6 Best General Surgery Residency Programs (Key Info & Data)

General surgery is a hugely popular medical specialty, undoubtedly encouraged by its $400,000 median US salary.

Focused on using surgical procedures to repair injury, remove disease and promote healing, it’s also an important one.

The best general surgery residency programs offer those interested in the specialty the greatest training possible in the field and boast some of the finest surgeons on earth as alumni. But they are competitive; as evidenced by its limited number of residency spots (approx 1500).

This article takes a look at the top 6 programs in the country (as ranked by the US News Best Grad Schools Report 2022), taking a deep dive into what’s offered by each and what you can expect if you’re lucky enough to match.

We’ve also included key info on facts/stats for each program (where publicized) too.

Ready to get started? Let’s go.

Before you dive into our article on the best general surgery residency programs, make sure you take a look out our Best Residency Programs page to get all the critical info on other specialty offerings.

1. Johns Hopkins University

Length of Accredited Training:5
Positions By Year:19/13/7/7/7
Total Number of Residents:53
PGY1 Annual Salary:$57,160

Johns Hopkins selects seven individuals each year for the General Surgery Categorical Residency Program. Residents accepted in this training program are on the right path to becoming leaders in surgery. After completing the chief resident year (PGY-5), they can take the American Board of Surgery examinations and apply for advanced clinical training in subspecialties.

During their first two clinical years of training, residents spend most of their time at The Johns Hopkins Hospital and Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center. They develop foundational skills and gain experience in general surgery and several subspecialties. Rotations in the PGY-2 year focus on more advanced technical skills and management of the critically injured.

Residents receive further training during their third, fourth, and fifth clinical year in the general surgery track. Such rotations include transplant and pediatric surgery, acute care, vascular surgery, trauma, and complex laparoscopic surgery. At the end of five clinical years, residents have typically performed over a thousand operations.

All residents in general surgery have an experience in research for one to four years. This allows them to advance their research expertise and practice scientific investigative principles. Residents also learn the intricacies of applying for competitive funding. During their residency, they’re expected to have written and applied for at least two grants.

Learn more about this program in the video below…


2. Duke University

Length of Accredited Training:5
Positions By Year:15-20
PGY1 Annual Salary:$56,880

The Duke General Surgery Residency Program prepares its graduates for careers in academic surgery. This comprehensive training program focuses on both clinical and research education.

Residents gain broad experience in operative surgery. They learn to evaluate and manage patients requiring all types of procedures in general surgery and subspecialties, including cardiothoracic, vascular, and pediatric surgery. Residents also complete at least two years of focused research experiences, within or outside of the department.

With five world-class facilities, the program includes experience in community and VA-based care. These valuable training opportunities, ranging from pediatric through geriatric procedures, ensure residents have the skills needed to be competitive in the workforce.

Skills training sessions cover Fundamental Laparoscopic Skills (FLS) and Fundamental Endoscopic Skills (FES). The FLS exam is typically completed before the end of PGY-1, and residents must pass the FES exam soon after completing the Endoscopy Rotation during PGY-2.

The Robotics Curriculum ensures graduating residents are competent robotic surgeons. This program includes simulation, lab training, and operating room assessments. Residents have access to four training robots, and practice through simulation is encouraged at every level.

Check out the video below for more info on this residency program…


3. Harvard University

Length of Accredited Training:5
Positions By Year:17/13/9/9/9
Total Number of Residents:57
PGY1 Annual Salary:$68,000

As one of the country’s oldest and most prestigious training programs, the Mass General Surgical Residency Program provides unparalleled clinical and operative experiences. The program attracts the finest candidates with a robust didactic curriculum, mentorship, and many research opportunities. Many graduates are now department chairs, division chiefs, and renowned surgeon-scientists.

Graduating residents have performed over a thousand major operations, including complex open and minimally invasive surgeries, during their residency at one of the top hospitals in the nation. Although it’s not required, most residents choose to spend two years away from their clinical training to conduct in-depth research.

The program provides its residents with the mentorship necessary to develop their careers. From the 2021-22 academic year, PGY-2 and PGY-3 residents also participate in a two-week Academic Career Development rotation.

Most of the training takes place at Mass General. Still, residents also spend several months on rotations at Newton-Wellesley and Salem Hospitals, where they’re exposed to community hospital practice, teaching them independence and autonomy.

The robotic skills simulation curriculum involves a combination of wet lab, dry lab, and in-situ simulation to educate residents. Because Mass General is actively engaged with the industry to develop and test some of the newest simulation techniques, residents can also teach and develop such programs.

The video below provides a nice intro to Mass General’s residency programs…


4. University of Michigan – Ann Arbor

Length of Accredited Training:5
Positions By Year:16/7/7/6/6
Total Number of Residents:42
PGY1 Annual Salary:$64,101   

Michigan’s General Surgery Residency Program offers a rare depth of clinical exposure, a well-rounded curriculum, protected time for academic development, and excellent career outcomes.

The typical training pathway in this program consists of three years of junior clinical training, followed by two years of protected time for academic development, and a final two years of senior resident clinical training.

A series of core general surgery rotations provide first-year residents an introduction to surgical patients’ pre-operative, post-operative, outpatient, and intensive care. Second-year residents gain more opportunities for increased responsibility. In the third year, the operative volume expands significantly, and residents take on operative cases of increased complexity.

Residents usually complete two years of protected Academic Development Time (ADT) between their third and fourth year of clinical training. It’s a unique attribute of this residency program. This time is dedicated to pursuing research and other professional development.

Flexibility is the priority, but residents may choose to structure this ADT around majors such as Basic & Translational Science, Education Research, and Health Services Research. Residents can also explore several minors available, including Surgical Innovation and Healthcare Administration.

Then, fourth-year residents see their responsibilities increase substantially both in the operating room and on the service. Finally, fifth-year residents act as chief on all services, leading the team in every aspect.

UMich Surgery have a really useful YouTube Q&A channel discussing the ins and outs of their program. Here’s a snapshot below…


University of California – San Francisco

Length of Accredited Training:5
Positions By Year:27/10/8/8/8
Total Number of Residents:61
PGY1 Annual Salary:$62,487

The UCSF General Surgery residency program is rigorous and demanding in order to train highly competent surgeons. Eight positions are offered each year in the Categorical General Surgery program to physicians who are expected to complete the program as chief residents.

The learning experience focuses on direct patient care. Residents take care of patients in many different practice settings like the flagship Moffitt/Long research hospital, the San Francisco General Hospital, and the UCSF/Mt. Zion Hospital. Rotations in various hospitals give residents broader exposure to clinical surgery than any other program in the country.

During the first two years of surgical training, residents acquire knowledge and skill in the pre-operative and post-operative management of patients. And the last three years of training emphasize the development of operative skills, surgical judgment, decision-making, and leadership.

The program lets residents engage in research activities for 2 or 3 years, beginning after the third clinical year. As an academic center, UCSF expects many residents are interested in academic careers. Therefore, research time is emphasized as a requirement for academic success.

You can see an intro to the program in the video below…


How Do General Surgery Residency Programs Work?

Training in general surgery involves completing four years of graduate medical education first before moving on to dedicated surgery residency programs.

Surgery programs are medium in training length, ranging from 5-7 years depending on fellowship options.

The specialty is one of the more competitive in the US. The average USMLE Step 1 score of individuals matching into the specialty is 237, while the average USMLE Step 2CK score is 249.

Residency programs for general surgery have around a 91% match rate.

After residency common subspecialties (fellowships) pursued include breast, cardiothoracic, colorectal, hand, minimally invasive, pediatric and vascular surgery.

How Many General Surgery Residency Programs Are There?

There are over 258 general surgery residency training programs accredited by the ACGME.

The examples above are considered the finest offered among those programs in the US and are ranked on criteria via peer assessment, residency director assessment, student selectivity, the mean MCAT score for the institution, the mean GPA of its matriculants, faculty resources, research activity and more.

The exact methodology is detailed in the U.S. News Best Medical Schools Rankings pages

How to Get Accepted Into a Top General Surgery Residency Program

Gaining admission into the top residency programs involves submitting a competitive application via ERAS, The Electronic Residency Application Service.

This is a centralized online application service that you’ll need to use in order to “match” into the programs above.

Most programs begin reading applications over the first couple of weeks of autumn/fall and invite applicants to interview in the weeks following.

Generally, general surgery residency program applications include the following:

  • A completed ERAS application
  • Personal statement/s
  • Supplemental statement/s (where requested)
  • Letters of recommendation from pediatricians (usually following the SLOR format)
  • A full, official medical school transcript
  • Your USMLE Step 1/COMLEX transcripts
  • Medical Student Performance Evaluation (MSPE)

Selection criteria are specific for each program but commonly applicants are scored on a combination of grades, clinical and research experiences, special interests, and anything else surgical departments/programs find relevant.

To be competitive, and stand a chance at matching into the best surgery programs, you’re going to need great Step 1 and Step 2 scores, research experience, impressive extracurriculars, and a solid letter of recommendation.


  • https://www.salary.com/research/salary/alternate/general-surgeon-salary
  • https://www.prospectivedoctor.com/how-competitive-is-a-general-surgery-residency/

If you found this article interesting, you may find the following a useful read: