Career Advising

Specialty Choice: Otolaryngology


Otolaryngologists are physicians trained in the medical and surgical management and treatment of patients with diseases and disorders of the ear, nose, throat and related structures of the head and neck. They diagnose and manage diseases of the sinuses, larynx, oral cavity, and upper pharynx as well as structures of the neck and face. They diagnose, treat, and manage specialty-specific disorders as well as many primary care problems in both children and adults.  (Source: The American Academy of Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery)

Associated Societies

Quick Facts

The following information comes from the National Resident Matching Program's Charting Outcomes in the Match 2014 (PDF)  based on matched applicants in the United States.    

Advice for MS1 and MS2 Students

Q: What particular activities should first and second year students get involved with who are interested in pursuing this specialty?

Otolaryngology is a competitive residency so doing well academically in the first two years of medical school is very important. High scores on Step 1 are expected. You can also get involved with the ENT interest group and try to shadow ENTs to see if this specialty really interests you. It is also recommended that you get involved with research projects early.

Q: Are research experiences important in your specialty?

Yes, most programs seek applicants with extensive research experience as well as presentations and publications.

Q: If so, do these need to be specialty specific research experiences?

Research experience is preferred in the area of ENT, but any research experience is better than no research experience

Q: Does class rank matter?

Yes, being in AOA gives you an advantage. Doing well in your first two years of medical school and on Step 1 is a must. 39 percent of U.S. seniors who match are AOA.

Advice for MS3 and MS4 Students

Q: When should I ask for letters of recommendation (LORs)?

Ideally you should ask for letters in May but absolutely no later than July, allowing your letter writers adequate time to upload your letter prior to the ERAS application submission date of Sept. 15. Your personal statement and CV should be ready as well as many letter writers will request this in order to write you a strong letter.

Q: How many LORs do you need?

Three or four

Q: Is a letter from a chair required?

Yes, you will need letters from chairs where you do your away rotations.

Q: Do all letters need to be written by members of this specialty?

At least three should be from ENTs. It helps if one is well known in the field, such as a chair.

Q: Do any letters need to be written by external institutions?

Yes, you will need letters from the institutions where you do your away rotations.

Q: Does your Step 2 CK score matter?


Q: What electives would you recommend for someone who is interested in pursuing this specialty?

ENT sub internship, SICU, allergy, radiology, sleep medicine.

Q: Should a student interested in this specialty do away rotations?

Yes. It helps if at least one of the away rotations is at a large academic hospital with a well-known department.

Q: If so, how many “aways” do you recommend and when should they be completed?

 Do as many away rotations as you need letters; one to three is recommended. Away rotations should be completed by early September of the application year in order to allow enough time to ask for a letter of recommendation from that institution.

Q: Which month is recommended to take off to interview?

December-January, Most programs only offer one or two interview dates so there is not a lot of flexibility in choosing your interview date. It’s good to have this time completely off.

Similar Specialties to Consider

Residency Programs

Available Fellowships

  • Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery
  • Otology
  • Neurotology and Skull Base Surgery
  • Head and Neck Surgical Oncology
  • Pediatric Otolaryngology
  • Rhinology-Allergy and Sinus
  • Laryngology
  • Sleep Medicine
  • Surgery

Looking into the Future/Changes in Health Care

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there is expected to be a significant boost in job growth for all physician specialties and surgery over the next few years. Otolaryngologists in particular are expected to be in great demand as over 35 million American suffer from sinus related conditions every year. Moreover as the elderly population continues to increase, there will be a growing need for professionals who can treat and manage hearing loss and other specific needs of the elderly. (Source: Cresswell, 2013)

Additional Information

See the Career Essentials Pilot Page regarding specialty specific advice for more detailed information and resources.


Last edited on 10/04/2016.