Do MDs really have more success than DOs in residency applications?


By: Ryan Kelly

This week we want to go deeper with our numbers and compare statistics. These statistics can be hard to find, since a) only some med schools release their match information, and b) even those that do release it differently.

To try to sort out the spectrum of different schools, we chose four schools that release their match information on their website:

  • University of Chicago (top 10 MD school)

  • Boston University (top 25 MD school)

  • Temple University (a lower-ranked MD school)

  • Des Moines University (a highly respected DO school)

Further, we subdivided all residencies by competitiveness, according to a paper in the Journal of American College of Radiology.

Here’s how residency placement rates looked:

Schools 2015 match rate Highly competitive residency Intermediate competitive residency Low competitive residency
Top 10
Not Available 19% 35% 46%
Top 25
Boston U
97% 12% 48% 40%
Low MD
97% 4% 44% 52%
Des Moines
100% 1% 27% 72%

Note: due to rounding, totals may not add up to 100%.



To hone in on one category of residencies, highly competitive ones, we can see a pretty clear trend in the data:

Conclusions from this limited data:


1. The reason for the higher match rate for DO schools is unclear.

Which came first, the chicken or the egg? Does attending a top-tier medical school make you more likely to get into a top residency program, or are the students at these schools so amazing in the first place that they get in at a higher rate? We may never know.

2. Choose a more competitive school if you want a competitive residency.

If you have a choice between a more competitive school and a less competitive school - and your goal is to go into a highly competitive residency - then choose the most competitive school you get into.

3. Both schools can place you in a residency program, no matter their ranking.

The schools show very little difference in the ability to get into some sort of residency placement after medical school. So, once you get into a single medical school - no matter its ranking - you have an excellent shot of finding a residency and becoming a doctor.

4. Top choice of residency not taken into account.

It’s hard to know which of these students got their first choice residencies. How many DO students decided not to even apply for a competitive residency such as dermatology, because the odds were stacked against them? It’s hard to know.


If you’re interested in specialties like Family Medicine, Internal Medicine, Emergency Medicine, or Pediatrics, then applying to a DO school is less likely to affect your match. But among competitive specialties like Dermatology or Neurological Surgery, there is a clear preference for students who come from top MD schools.  

So do MDs really have more success in residency applications? If your definition of success is getting into a residency program somewhere, then no. If you’re aiming for a highly competitive program, then perhaps, but it’s impossible to know whether it’s the school you attend or the qualities you possess that give you the better shot of getting in.