The Most Difficult Type of Doctor to Become, Ranked

Choose the type you think is the most difficult!

Author: Gregor Krambs
Updated on Jun 10, 2024 06:34
Choosing a medical specialty is a significant decision for any aspiring doctor, fraught with considerations about the length and intensity of training required. Understanding which specialties are the most challenging to enter can guide new medical students as they plan their careers. This list aims to clarify these complexities by ranking various medical specialties based on their difficulty, offering insights from those already in the field. Your votes help update and maintain the accuracy of this list, reflecting real-time changes and trends in the medical education landscape. Whether you are a medical professional, a student, or simply interested in the medical field, your participation enriches the resource, making it more valuable for everyone. Cast your vote today and see how your views compare with others in the community.

What Is the Most Difficult Type of Doctor to Become?

  1. 1


    Neurosurgeons specialize in the surgical treatment of disorders affecting the central and peripheral nervous systems, including the brain and spinal cord.
    • Years of Training: 7+ years of residency after medical school
    • Complexity: High, due to the delicate and complex nature of the nervous system
  2. 2

    Cardiothoracic Surgeon

    Cardiothoracic surgeons operate on the heart and lungs and other thoracic (chest) organs.
    • Years of Training: 5-7 years of residency after medical school
    • Subspecialties: Cardiac surgery, Thoracic surgery, Congenital cardiac surgery
  3. 3


    Oncologists specialize in the diagnosis and treatment of cancer using chemotherapy, hormonal therapy, biological therapy, and targeted therapy.
    • Years of Training: 3-4 years of residency after medical school
    • Subspecialties: Medical oncology, Surgical oncology, Radiation oncology
  4. 4

    Orthopedic Surgeon

    Orthopedic surgeons focus on the diagnosis, treatment, rehabilitation, and prevention of disorders of the bones, joints, ligaments, tendons, and muscles.
    • Years of Training: 5 years of residency after medical school
    • Subspecialties: Sports medicine, Spine surgery, Joint reconstruction
  5. 5


    Gastroenterologists specialize in the digestive system and its disorders, diseases of the gastrointestinal tract, and organs involved in digestion.
    • Years of Training: 3 years of internal medicine residency, followed by 2-3 years of gastroenterology fellowship
    • Subspecialties: Hepatology, Pancreatic diseases, Transplant hepatology
  6. 6


    Cardiologists specialize in diagnosing and treating diseases of the cardiovascular system.
    • Years of Training: 3 years of internal medicine residency, followed by 3-4 years of cardiology fellowship
    • Subspecialties: Interventional cardiology, Electrophysiology, Heart failure and transplant cardiology
  7. 7

    Plastic Surgeon

    Plastic surgeons perform surgeries to repair or reconstruct physical deformities, correct dysfunctional areas, and improve appearance.
    • Years of Training: 6 years of residency after medical school
    • Subspecialties: Cosmetic surgery, Reconstructive surgery, Hand surgery
  8. 8


    Anesthesiologists are responsible for the safety and well-being of patients during surgery by administering anesthesia and monitoring vital signs.
    • Years of Training: 4 years of residency after medical school
    • Subspecialties: Pain medicine, Critical care medicine, Pediatric anesthesiology
  9. 9

    Pediatric Surgeon

    Pediatric surgeons specialize in surgery for children, ranging from newborns to adolescents.
    • Years of Training: 5-7 years of residency after medical school
    • Complexity: High, due to dealing with patients in various stages of development
  10. 10


    Neurologists specialize in treating disorders of the nervous system, including diseases of the brain, spinal cord, nerves, and muscles.
    • Years of Training: 4 years of residency after medical school
    • Subspecialties: Epilepsy, Stroke, Neuromuscular

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About this ranking

This is a community-based ranking of the most difficult type of doctor to become. We do our best to provide fair voting, but it is not intended to be exhaustive. So if you notice something or type is missing, feel free to help improve the ranking!


  • 209 votes
  • 10 ranked items

Voting Rules

A participant may cast an up or down vote for each type once every 24 hours. The rank of each type is then calculated from the weighted sum of all up and down votes.


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More about the Most Difficult Type of Doctor to Become

Rank #1 for the most difficult type of doctor to become: Neurosurgeon (Source)
Becoming a doctor is a long and challenging journey. Among the many types of doctors, one specialty stands out as the most difficult to achieve. This path requires immense dedication, extensive training, and a high level of skill. The journey begins in medical school, where students face rigorous coursework and demanding exams. Success in these early stages is crucial for those who aim to enter this challenging field.

After medical school, the next step is a residency program. This stage is particularly grueling for those pursuing the most difficult specialty. Residencies in this field are known for their long hours and intense workload. Residents often work overnight shifts and must be ready to handle emergencies at any time. The pressure is constant, and the stakes are high.

Throughout residency, these doctors-in-training must master a vast amount of knowledge. They need to understand complex medical conditions and be able to make quick, accurate decisions. The ability to stay calm under pressure is essential. Mistakes can have serious consequences, so precision and attention to detail are paramount.

In addition to medical knowledge, these doctors must develop advanced technical skills. They often perform intricate procedures that require a steady hand and a keen eye. Training in these skills takes years and involves countless hours of practice. Even small errors can lead to significant problems, so perfection is the goal.

Research is another important aspect of this specialty. Doctors in this field often contribute to medical advancements through their work. They stay updated on the latest developments and integrate new findings into their practice. This commitment to continuous learning ensures they provide the best care possible.

The competition to enter this specialty is fierce. Only the top medical students are considered for residency programs in this field. Aspiring doctors must have excellent grades, high test scores, and strong recommendations. They also need to demonstrate a passion for the specialty and a willingness to endure its challenges.

Once they complete their residency, these doctors often pursue further training through fellowships. Fellowships provide additional specialized education and experience. This extra training can last several years and involves even more rigorous work. By the end of this process, these doctors are among the most highly trained professionals in the medical field.

The rewards of this specialty are significant. These doctors often hold prestigious positions and earn high salaries. They have the opportunity to make a profound impact on their patients' lives. The work is fulfilling, but it comes with great responsibility.

Despite the challenges, many doctors choose this path because of their passion for the field. They are driven by a desire to help others and to push the boundaries of medical knowledge. Their dedication and hard work set them apart and make them leaders in the medical community.

The journey to becoming this type of doctor is not for the faint of heart. It requires a unique combination of intelligence, skill, and perseverance. Those who succeed in this specialty are truly exceptional. They devote their lives to their work and make a lasting difference in the world of medicine.

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