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Gastroenterology vs. Otolaryngology: Which Specialty is Right for You?

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by Yousmle Staff in Career

Gastroenterology vs. otolaryngology is one of the debates among medical students interested in physiology. Both specialties allow you to explore the complex workings of the human body and use your skills to improve patient outcomes. However, they also have significant differences, such as the scope of practice, the work environment, and the training requirements.

How do you decide which one is right for you? In this article, we will provide helpful information and tips to help you make an intelligent decision on gastroenterology vs. otolaryngology and find a fulfilling career that matches your interests and abilities. We will also help you evaluate practical factors such as job availability, salary, and training duration.

Gastroenterology vs. Otolaryngology: Salary and Job Security

Consider specializing in gastroenterology or otolaryngology if you want to earn a lot of money and have a steady demand for your services. But be prepared for a competitive job market after fellowship, even if you graduate from a prestigious program.

There are many job openings in the fields of gastroenterology and otolaryngology. Hospitals are often in high demand for otolaryngologists and gastroenterologists, and the future outlook for careers in these specialties is positive.

Both gastroenterology and otolaryngology are high-paying medical specialties, but gastroenterologists typically earn a slightly higher average salary. According to recent data, gastroenterologists earn an average annual salary of $501,000, while otolaryngologists have a slightly lower average salary of $485,000.

Estimated Physician Average Yearly Salary by Medical Specialty in the US

Gastroenterologists earn $501,000 per year on average, while otolaryngologists earn slightly less with $485,000 annually

Gastroenterology vs. Otolaryngology: Competitiveness

Here we can assess the competitiveness of a specialty by looking at the unmatched rate – the % of people who apply and do not match into their preferred specialty. For otolaryngology, the unmatched percentage among US Seniors was 30.8%, making it highly competitive among US residencies.

Gastroenterology vs. Otolaryngology

Otolaryngology had a 30.8% unmatched rate, while internal medicine had a 2% unmatched rate among US seniors

To pursue a career in gastroenterology, you must first match into an internal medicine residency. Among US Seniors, the unmatched percentage for internal medicine residency was only 2%, making it less competitive than other residencies. However, this does not mean that gastroenterology is less competitive. After completing your internal medicine residency, you will still need to match into a fellowship, which is generally more competitive than matching into a residency. 

Below is the unmatched percentage among non-pediatric fellowships with >100 applicants. The unmatched percentage of US Seniors applying to the gastroenterology fellowship was 20.6%, making it highly competitive compared to most fellowships with >100 applicants.

Training Path: Fellowship vs Residency

To become a gastroenterologist, you must complete a three-year fellowship in gastroenterology after completing a three-year internal medicine residency. Otolaryngology involves a five-year otolaryngology residency.

Both gastroenterology fellowships and otolaryngology residencies are highly competitive. Your USMLE scores, med school, and research are the main things for residency applications. Research is also a big thing for fellowship applications, and your residency program counts more, but your USMLE scores matter much less.

Gastroenterology vs. Otolaryngology: Work-Life Balance

Work-life balance is a crucial factor for many medical professionals. Both gastroenterologists and otolaryngologists have demanding schedules with long hours and on-call responsibilities. However, due to the nature of their work, otolaryngologists may have a slightly better work-life balance compared to gastroenterologists. Otolaryngologists generally have a more predictable work schedule and may have more chances to take time off.

Both gastroenterologists and otolaryngologists work an average of 52.3 and 52.4 hours per week, respectively, placing them in the middle of all medical specialties.

Estimated Physician Weekly Working Hours by Medical Specialty in the US

Gastroenterologists work an average of 52.3 hours per week, while otolaryngologists work almost similar hours, at 52.4 per week.

Otolaryngologists require more documentation, such as referral letters and diagnostic tests, resulting in an estimated 14 hours of admin/paperwork per week. In comparison, gastroenterologists have 13 hours, which is below the middle of all medical specialties.

Both otolaryngologists and gastroenterologists have to deal with hours of documentation. Otolaryngologists spend an estimated 14 hours on admin and paperwork per week, while gastroenterologists spend slightly less with 13 hours per week.

Estimated Physician Admin/Paperwork Hours by Medical Specialty in the US

Gastroenterologists work on admin/paperwork an average of 13 hours per week, while otolaryngologists work longer hours, at 14 per week.

Training Duration and Subspecialties

The training duration is a key aspect to consider when choosing between gastroenterology vs. otolaryngology. Otolaryngology has a five-year training period, while gastroenterology has a six-year training period with three years of internal medicine residency followed by a three-year gastroenterology fellowship.

Additionally, gastroenterologists often pursue more subspecialty training in fields like advanced endoscopy or hepatology because of the scarce job opportunities. This can increase the length of your gastroenterology training.

Gastroenterology vs. Otolaryngology: Job Satisfaction and Burnout Rates

Job satisfaction plays a significant role in career fulfillment. According to various studies, both otolaryngologists and gastroenterologists tend to have high job satisfaction rates, with many professionals expressing contentment with their career choice and would choose it again if given the chance. However, otolaryngology has lower reported burnout rates than gastroenterology.

According to recent data, gastroenterology ranked near the upper end of all medical specialties with 92% of gastroenterologists stating that they would choose the same specialty again, while otolaryngology ranked slightly lower with 91% of otolaryngologists feeling the same way.

Job Satisfaction Rate By Medical Specialty in the US

Gastroenterologists reported a 92% job satisfaction rate, while otolaryngology reported slightly lower satisfaction with 91%

That being said, the burnout rate for gastroenterology was 52%,  which was in the middle of all medical specialties. In comparison, otolaryngology had a burnout rate of 49% ranking below the middle of all medical specialties,

Burnout Rate By Medical Specialty in the US

Gastroenterologists have a burnout rate of 52%, while otolaryngologists have a slightly lower burnout rate of 49%.

Gastroenterology vs. Otolaryngology Comparison

To provide a visual overview, here’s a table comparing gastroenterology and otolaryngology:

AspectGastroenterologyOtolaryngology
Average SalaryGenerally high salary as demand grows for procedures like colonoscopies.High but slightly lower than gastroenterology
Job SecurityHigh demand due to the prevalence of gastrointestinal disorders
High demand due to the wide range of conditions treated
Training PathTypically involves 3 years of internal medicine residency followed by a 3-year gastroenterology fellowship


Typically involves 5 years of otolaryngology residency training
LifestyleTypically regular working hours, but may also have on-call duties
More predictable work schedule and may have more chances to take time off.
Administrative PaperworkModerate documentation requirements for patient records and surgical plans Moderate administrative requirements.
Job SatisfactionHighHigh
Burnout RatesModerateLow to Moderate
PersonalityStrong communication skills for patient education
Good hand-eye coordination, ability to handle stress and pressure

Please note that this table serves as a general comparison. To determine the most suitable career for you, consider your personal and career priorities and goals.

Concluding Thoughts

Choosing the right specialty between gastroenterology vs. otolaryngology depends heavily on your priorities. To determine this, try reverse engineering your ideal life and identify your top priority. A helpful exercise is to write down the top five things you want to achieve in your career and personal life. Knowing these priorities will make finding a career that aligns with them easier. Often, the biggest obstacle is not a lack of knowledge about different fields but a lack of self-awareness about our own preferences.

Want FREE Cardiology Flashcards?

Cardiology is key for impressive USMLE scores. Master cardiology from a Harvard-trained anesthesiologist who scored USMLE 270 with these 130+ high-yield flash cards. You’ll be begging for cardio questions - even if vitals make you queasy.

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