Career Advising

Specialty Choice: Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation

Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation

Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation (PM&R) physicians, also known as physiatrists, treat a wide variety of medical conditions affecting the brain, spinal cord, nerves, bones, joints, ligaments, muscles, and tendons. Physiatrists utilize cutting-edge as well as time-tested treatments to maximize function and quality of life. (Source: American Academy of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation)

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?

Do things that relate to PM&R (i.e., working with disabled people, working athletic events, or tackling public health issues).

Q: Are research experiences important in your specialty?

It helps, especially for the most highly ranked programs, but it is not required.

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


Q: Does class rank matter?

Not particularly but doing well in the first two years of medical school is always looked on favorably during residency interviews and prepares you to do well on your Step 1 exam. Doing well on third year clerkships (especially internal medicine, neurology, pediatrics and surgery core clerkships) is important as well. 5.5 percent of U.S. seniors who match are in 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?


Q: Is a letter from a chair required?


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

No, but at least two should be.

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


Q: Does your Step 2 CK score matter?

 A good score can always make you a more competitive candidate.

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

PM&R, radiology, neurology, rheumatology, orthpaedic surgery, geriatrics.

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


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

At least one to ensure PM&R is right for you.

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

November, but will likely use entire interview season (October-January).

Similar Specialties to Consider

  • Anesthesiology
  • Neurology
  • Psychiatry

Residency Programs

Available Fellowships

  • Spinal Cord Injury Rehabilitation Medicine
  • Pain Management
  • Pediatric Rehabilitation Medicine

Looking into the Future/Changes in Health Care

The demand for physiatrists will continue to increase with the aging population.

Additional Information

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


Last edited on 10/04/2016.