Every 2 years, the National Resident Matching Program® (NRMP®) and the Association of American Medical Colleges® (AAMC®) release statistics profiling successful and unsuccessful candidates of the recent NRMP match. NRMP main residency match data is an amazing resource, and Charting Outcomes in the Match is hands down the best resource to determine how competitive you are for a specialty, keeping in mind that these are averages.
The September 2016 data has now been released. This year data was separated for allopathic, osteopathic, and international medical graduates.
All specialties that offered at least 50 residency positions in the 2016 Main Residency Match were included in the report. Of note, ophthalmology and urology do not participate in the NRMP match. They have their own separate match system.
I encourage you to look at the report(s) in detail. The charts make it very easy to read (but they are copywritten so I can't reproduce any below). Below are a few interesting points I picked up on my first browse of the U.S. allopathic seniors document.
[ 1 ] The specialties with the highest no match rate* were: vascular surgery (29%) , orthopedic surgery (25%), neurosurgery (24%), dermatology (23%), and plastic surgery (23%). Of course, these are the most competitive programs in the country. This does not mean that programs with higher match rates are necessarily less competitive though. It could just mean that these programs have a more selective applicant pool. As mentioned earlier, ophthalmology and urology are not included in the document, but in general are also very competitive.
*The numbers listed are for allopathic seniors. See the statistics for osteopathic seniors here. The numbers for foreign applicants and reapplicants will also be drastically different.
[ 2 ] Average step 1 and 2 scores correlate with specialty competitiveness. The more competitive programs have both the highest scores for matched and unmatched applicants. For example, the average step 1 score of someone who does not match plastic surgery is higher than the average step 1 score for a successful psychiatry applicants. This puts students with marginally high step 1 scores who are interested in a competitive specialty in a precarious position. Of course, more than step 1 scores factor into what makes a strong applicant. Although probability of matching dermatology increased with step 1 score, no score correlated with a 100% change of matching.
[ 3 ] With the exception of a Ph.D., having an additional graduate degree does not appear to help in the match. In fact, more unmatched candidates had an additional degree than matched applicants. One possible explanation for this is maybe students who obtained an extra degree did so because their application was weak and thought the extra degree would boost their competitiveness. I saw this happen to friends who in my class who took a gap year during medical school. The problem with the gap year is that it can distance you from the majority of faculty and residents during that year, while current 3rd years are still fresh on their mind - this is especially true, I think, if you take a gap year away from your home institution. At that point, you really become "homeless."
[ 4 ] The average number of ranks for a successful (U.S. allopathic senior) dermatology applicant was 8. I can remember jumping for joy when I received my 8th interview invite. In comparing myself to the numbers charted, there are some areas that I fall short on and some that I overshoot, hence being an average. The match rate is essentially 100% with 17 dermatology programs ranked contiguously.
Most dermatology applicants, matched and unmatched, ranked two specialties, but I think this includes intern year. It is not uncommon however for students applying to a highly competitive program to also apply to a less competitive program as a back-up.