teaching hospital. During residency training, you’ll work under the supervision of an attending physician and take on a more significant role in patient care, medical procedures, emergency care, documentation, and consultations. 

Before moving to “how long is residency,” it’s important to mention the several reasons why completing a residency program is crucial in your journey to becoming a physician, such as:

  • Residency is a requirement for obtaining a medical license in the U.S.;
  • It combines theory and practice, helping you develop practical clinical skills and theoretical knowledge;
  • During residency, you’ll be able to specialize in various medical fields, such as internal medicine, pediatrics, or surgery. 

Residency length and structure vary by specialty, with some intended for students just leaving medical school. In contrast, others may require one or more post-graduate preparatory years (PGY) in a general field before focusing entirely on the specialty. 

Residency length 1 – 2 years:

The shortest residencies include:  

Neurodevelopmental Disabilities

Residency length: 1-2 years

The neurodevelopmental disabilities program track typically includes:

  • Two years of residency training in pediatrics;
  • Three years in child neurology;
  • One year in neurodevelopmental disabilities.

During residency, you’ll acquire expertise in diagnosing and managing children with neurodevelopmental disabilities. 

Transitional Year

Residency length: 1 year

The transitional year is typically the first year in your residency training, also known as the “internship year,” bridging the gap between medical school and residency. It’s a well-rounded experience, allowing you to rotate through specialties and gain exposure to many different fields of medicine. 

Residency length 3 – 4 years:

Here are the medical residencies that typically take three to four years to complete. 

Residency length 3 - 4 years

Emergency Medicine

Residency length: 3-4 years, depending on the program

Emergency medicine focuses on diagnosing and providing treatment for acute illnesses or injuries, typically in high-pressure emergency department settings. During residency, you’ll develop decision-making skills and receive comprehensive training in trauma care, toxicology, and critical care. 

Family Medicine

Residency length: 3 years 

Family medicine residency is a medical training program that prepares future physicians to provide comprehensive care to individuals and families throughout their lifespans. During family medicine residency, you’ll learn how to manage complex medical cases, provide preventive care,  and work with other healthcare professionals to ensure comprehensive care for their patients.

Internal Medicine

Residency length: 3 years

Internal medicine focuses on acute and chronic medical care by diagnosing, treating, and preventing diseases. During your internal medicine residency, you’ll develop strong diagnostic and clinical skills, as well as the ability to collaborate with other healthcare professionals. Moreover, you’ll gain extensive clinical experience in various aspects of internal medicine, such as nephrology, pulmonology, rheumatology, endocrinology, cardiology, etc. 


Residency length: 3-4 years, depending on the program

Neurology focuses on disorders affecting the brain, spinal cord, and nerves. This specialization will prepare you to provide neurological care to your patients and diagnose and treat a broad range of neurological disorders, including epilepsy, stroke, multiple sclerosis, and others. 

Obstetrics and Gynecology

Residency length: 4 years

Obstetrics and gynecology focus on providing care for women during pregnancy and childbirth, as well as diagnosing and providing treatment for diseases affecting the female reproductive system. During the residency, you’ll develop the necessary cognitive and technical skills to manage obstetric problems and gynecologic diseases.

Pathology – Anatomic and Clinical

Residency length: 4 years

Pathology deals with the causes and nature of diseases, and it’s often described as a ‘diagnostic’ specialty. As a pathology resident, you’ll gain hands-on experience in diagnostic surgical and autopsy pathology and laboratory research. 


Residency length: 3 years

A pediatrics residency program prepares you to care for infants, children, and adolescents. During your residency, you’ll gain foundational knowledge and skills in diagnosing and managing a variety of childhood illnesses and conditions. 

Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation

Residency length: 3-4 years

Physical medicine and rehabilitation focus on helping people restore body function after disease, injury, or disorder. As a resident, you’ll learn how to diagnose and manage disorders seen in this practice. 


Residency length: 4 years

Psychiatry residency programs focus on the complex interplay of psychological and emotional factors that affect mental well-being. Your training in psychiatry will equip you with the knowledge and skills necessary to provide essential mental health services to your patients, including medication management, therapy, and counseling. 

Radiation Oncology

Residency length: 4 years plus PGY-1 Transitional/Preliminary

Radiation oncology utilizes ionizing radiation to treat patients with cancer. As a resident, you’ll train in modern radiotherapy techniques, such as image-guided radiotherapy, proton therapy, radiosurgery, and others. 

Residency length 5 – 6 years:

Below, you’ll find the medical residencies that can take five to six years to complete. 

Orthopedic Surgery

Residency length: 5 years (including 1 year of general surgery)

The orthopedic surgery residency will prepare you to diagnose and treat musculoskeletal conditions. You’ll also learn how to perform various orthopedic surgical techniques and gain exposure to other specialties during clinical rotations.

Otolaryngology — Head and Neck Surgery

Residency length: 5 years (including 1 year of general surgery)

In Otolaryngology residency programs, you’ll learn how to diagnose and surgically treat disorders to the head and neck, including those affecting the nose, throat, and ear. Moreover, you’ll become immersed in all facets of otolaryngology clinical practices and patient care. 

Surgery (General)

Residency length: 5 years

General surgery residency programs focus on training you to perform transplantation, trauma, colorectal, and gastrointestinal surgeries, among other procedures. Your training in general surgery will include two years of foundational skills and subsequent years of training in specific medical areas. 

Residency length 6 – 7 years

Among the longest medical residencies are: 

Neurological Surgery

Residency length: 7 years

Neurological surgery focuses on the operative and nonoperative management of nervous system disorders. During your training, you’ll train in all aspects of neurosurgery, such as cerebrovascular system, trauma, tumor, and pediatric surgery.

Plastic Surgery

Residency length: 6-7 years, depending on the program

Plastic surgery is a broad specialty that involves repairing, resecting, and reconstructing facial and body tissue damaged by trauma, birth disorders, and illnesses. During your training in plastic surgery, you’ll gain a solid foundation in general surgery principles and techniques and proficiency in performing aesthetic and reconstructive procedures. 

Thoracic Surgery

Residency length: 6-7 years, depending on the program

Thoracic surgery focuses on the chest organs, such as the heart, lungs, esophagus, and trachea. During residency, you’ll receive specialized training in performing open heart surgeries and lung transplants and gain experience in critical care, cardiac anesthesia, and catheterization.  

Vascular Surgery

Residency length: 5-7 years

Vascular surgery focuses on diseases that affect the vascular system, including diseases of arteries, veins, and lymphatic vessels. During a vascular surgery residency, you’ll learn how to diagnose and provide treatment for blood vessel diseases and perform surgical procedures to address these conditions. 


Residency is an essential step in your journey. It equips you with the skills, experience, and confidence to practice as a doctor. This journey looks different for different specialties, with residency lengths varying from three to seven years. 

Although the length of a medical specialty is a major factor to consider when determining your path in medicine, it’s far more crucial to pursue a residency you’re genuinely interested in. 

Before reaching the residency step, it is crucial to establish a solid foundation in medical knowledge and skills. To do so, explore our AS in Health Sciences and get on the MD track directly from high school. 

Frequently Asked Questions

How long is medical residency?

The duration of medical residency depends on your medical specialty and location. On average, they last from three years, like internal medicine to neurosurgery, which can take seven years.

What is the shortest medical residency?

The shortest residency can take three years to complete. Some of them are internal medicine, family medicine, pediatrics, and emergency medicine. 

Do medical students get paid during residency?

Yes, medical students get paid during residency. Your salary as a resident will vary depending on your specialty and location. 

What is the hardest medical residency?

There isn’t a straightforward answer to this question, as each residency comes with its unique set of challenges and rigorous academic training. However, neurosurgery is known to be extra challenging due to its demanding schedule and the intricate nature of the nervous system.

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