Specialty Profiles

These medical specialties have the biggest gender imbalances

Gender has proven to be a factor related to which medical specialties residents pursue following their graduation from medical school. The latest data offers some insight on which medical specialties are most popular among male and female physicians entering residency.

Related Coverage

4 things to consider when researching medical residency programs

Gender balance is one of the factors that students may consider when choosing a specialty. FREIDA™—a recently revamped AMA tool that offers searchable, sortable data on 11,000-plus residency and fellowship programs accredited by the Accreditation Council on Graduate Medical Education—can help you gather the information you need to find the right match.

Additional AMA resources to aid you with your medical specialty choice include the Choosing a Medical Specialty resource guide and the AMA “Shadow Me” Specialty Series, which speaks to real physicians for specialty-specific insight.

Female-dominated specialties

On the whole, women account for 45.6 percent of active residents training in the U.S. That number is a slight dip from data collected in 2015, according to the Association of American Medical Colleges’ 2017 Report on Residents.

Specialty choice trends among women remained consistent in 2015. Women make up a larger percentage of residents in:

  • Obstetrics and gynecology—82.7 percent.
  • Pediatrics—73 percent.
  • Allergy and immunology—70.4 percent.
  • Medical genetics—67.1 percent.
  • Dermatology—64.4 percent.

Among the top specialty choices for female residents, only dermatology, with an annual average compensation of $392,000, ranks in the top 10 highest-paying specialties, according to an online survey of physician compensation conducted by Medscape.

Male-dominated specialties

Male physicians account for 54.6 percent of active residents practicing in the U.S. The list of specialties in which men make up the most significant portion of the working resident physicians was heavily populated by surgical specialties. Popular specialties in which men made up a significant portion of the resident workforce include:

  • Orthopedic surgery—85.1 percent.
  • Neurological surgery—82.5 percent.
  • Thoracic surgery—73.8 percent.
  • Radiology—73.8 percent.
  • Vascular surgery—67 percent.
  • Otolaryngology—65.2 percent.
  • Plastic surgery—62 percent.

Male physicians, the report found, were more likely to relocate following their residency program. While the figure varies by specialty, 51 percent of men who completed residency between 2007 and 2016 are practicing in the state where they did their residency, compared with nearly 59 percent of women.

Specialties with most gender balance

Two specialties featured a near equal mix of men and women among the population of current medical residents: anatomic and clinical pathology, and preventive medicine. Those two fields were slightly male dominated, with 50.4 percent of residents in each specialty being male.

Aside from those two fields, the only specialty with a gender gap of fewer than 10 percentage points was psychiatry, in which 52.2 percent of residents are women.