Does Residency Cost Money? Here’s What to Expect for Applications & Interviews

May 30, 2024
Applying to residency is an important and exciting milestone in your medical school journey! It represents the culmination of your educational experience as you start the transition from student to physician and begin the process of securing your dream residency program. 
You understandably may have questions about this process, including one on the minds of many future doctors: does residency cost money? And if so, how much? Read on to understand which expenses to expect and learn more about the process in general.

So, does residency cost money? The short answer is: yes, it costs money to apply and interview for residency programs! But how much does it cost, exactly?

There are many variables that can factor into your overall expenses. The more planning you put into the application process, the better idea you’ll have about how much to budget.

Here are the main steps to consider when applying for residency and estimating your expenses.

1. Starting Your ERAS Application

The first step in the application process is to obtain a token to access the Electronic Residency Application Service (ERAS). An ERAS token is free for U.S. medical students, while the Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates (ECFMG) token fee is $165. A token gives you access to the interface to begin working on your personal statement, input your work and research experiences, and upload letters of recommendation.

You should work on trying to finalize your application in the first two weeks of September. The first day you can submit your materials for the upcoming 2025 application season is September 4th. Residency programs will start reviewing them on September 25th. It’s always a good idea to submit your application early for peace of mind.

2. Submitting Your ERAS Application

The fee to submit your application depends on the number of programs you apply to. The cost for the first 30 programs per specialty is $11 per application. . If you apply to more than 30 programs per specialty, you then pay $30 per application. You can find more information on ERAS application fees on the AAMC website.

Because it’s increasingly expensive to apply to additional programs, be honest with yourself about how many applications you submit. Recent research from the AAMC identifies points of diminishing returns sorted by type of applicant, specialty, and board exam performance beyond which applying to more programs does not make a difference. In other words, applying to every program within a given specialty becomes both expensive and ineffective. You shouldn’t overly limit the number of programs where you send your application, but you also shouldn’t overapply in an attempt to increase your chance of matching.

Of note, you also will have to submit an $80 payment for your USMLE transcript. This is a standard, one-time fee per application cycle and is not dependent on the number of programs.

Applying for residency programs? Check out this FREE Residency Application Timeline download to stay on track during the application process created by expert residency consultants!

3. Calculating Your Interview Expenses

After you submit your application materials, awaiting interviews can be an exciting time. The timeline to receive invitations can extend into the holidays, so don’t worry if you don’t immediately get as many as you were hoping.

Historically, interviews at programs were generally all-day in-person events, often with a reception or dinner the night before. As a result, you were usually expected to travel to a different city and spend a night for each interview.

Understandably, during the COVID-19 pandemic most interviews converted to an exclusively virtual format, although as of 2023 some programs have resumed in-person interviews. Pre-interview receptions, informational sessions, and formal interviews now commonly take place online. 

The situation is evolving and many interviews remain virtual, but others may go back to in- person. In-person interviews are associated with travel and lodging expenses, which add up over time. Some tips to mitigate costs include clustering interviews to minimize travel as much as possible, staying with family or friends if able, and using public transportation when traveling.

You also should plan to invest in interview attire regardless of whether you’re interviewing virtually or in person. You don’t need to spend a large sum on expensive clothes, but you should strive to appear polished and professional. The AAMC also has additional tips and information about the cost of residency interviews.

4. Submitting Your NRMP Rank List

After completing your interviews, you are finally ready to submit your National Resident Matching Program (NRMP) rank list. This is the exciting culmination just before the Match when you specify your order of preference—called your primary rank order list (ROL)—for the programs at which you interviewed. Programs do the same for the applicants they interviewed. Then, NRMP will use its matching algorithm to pair medical students with residency programs. Applicants to certain specialties like radiology, dermatology, or anesthesia will have to make separate supplemental ROLs for their first preliminary year of training in addition to the primary ROL.

You should be aware that the NRMP is a separate interface from ERAS. The cost to register on or before January 31st is $70, and after January 31st is $120. If you are registering as a couples’ match, the price is an additional $45 per partner.

You can rank up to 20 programs on your primary rank order list and up to 20 additional unique programs on all your supplemental ROLs combined without any additional expenses. If you rank more than 20 programs, the price is an additional $30 per program. There are additional fees at 101, 151, 201, and 251 programs ranked up to a maximum of 300. The NRMP also has more information about Match fees on their website.

The more preparation, the better

If you feel a little bit overwhelmed by all of this, that’s OK! The process can seem long and complicated, but it will make more sense as you work through it. A piece of advice is to periodically check back to this article and the linked resources above to get a better sense of what to expect as you approach each new phase of the application cycle. Rest assured that knowing what to expect when it comes to residency application expenses is an important component of starting off prepared for the process.

So, the TL;DR: does residency cost money? Yes it does, but now you know how much and what you can do to prepare. Good luck!

Looking for even more FREE resources for med students? Check out our smart study planner, guides, webinars and more over at Blueprint Med School!

Or, check out these other posts on the Rosh Review blog!

By Michael Stephens, MD

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