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How to Match into Family Medicine in 2023

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by Blen Tesfu in How to Match

Are you wondering how to match into family medicine? Or how many family medicine residency programs are there? Do you want to know everything there is about family medicine residency interviews? Need to know how many interviews to match in family medicine?

In this article, you’ll learn everything you need to match into family medicine.

Summary:

  • Family medicine is less competitive, in part due to having so many programs and positions available
  • In part due to the volume of applications, family medicine residency programs use standardized screens to “weed out” applicants
  • The most successful applicants won’t fail any USMLE, have good USMLE scores, a stellar MSPE, and demonstrate lots of interest in programs
  • Historically, most family medicine interview invites occur before October 31, and the vast majority before November 31

Table of Contents

How Competitive is it to Match into Family Medicine?

How competitive is it to match into family medicine in the US? Here we have the unmatched % for US seniors by specialty. The “Unmatched %” means the % of US seniors who applied into family medicine who did not match during the given year.

This is one measure of specialty competitiveness – perhaps the most relevant if you want to match into family medicine.

For more on the competitiveness of family medicine relative to other medical specialties, see this article.

How Many Family Medicine Residency Programs Are There?

Before we discuss how many family medicine residency programs there are in the US, let’s review some terminology. For many specialized residency programs (e.g., anesthesiology, dermatology, radiology, radiation oncology, etc.), the specialty training begins during their second year of residency. This second year is also known as the PGY-2 (post-graduate year 2, for the second year after graduating from medical school).

Categorical vs. Advanced vs. Physician Family Medicine Programs

Most programs have three different kinds of residency programs applicants can potentially enter: categorical, advanced, and physician (R).

Categorical refers to programs that include all years of residency training. Family medicine residency lasts three years and only offers this categorical route.

Some other specialties, however, require applicants to match separately into an intern year. These programs, which begin in the PGY-2 years, are referred to as “advanced” positions.

Finally, for others who have already completed at least a year of residency training, they may be eligible for a “physician” position in some specialty programs. These positions allow applicants to move directly into the PGY-2 specialty training and skip the PGY-1 year. This arrangement may be ideal for those who want to complete residency sooner and not have to repeat an intern year.

How Many Family Medicine Residency Programs and Positions Are There?

In the 2022 NRMP Match, there were:

  • 745 Family Medicine programs offering 4,916 PGY-1 (categorical) positions,
  • 0 Family Medicine programs offering 0 PGY-2 (advanced) positions, and
  • 0 Family Medicine programs offering 0 Physician (R) positions

Thus, the total number of Family Medicine residency positions in 2022 was 4,916, and there were 745 Family Medicine programs in 2022.

See the 2022 Main Residency Match Results and Data for more information on family medicine match statistics.

How to Match into Family Medicine: Impressing Program Directors

To match into family medicine, you must first be invited to interview. According to the most recent program director (PD) survey from 2021, PDs shared what they look for in candidates they hope to interview.

For family medicine, the top five most important characteristics for receiving an interview, according to program directors, were:

  • USMLE Step 1 score
  • MSPE
  • USMLE Step 2 CK score
  • Grades in required clerkships
  • Any failed USMLE attempt

Note that with Step 1 moving to pass-fail, Step 2 CK will almost assuredly take on greater importance for matching into family medicine in the future.

The same data are presented more fully in a table. Here you will see the % of program director respondents who cited a factor as important for granting an interview, as well as the mean importance score (out of 5).

To balance the breadth of program directors citing each factor with the importance given to each factor, a “composite score” was created. This composite score takes the average of the % respondents citing a factor with the importance score scaled to 100%. For example, if 80% of PDs cited a given factor, with a mean importance score of 5.0 (out of 5), the composite score would be 90%. (The average of 80% of PDs citing with 5/5 – or 100% – for the mean importance, for a composite score of 90%).

Family Medicine: Characteristics Considered in Deciding Whom to INTERVIEW (% of Respondents Endorsing)Family Medicine: Characteristics Considered
in Deciding Whom to INTERVIEW (Mean Importance / 5)
Family Medicine: Characteristics Considered for Interview Composite Score (Average of % Respondents Endorsing and Mean Importance / 5)
USMLE Step 1 Score75.5%3.391.8%
MSPE86.8%3.886.0%
USMLE Step 2 CK Score75.5%3.681.4%
Grades in Required Clerkships64.2%3.681.2%
Any Failed USMLE Attempt79.2%3.981.2%
Class Ranking/Quartile51.6%3.479.8%
Grades in Clerkship in Preferred Specialty50.3%3.879.3%
Any Failed COMLEX-USA Attempt78.6%478.8%
Consistency of Grades53.5%3.678.6%
COMLEX-USA Level 1 score73.0%3.378.1%
Awards/Honors in Clinical Clerkships41.5%3.375.3%
COMLEX-USA Level 2 CE Score71.1%3.573.8%
AOA Membership25.8%3.372.7%
GHHS Membership35.8%3.470.8%
Passing USMLE Step 2 CS46.5%3.770.6%
Awards/Honors, Clerkship in Preferred Specialty30.8%3.469.8%
Continuous Medical Education w/o Gaps59.1%3.869.5%
Medical School Accreditation Status53.5%4.369.5%
Medical School Reputation30.2%3.769.3%
Passing COMLEX-USA Level 2 PE44.7%3.768.1%
Awards/Honors in Basic Sciences11.3%2.767.9%
Sigma Sigma Phi Membership16.4%3.267.6%
USMLE Step 3 Score14.5%366.6%
COMLEX-USA Level 3 Score11.3%2.863.2%
How Medical School Handled Virtual Rotations6.9%3.562.8%
Letters of Recommendation in Specialty84.3%3.961.5%
Personal Statement (Overall)89.9%4.160.6%
Diversity Characteristics75.5%4.160.5%
Perceived Commitment to Specialty95.6%4.460.3%
Having Overcome Significant Obstacles76.1%459.8%
Professionalism and Ethics72.3%4.559.4%
Perceived Interest in Program75.5%4.253.8%
Leadership Qualities65.4%452.1%
Volunteer/Extracurricular Experience62.9%3.851.9%
Personal Prior Knowledge of Applicant68.6%4.149.4%
Other Life Experience57.2%3.845.9%
Audition Elective/Rotation in PD's Dept56.6%4.140.2%
Involvement and Interest in Research10.7%2.738.7%
Ability to Work Legally w/o Visa49.7%4.338.5%
Visa Status40.9%4.137.3%
Fluency in Language of Pt Population47.2%3.733.7%
NRMP Flag for Match Violation28.9%4.633.1%
Interest in Academic Career8.2%2.932.7%
Away Rotation in Specialty Elsewhere9.4%3.432.4%

Here are the composite scores for the criteria family medicine program directors use for grading interviews.

What Do Family Medicine Program Directors Look for When Ranking Applicants?

Getting an interview is only part of the process of matching into family medicine. Program directors also rank the most important factors for creating their rank order list.

In the 2021 Program Director Survey, family medicine PDs rated these criteria as most important for deciding whom to rank:

  • USMLE Step 1 score
  • MSPE
  • USMLE Step 2 CK score
  • Class ranking/quartile
  • Any failed USMLE attempt

We can see the full list here:

Family Medicine: Characteristics Considered in Deciding Whom to RANK (% of Respondents Endorsing)Family Medicine: Characteristics Considered
in Deciding Whom to RANK (Mean Importance / 5)
Family Medicine: Characteristics Considered for Rank Composite Score (Average of % Respondents Endorsing and Mean Importance / 5)
USMLE Step 1 Score51.6%3.490.6%
MSPE61.0%3.689.5%
USMLE Step 2 CK Score57.2%3.886.2%
Class Ranking/Quartile31.4%3.685.8%
Any Failed USMLE Attempt52.2%3.485.8%
Grades in Required Clerkships30.2%3.876.4%
COMLEX-USA Level 2 CE Score55.3%3.774.3%
COMLEX-USA Level 1 score49.7%3.672.7%
Any Failed COMLEX-USA Attempt51.6%3.771.4%
Grades in Clerkship in Preferred Specialty22.6%3.369.7%
Consistency of Grades25.2%3.766.8%
AOA Membership10.7%3.666.6%
GHHS Membership20.8%3.766.5%
Continuous Medical Education w/o Gaps37.1%3.866.4%
Passing USMLE Step 2 CS22.0%3.665.4%
Awards/Honors, Clerkship in Preferred Specialty15.7%3.764.7%
Awards/Honors in Clinical Clerkships18.2%3.464.1%
Medical School Reputation17.0%3.762.8%
Medical School Accreditation Status27.0%3.661.7%
Passing COMLEX-USA Level 2 PE20.1%3.461.3%
Sigma Sigma Phi Membership8.8%3.660.9%
Awards/Honors in Basic Sciences8.2%4.260.1%
USMLE Step 3 Score8.8%3.459.8%
COMLEX-USA Level 3 Score6.9%2.657.9%
How Medical School Handled Virtual Rotations6.3%3.257.4%
Interpersonal Skills87.1%4.756.6%
Interactions with Faculty During Interview/Visit84.9%4.756.3%
Feedback from Current Residents79.5%4.654.4%
Interactions with House Staff During Interview/Visit77.5%4.753.1%
Diversity Characteristics65.4%451.7%
Perceived Commitment to Specialty82.4%4.549.6%
Letters of Recommendation in Specialty54.1%3.749.5%
Perceived Interest in Program64.8%4.447.4%
Personal Statement66.7%3.847.4%
Professionalism and Ethics58.5%4.547.0%
Leadership Qualities52.8%446.1%
Having Overcome Significant Obstacles53.5%445.9%
Personal Prior Knowledge of Applicant55.3%4.245.5%
Other Life Experience45.3%3.944.9%
Volunteer/Extracurricular Experience46.5%3.844.3%
Audition Elective/Rotation in PD's Dept42.8%4.444.1%
Involvement and Interest in Research7.5%2.944.1%
Fluency in Language of Patient Population36.5%3.843.4%
Ability to Work Legally w/o Visa25.8%4.543.1%
Other Post-Interview Contact20.7%3.741.4%
Interest in Academic Career5.7%3.540.4%
NRMP Flag for Match Violation20.8%4.738.4%
Visa Status20.8%4.437.9%
Applicant Facility with Meeting Platform Tech12.7%3.735.2%
Away Rotation in Specialty Elsewhere5.7%4.332.8%
Second Interview/Visit8.1%429.5%

Finally, we can see the composite scores for criteria used to rank family medicine applicants.

What Characteristics Do Successful Family Medicine Applicants Share?

Here are the characteristics of matched vs. unmatched US seniors applying to family medicine.

MatchedUnmatched
Mean number of contiguous ranks, US Senior13.74.1
Mean number of distinct specialties ranked, US Senior1.11.2
Step 1, US Senior225211
Step 2, US Senior241228
Mean number of research experiences, US Senior2.41.9
Mean number of abstracts, presentations, and publications, US Senior4.12.6
Mean number of work experiences, US Senior3.62.5
Mean number of volunteer experiences, US Senior8.35.5
Percentage who are AOA members, US Senior9.80
Percentage who graduated from one of the 40 U.S. medical schools with the highest NIH funding, US Senior26.319
Percentage who have Ph.D. degree, US Senior0.80
Percentage who have another graduate degree, US Senior18.326.3
Match Into Family Medicine: Pass the Screens with High USMLEs

Family Medicine relies on standardized screens to weed out applicants. In the 2021 Program Director Survey, family medicine PDs respondents reported that 57% of applications were rejected via standardized screen. This ranked in the top of residencies.

What Are the Step 1 and Step 2 CK Cut-Offs for Interviews in Family Medicine?

As mentioned above, family medicine ranks near the top of programs using standardized screens to eliminate applications. Many family medicine programs screen out applicants with failed USMLE Step 1 and Step 2 CK (see below). In addition, PDs use Step 1 and Step 2 CK score cut-offs to weed out applicants.

For Step 1, family medicine program directors reported Step 1 score cut-offs between 200 and 210 as 25% and 75%ile marks to screen out applicants.

Similarly, family medicine program directors reported Step 2 CK scores between 200 and 220 as 25% and 75%ile cut-offs.

For more on the USMLE cut-off scores for granting interviews – or weeding out applicants – see this article.

If I Fail Step 1, Can I Still Match Into Family Medicine?

If you failed Step 1, you might wonder if you can still match into family medicine. In the most recent program director survey addressing this question, we can see that family medicine programs are seen to be forgiving if you’ve failed Step 1.

In 2020, family medicine 55% of PDs reported they “seldom” consider applicants who fail Step 1, while 45% of family medicine programs “often” consider someone with a step 1 fail. This shows that those applicants who did not pass step one still had an opportunity to be considered.

Did you fail Step 1 and are wondering what you can do to recover? Read this article and consider scheduling a consultation.

If I Fail Step 2 CK, Can I Still Match Into Family Medicine?

Similarly, you may wonder what your chances of matching into family medicine are if you fail Step 2 CK. Just like with Step 1, family medicine PDs are relatively forgiving for not passing Step 2 CK.

In 2020, family medicine only 5% of PDs reported they “never” consider applicants who fail Step 2 CK, while 66% would “seldom” consider it. And about 29% of family medicine programs “often” consider someone with a Step 2 CK fail.

Did you fail Step 2 CK and wonder what you can do to recover? Read this article and consider scheduling a consultation.

How Many Publications for Family Medicine Residency in 2022

Research is an important characteristic for matching into many specialties, particularly the most competitive. So, how many publications do you need to match into a family medicine residency?

In 2022, the mean number of abstracts, presentations, and publications for US seniors who matched into family medicine was 4.1. The mean number of research experiences was 2.4.

Do I Need an MD-PhD to Become a Family Medicine Specialist?

You may wonder how much an MD-PhD helps with matching into family medicine. It appears that having a PhD correlates with a modest advantage of 2% when applying into family medicine. Specifically, the match rate for those with a PhD is 2% higher than for those without one when applying into family medicine.

Note that those with PhDs are relatively rare among family medicine residents. In fact, only 0.8% of matched applicants into family medicine had a PhD in 2022.

Family Medicine Residency Interviews

When you apply to family medicine, you may be wondering what the chances of getting an interview are. Here we present the outcomes of applicants per the 2021 NRMP Program Director Survey.

Note that family medicine uses standardized screens to reduce the number of applicants. Roughly 57% of applicants that year were eliminated via a screen (e.g., Step 2 CK scores, visa status, failed a USMLE in the past, etc.).

When Are Family Medicine Residency Interview Invites Sent vs. Conducted?

When you apply to residency, you’ll be doing a lot of waiting. Specifically, you’ll be waiting to hear whether – and when – you will be able to interview.

Want to know when you might expect to hear from family medicine programs re: your residency application? Here are when programs typically extend and conduct interviews. Note that the most recent data are from 2020.

Here are the same data presented differently. Note that due to rounding, sometimes the percentages can add up to more than 100%.

How Many Interviews to Match in Family Medicine?

How many interviews to match in family medicine with confidence? For US Seniors, the magic number of interviews needed to match into family medicine starts from the first interview. In 2022, having even one interview (and ranking them on their match list) led to a >84% chance of matching. For even greater safety, though, having 7+ interviews led to a ≥95% chance of matching into family medicine for US seniors.

How Many Interviews to Match in Family Medicine as a DO?

For DO seniors, considerably more interviews were necessary to match into family medicine comfortably. To get to the 75% threshold, ≥ 3 interviews were needed. To reach the 100% threshold, 10+ interviews were needed in 2022.

How Many Interviews to Match in Family Medicine as an IMG?

Similar to DOs, more interviews were necessary for IMGs to comfortably match into family medicine. To reach the 75% threshold, ≥6 interviews were necessary. Note that because of so few candidates with ≥ 9 interviews, the numbers become considerably “noisier,” and can’t be interpreted with much confidence. This is particularly true since only ten matched successfully of the 16 non-US IMGs with 16+ interviews.

Concluding Thoughts

Matching into family medicine is a challenging proposition. The challenge may feel more daunting if we have perceived weaknesses in our application, or if we want to match in a top program, a desirable location, and/or couples match.

The good news? How to match into family medicine depends largely on things you can control – your USMLEs, your clinical performance/MSPEs, whether you fail Step 1 or Step 2 CK, and how much interest you show to programs.

Looking for a Family Medicine Residency Advisor?

Looking for a family medicine residency advisor? Want help writing your personal statement? Need effective strategies for interviewing? Do you have things on your application – e.g., low USMLE scores, failed USMLEs, no research, IMG status, or others – you need help overcoming?

Be sure to check out our Residency Advisor service.

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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