Difference Between Residents and Intern

Edited by Diffzy | Updated on: October 20, 2023


Difference Between Residents and Intern

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Medical education is a type of education related to the practice of becoming a medical practitioner, which includes the category of initial training and additional training to become a physician. The initial training can be medical school or internship. The additional training includes residency, fellowship, or continuing medical education. The medical students are provided with internships and residency for their experience and training. The students doing residency are called residents, while the students doing internships are called interns.

Residents are the doctors who work at hospitals or the offices of doctors to continue their education and training in a specialized field of medicine. The span of the period till the residents work is known as residency. Doctors provide care and look after their well-being during their residency. Residents develop and learn new skills necessary for their selected field. They perform didactic sessions and provide direct care to the patients under the supervision of medical staff and other senior trainees.

Interns are the medical doctors who are responsible for their learning, assessment, and attendance at the structured learning sessions during their placements. They maintain an up-to-date portfolio. Interns perform specific activities, which becomes a great opportunity for them to learn new skills or competency. After completion of medical school, they engage in one year of training i.e., internship before residency. For example- an intern can be a pediatrics or internal medicine doctor who work and practice under the supervision of a senior team member.

Residents vs Intern

A resident is a doctor in residency at a hospital or other medical faculties. They are graduated from medical school and seek additional or optional training in their specific field of interest. The majority of the doctors complete their residency program either as a doctor in the program or in a post-medical school. The residents work in hospitals and perform medical procedures and exams under the supervision of an attending physician. The period of the residency varies for different doctors. A medical residency lasts for two to three years for a family doctor and seven or more years for a surgeon. The residents provide direct care to the patients under the guidance of a physician or a resident senior to them.

On the contrary, an intern is a medical school graduate who works in their first year of training in a clinic or a hospital. They remain interns for only a year under the guidance or supervision of senior doctors. During the period of their internship, interns are assigned multiple tasks and assignments in different fields before selecting one particular type of field. They practice the medical specialties, which is different from the specialty done by them at the end. The interns do not start practicing the specialty from day one. They practice in the form of internships. For example- if an intern is going in ophthalmology, then his/her first year will be in surgery or medicine. Similarly, if one is going into dermatology, then his/her first year will also be in surgery or medicine.

Becoming a doctor involves various experiences and milestones, including residency and internship. However, interns and residents are not the same things. These two terms are used interchangeably and consist of their own goals and prerequisites, which make them different from each other.

Difference Between Residents and Interns in Tabular Form

Parameters of ComparisonResidentsIntern
DefinitionResidents are the doctors who have passed their internship and are under specialized training.Interns are doctors who are enrolled in post-medical schools for practice.
PeriodThe period of training of residents ranges from 2 to 7 years.The period of internship training ranges from 1 year maximum.
Practice of medicineResidents can not practice medicine independently.Interns can practice medicine only under the supervision of established doctors.
PurposeThe residency aims to prepare the residents for independent practice through extensive training.The internship aims to equip interns with the skills and knowledge required for independent medical practice.
AreasResidents may specialize in a particular area of medicine.Interns rotate through different departments.
DutiesThe duties of residents are to check the patient and perform the initial tasks.The duties of an intern are to admit the patient, and test blood.
ExamplesFor example- a medical resident who wants to become a pediatrician would complete the residency in a pediatric clinic.For example- clinical lab intern, brain science intern, and policy return.

What are Residents?

Residency, also referred to as postgraduate training, is a stage of graduation in the field of medical education. The individuals practicing or performing training under residency are known as residents. In general terms, residents may be qualified physicians with a degree in MD, DO, MBBS, or MBChB, a veterinarian with a degree in DVM/VMD or BVSc/BVMS, a dentist with a degree in DDS or DMD, a podiatrist with a degree in DPM or a pharmacist with a degree in PharmD. They practice specific medical specialties in a hospital or clinic under the supervision of an attending physician or consultant directly or indirectly. The training of the residents is followed by a fellowship or sub-specialty training.

First-year residents are referred to as PGY-1 or post-graduate year 1 or interns. They become residents from the second year of their residency. The resident doctors provide direct care to their patients. They diagnose, treat, and manage the health conditions of the patients. The junior residents start the practice with less complicated tasks and more supervision of the senior trainees. As they gain more education and experience, their responsibility starts increasing.

According to Kunal Sidhu, MD, a typical day of a resident starts with a 7-7:30 am "sign out". The overnight resident fills the place of the morning resident on patients, and then the morning resident prepares to work. Medical residents start taking rounds and discussing the patients with the attending physician after the sign-out. After completing the daily rounds, they begin their work for the day. The rounds include residents visiting every patient to assess their condition, progress, and treatment. The daily works of the residents are to order tests, review their results, complete discharge paperwork, and many more. Most of the medical residents attend a lecture period dedicated to conferences and education during the day. The rest of the shift is used to complete the tasks before leaving for them.

Before becoming a physician, prospective doctors must complete a residency. Residency lengths vary based on the programs but typically take three and seven years to complete. The length depends on the time required to learn and implement the art of a specialty. On the other hand, the shortest residencies include family medicine. Surgical residencies are the longest programs due to the training's complexity. Hands-on learning in these programs is more limited than others because residents are not allowed to perform full surgeries.

There are many organizations and associations to guide residents throughout their programs:-

  1. American Board Of Family Medicine – It is a non-profit independent medical association of American physicians who practice in family medicine, and its sub-specialties. It was founded in February 1969. The president of the association is Warren Neuton.
  2. American Board Of Urology – The American Board of Urology or ABMS was established in 1933. It is a non-profit organization that represents 24 board areas of special medicine. ABMS is the largest physician-led specialty certification organization in the US.
  3. American College of Preventive Medicine – ACPM is an American non-profit organization focused on the practice, research, publication, and teaching of evidence-based preventive medicine. It publishes the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, which is their official journal. It is headquartered in Washington, DC. United States.
  4. Asian Pacific American Medical Student Association – APAMSA was founded in 1905. It is the nation’s largest medical organization representing Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander medical and pre-medical physicians. Joy Ce Lee is the national president of the association.

What are Interns?

A medical or surgical intern is a physician in training who has completed medical school and pursued a medical degree. They do not have a license to practice medicine unsupervised. After graduation, prospective doctors serve a one-year internship. It allows them to practice medicine under the supervision of an experienced doctor.

Medical internships expose selected applicants to various specialties like emergency medicine, pediatrics, surgery, pathology, and gynecology. Interns participate in evaluating patients, managing patients in emergencies, and assisting in procedures. They also help medical professionals in performing vital tests and recording physical examinations. Medical interns become competent in interdisciplinary communication and participation. This helps them to manage common medical and surgical conditions.

Once a internship is completed then, according to the American Association of Medical Colleges, doctors can start their practice. But if they wish to become specialist in some field then, they must select a residency. They can select from various options and become specialists such as pediatricians, gynecologists, surgeons, oncologists, endocrinologists, allergists, and dermatologists.

Fulfilling responsibilities is considered an integral part of a medical intern’s life:-

  • Interns obtain a medical history from which they make an initial physical examination of patients, their documents, and record provisional, diagnoses, suggest primary investigations, and provide treatments by discussion with a senior team member.
  • Interns attend and practice in all clinical rounds done by the respective department physicians. They also participate in the scientific activities organized by the department.
  • Interns adhere to the attendance code observed in the departments they are assigned to.

Interns go through different phases of training, which are known as rotations. For example – interns at the John Peter Smith Hospital in Ft. Worth, Texas, part of the JPS health network go through internal medicine, emergency medicine, general surgery, family medicine, pediatrics, and other rotations. The salary for medical interns varies widely, with no national standard pay scale. For example – Zippia.com lists the average salary for medical interns in the US as of April 2021 as $56832.

 Some of the organizations for medical interns across the world are:-

  • World Health Organisation – WHO is a specialized agency of the United Nations responsible for international public health. It is headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland. It has 6 regional offices and 150 field offices worldwide.
  • Association of Internes and Medical Students – AIMS was an American progressive political social organization composed of medical students and interns. It advocated for issues like national health insurance, antidiscrimination in medical schools, and salary for interns. It was established in 1941 by the merger of two predecessor organizations, ICA and AMS.
  • National Medical Commission – NMC is an Indian regulatory body of 33 members which regulates medical education and medical professionals. It replaced the Medical Council of India on 25 September 2020.
  • International Medical Relief – IMR is a non-governmental organization headquartered in Colorado, United States. It aims to offer healthcare services to marginalized populations worldwide. It was founded in 2002.

Main Differences Between Residents and Interns (In Points)

  • Residents are the medical doctors practicing or performing training under residency programs. While interns are the medical doctors who work in their first year at a clinic or hospital.
  • Many residents work in hospitals to complete their residency. On the other hand, after completing an internship of one year, an intern enters residency and becomes a resident.
  • A resident physician is also referred to as a senior house officer or a senior resident medical officer. Whereas interns are also referred to as first-year residents.
  • Resident doctors have a minimum of one year of experience. While intern doctors do not have any prior experience.
  • The residency consists of various levels like junior resident, senior resident, and chief resident. On the other hand, there are no levels of internship.
  • Resident doctors focus on their chosen specialty. Whereas intern doctors do not have any primary focus and are trained in various medical sectors.
  • William Osler established America's first formal residency program at Johns Hopkins University in 1889. Modern US internships began in the late nineteenth century.
  • Massachusetts General Hospital, the Johns Hopkins Hospital, the Mayo Clinic, and the Cleveland Clinic are some of the best hospitals that offer medical residency programs. On the other hand, International Medical Aid, connect-123, African Impact, projects abroad, and Czech hospital placements provide opportunities for medical interns.


In short, an intern is a doctor in their first year of residency after graduating from medical school, while a resident is a doctor in residency at a hospital or other medical facility. Despite their association in the same field, they are distinguished from each other based on their practice, years of training, duties, and others.


  • zippia.com
  • uhphawaii.org
  • careers.umbc.edu


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"Difference Between Residents and Intern." Diffzy.com, 2024. Tue. 16 Jul. 2024. <https://www.diffzy.com/article/difference-between-residents-and-intern>.

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