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Postgraduate Medical Education (PME) Project

United States

The information listed for the United States was provided by individuals knowledgeable about PME in the United States. If you note errors or omissions or would like to provide additional information, please click here.

Duration of studies

Undergraduate medical education:

Both allopathic and osteopathic programs generally accept students after completion of a four-year undergraduate bachelor degree.

PME specialty training: 3-7 years, depending on the specialty pursued. Certain specialties accept applicants after one year of study in another specialty. For those specialties, that year is included in the number of years of study provided under Areas of specialization.

Trainee selection process

PME specialty training programs exist specifically for allopathic or osteopathic graduates; however, many allopathic postgraduate programs accept both types of graduates. There are approximately 130 schools of allopathic medicine in the United States. Allopathic medical programs are accredited by the Liaison Committee on Medical Education (LCME). There are approximately 25 schools of osteopathic medicine in the United States. Osteopathic medical schools are accredited by the Commission on Osteopathic College Accreditation (COCA) of the American Osteopathic Association (AOA).

Medical graduates from U.S. allopathic schools, U.S. osteopathic schools, and international medical schools compete for positions in specialty and subspecialty training programs. PME programs establish their own criteria for admission, and trainees are generally selected based on a variety of factors including examination performance, medical school transcripts, letters of recommendation, and personal interviews. Nearly all entry postgraduate year-one (PGY-1) positions are accessed through the National Resident Matching Program (NRMP). Detailed information regarding eligibility, registration, and the matching process can be obtained from the NRMP website.

Specialty curriculum authority

PME (locally referred to as “graduate medical education” or “GME”) programs in the United States are accredited by the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME). ACGME includes 26 review committees, each responsible for the accreditation of programs in a particular medical specialty and its subspecialties.

Independent medical specialty boards set the standards for certification in their respective specialties. The requirements for board certification in each specialty generally include successful completion of PME training in an accredited program and passing certification examinations. A directory of medical specialty boards can be found on the website of the American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS). Specialty certification is voluntary; it is not a requirement for medical licensure or practice.

Licensing authority

There is no national system of licensure for medical practice in the United States. Each U.S. state and territory assumes responsibility for medical licensure in its own jurisdiction. Requirements for licensure, including the number of years of required PME training, vary from state to state. In most states, graduates of international medical schools are required to complete more years of PME training prior to licensure than graduates of U.S. and Canadian medical schools.

Some states have separate medical licensing boards for allopathic physicians and osteopathic physicians. A directory of the 70 U.S. state medical boards, including their contact information, can be found on the website of the Federation of State Medical Boards (FSMB) of the United States, Inc.


Areas of specialization

PME training programs accredited by the ACGME are offered in the specialties and subspecialties listed below, which are followed by total program duration (number of years required for completion).

Legal references

[last update: March 1, 2010]