Medical Specialty

How Competitive is an Orthopaedic Surgery Residency?

You want to become an orthopedic surgeon? Here's what it takes to match into residency.

If you want a career as an orthopedic surgeon, here is how competitive the medical specialty is to match into an orthopaedic surgery residency. Orthopaedic surgery is the branch of medicine that involves the care of the musculoskeletal system – the bones, joints, ligaments, tendons, and muscles that are so essential to movement and everyday life.

Statistics on the Orthopaedic Surgery Match

In 2020, orthopaedic surgery had a total of 1,177 applicants and 849 spots. This equates to 1.39 applicants per position. Of the 685 U.S. MD seniors who applied, 175 did not match.

Total Positions Total Number of Applicants Number of Applicants per Position
849 1,177 1.39

Osteopathic (DO) Students Matching into Orthopaedic Surgery

In 2020, the total number of DO Senior Applicants was 172. Of those, 112 matched, for a 65.12% match percentage. This makes orthopaedic surgery a Not Friendly field for osteopathic students.

Total DO Applicants Matched DO Applicants DO Match Percentage
172 112 65.12%

International Medical Graduates (IMGs) Matching into Orthopaedic Surgery

Because there are 1.01 U.S. MD applicants per 1 program spot, orthopaedic surgery is considered to be Not Friendly for IMGs students.

Honors, Research and Awards for Orthopaedic Surgery Residency Candidates

The average matched U.S. applicant had 8 volunteer experiences and 3.6 work experiences. They had 5.4 research experiences and 14.3 abstracts, presentations and publications. That makes this specialty on where the number of publications needed is High.

Research Experiences Abstracts, Presentations and Publications Work Experiences Volunteer Experiences
5.4 14.3 3.6 8

Average Step 1 and Step 2 Scores for Orthopaedic Surgery

The mean U.S. Step 1 score for matched medical students in orthopaedic surgery was 248. The mean USMLE Step 2 CK score was 255.

Overall Competitiveness of Orthopaedic Surgery Residency and Chances of Matching

The overall competitiveness level of orthopaedic surgery is High for a U.S. senior. With a Step 1 score of 200, the probability of matching is 30%. With a Step 1 score of >240, the probability is 80%.

How long is a residency in orthopaedic surgery? What is the lifestyle like for an orthopaedic surgery resident?

Compared to other residencies, orthopaedic surgery has a Long training length. As far as lifestyle, orthopaedic surgeons generally have a High stress lifestyle. Of course, lifestyle is very subjective and if you love what you do, it does not matter! And if you hate what you do, it can still be rough no matter what. In medicine, you should find the specialty that makes you enjoy your everyday interactions with patients, staff and colleagues.

What is the average salary for an orthopedic surgeon?

The average salary post-graduation from an orthopaedic surgery residency is $511,000, provided one does not go on to sub-specialty training which can change the salary substantially. Academic versus private practice as well as location also play a large role in physician compensation.

What are fellowships one can do from an orthopaedic surgery residency?

Following the successful completion of general orthopaedic surgery residency, some physicians may choose to continue their graduate medical education with subspecialty training. Board-certified subspecialists complete additional training and qualifying examinations beyond those required for board certification in orthopaedic surgery. Currently, the American Board of Orthopedic Surgery certifies the following fellowships:

What are the best orthopaedic surgery residencies in the country?

The best residency for orthopaedic surgery, or any specialty, is very driven by personal preference and situation. How close you are to family, loved ones, the type of training environment, the opportunities available are all things to take into consideration above and beyond name recognition of a program. However, there are some highly regarded names in the world of orthopaedic surgery including:

    • Massachusetts General Hospital/Brigham and Women’s Hospital/Harvard Medical School
    • Hospital for Special Surgery/Cornell Medical Center
    • Washington University/B-JH/SLCH Consortium
    • Mayo Clinic College of Medicine (Rochester)
    • UPMC Medical Education
    • Rush University Medical Center
    • University of California (San Francisco)
    • Thomas Jefferson University
    • University of Washington
    • Stanford University

Much of the data above is available from the AAMC Charting the Outcomes report.

Explore Other Specialties:

SpecialtyAverage Step 1 Score (Matched)Average Step 2 Score (Matched)
Child Neurology233246
Diagnostic Radiology241249
Emergency Medicine233247
Family Medicine221238
General Surgery237249
Internal Medicine235248
Internal Medicine/Pediatrics236250
Interventional Radiology247255
Neurological Surgery248252
Obstetrics and Gynecology232248
Orthopaedic Surgery248255
Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation228241
Plastic Surgery249256
Radiation Oncology243250
Vascular Surgery239247


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