MD vs DO | Different Kinds of Doctors

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Have you ever dreamed of becoming a licensed doctor? You can build your practice through various training and experience. MD is different from a DO in the way that they train. Most doctors have MD which is a Doctor of Medicine. A DO is a Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine. There’s a different viewpoint of each program and its important that you devote yourself to research which one is better for you.

Each degree has a different set of specialities. MDs are known to be more generalized, however DOs receive more skills for field such as musculoskeletal training. MDs are also more common, while DOs make up a small portion of medical students. Continue reading to find the degree that works for you. 

Medical Degree Guide

Have you been drawn to the medical field? The medical field has an array of specialities you can choose from. There are countless specialities so you want to choose the one that is right for you. The word “doctor” and “MD” are usually interchangeable and licensed doctors can hold either degree.

Medical school will take around 4-6 years. Each year will advance in difficulty so you want to choose a degree that you love. If you could imagine yourself in the long run with the degree you want to consider a MD or DO. It’s best to see if you could envision yourself with the degree.

Each degree will have its pros and cons. Overall you want to see what’s more important to you. Each degree will have the same common ground of patient care and prescribing medicine. The main difference is learning a new set of patient skills.

Before you decide to invest all your time it's important to look over the similarities and differences. You can decide which program best matches with your career goals. It’s best to do a comprehensive comparison so you can see the distinct differences. You want to look at everything from philosophy to how each degree teaches patient care. 

Two Different Philosophies

The MD program is focused on the Allopathic method. They both teach students the fundamental requirements of how to become licensed doctors. The Allopathic medicine is the classical form of medicine. This method is diagnosing and treating diseases in hospital settings whether it be through pediatric or family care. 

The Allopathic route is a traditional way of learning how to become a doctor for most medical residents. This will be convenient because you’ll have a set community to go by and you can build your network. Since the majority of medical students go this route it can be easy to get connected with the people around you. 

The DO program associates mainly with osteopathic medicine which enables the patient to have diagnoses more than treating the symptoms. It helps the physician look at the patient more holistically. Both degrees cover the main ethics, training, and skills you need for medical school.

Osteopathic medicine is also growing in popularity. More and more medical students are taking interest in this practice. These programs may be slightly less competitive than allopathic medical schools, however it can focus on alternative therapies and disease prevention. 

The Similarities of MD and DO

It’s common for people to look at MD and DO as the same for its main purpose. The practice answer would be the capacity of each degree to perform surgeries, seeing patients, and prescribing medicine. Also in the 4th year of each degree the DOs can apply for allopathic by completing the USMLE exams.

For DOs they have the freedom to do any kind of speciality because they’re known to be more holistic The main difference is only that osteopathic manipulative treatment which is another way to treat patients. At the end of the day both degrees can help you treat each patient to the best of your ability.

The common ground between the two degrees is the similarity in training and practice. You’ll also go through a similar undergarade path with a bachelor’s degree that is followed by pre-med coursework. Once you do attend medical school you’ll be exposed to more specific set of choices.

Each degree will have the same state licensing boards and both be accountable for practicing medicine. You’ll be able to prescribe medications and treat patients nationwide. If you continue your process you can pursue a career in a speciality field or go into surgery. 

What does a DO Believe In?

The Osteopathic philosophy depends on the belief that all parts of the body come together. It means that each body part leans on each other and influence each other. They also have a focus on disease prevention. Their main focus is on the body parts and how each student should primarily focus on the functions of the body as a whole.

During your osteopathic training you’ll receive training on osteopathic manipulative treatment also known as OMT. This will be a hands-on approach to diagnose and treat any part of the patient. This is known to treat the patient as a whole. 

DO doctors are known to be better at treating the patient as a whole and DOs take pride in this process. With this belief you could also enter different facilities such as dermatology, surgery, and emergency. It’s focuses on prevention and primary care which is greet for patient doctor relationships.

Osteopathic medicine emphasizes the interrelated aspects of all body parts. It means that in order for the whole body to heal. These DO physicians will look beyond your symptoms are try to look at your lifestyle all together. They take into consideration how environmental factors affect your wellbeing. 

All Good Physicians Practice Holistically Both DO and MD

Often it's common for a DO and MD to be seen as different, however overall the main focus is to treat patients. These interpersonal skills is a huge part of physician practice. A good physician takes these factors into consideration no matter what degree you have. There’s the training portion of medical school, however there’s the part where you as a doctor can take the extra step to care about your patients.

This means that you look at the overall picture of a patient’s situation and you break it down carefully. Combining both the patient’s situation with their medical history, will allow you to get an overall consensus of each diagnosis. Also this means that the check ups will be occasional and consistent.

A strong doctor will look at the patient’s situation on all aspects. Whether or not you have a DO or MD you can consider the wellbeing of your patients by making connections between their physical and mental health. This means taking into account their diet and lifestyle.

Treating each patient holistically is a common trait that all doctors share. The way that you decide to treat your patient will depend on how your practice, but its not dependent on the degree you have. 

DO Doctors are Less Common Than MDs

Do you want to stand out in medical school? One of the good things about getting a Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine is that it's not as common as MDs. This means that when you’re searching for employment offers you can be sought after because of your specific concentration. 

The estimate amount of practicing physicians is around 800,000, while the amount of DOs is 50,000. The rest of the physicians acquire a MD, making that 750,000 remaining. The fact that DOs are less than 10% of the practicing doctors show the amount of imbalance between the two degrees.

Since DOs are less common it can allow you to work in practices that focus greatly on your speciality. The MD will continue to remain the most common degree even though more students are interested in the DO process. DOs are recognized as a strong candidate for job employment as well as patient care speciality. 

Increasingly, more medical schools are integrated different aspects of each program so no matter what degree you choose you’ll be well exposed to the path to strong patient care. DOs are also acknowledged in specific regions of the US and will be taking more classes on hands-on skills.

MD vs DO: Origins and History

The history of medicine goes back all the way to the early 1600s as the groups were split into three: surgeons, apothecaries, and physicians. Each physician was exposed to perform surgery and prescribe medication. The training of each medical society continued to develop and the practice became normalized in 1760.

When the American Medical Association was founded the main educational requirements formed the degree for Doctor of Medicine. This provided students with the MD degree nationwide. The AMA facilitated a program with lecture and dissection laboratory which helped start the MD program.

Later on the osteopathic medicine was started by Dr. Andrew Taylor Still in 1874. It continued with the philosophy that its known today which is that the body system is all dependent on each other. Since this practice is known for its holistic care it produces more physicians to go into primary care.

Today most students who get the DO degree work in family medicine, internal medicine, and gynecology. You can still become a surgeon with this degree by going into subspecialities. The history of the DO degree was made for specialized attention and its still being shown today. 

Comparing the Med School and Residency Journey

You may be wondering how different is the schooling? This is a common concern of those who need to decide which program is the best for them. It’s not exactly the same, but it's not too different either. So you shouldn’t be too worried and make this a complete deal breaker.

Let’s begin with the similarities of the MD and DO training. Each degree requires a 4-year completion of your bachelors degree. This is required for each, including the premed coursework of biology, organic chemistry, biochemistry, and statistics. You will also be required to take the MCAT for both and your residency will take around 3-7 years, depending on your specialty choice.

The difference in training is that there are MD programs in the US than DO programs. Also the MD applicants use AMCAs applications, while they offer more dual programs such as completing your PhD. There are fewer programs for DO dual-degree programs.

There’s also a difference in the exams that you must pass. The MDs-in-training need to pass the USMLE exams, while the DOs must take the COMLEX exams. Some DOs complete both exams to apply for a larger range of residency programs.

Is Osteopathic Medical School Easier to Get Into?

There’s a stigma that Osteopathic Medical School is the easier route because they have been seen as less competitive, but this is mainly based on the average of stats. Osteopathic schools are based on the student as a whole rather than just their academic performance. 

It's more than MCAT and grades because the Osteopathic medical schools want to look at your clinical experience as well as your consistent reputation. Even though your academic scores may not be as high as MD candidates the DO schools still factor in your entire application as a whole. 


The acceptance rate was lower than for MD programs so it really depends on how they view you as a whole candidate. The Osteopathic Medical School have more nontraditional students. This is especially more appealing to older students who have experience with other careers.

If you’re thinking about going for a career change later on in your life around your 40s or 50s, you can consider the DO program. If you always wanted to enter the medical field, but had your doubts the DO program works in your favor. This is great because it provides a wide range of students that you can still find community in.

MD vs DO Salary Difference

Each salary is comparable, however the MD degree is known to associate with higher salaries. This is not because of the degree you’re provided with, but with the amount of experience you’ll be exposed to. Since MD degree are more common they greater access to build their network and resume.

However, whether or not you hold a MD or DO if you hold the same position and experience you can expect your salary to be the same. The biggest factor to see your salary difference is in your speciality. The DOs are exposed to more primary care which has less pay than procedure specialities.

MDs are known to work in metropolitan areas with higher cost of living which can give you a higher salary. Both salaries are comparable, but MDs can also practice medicine internationally. DOs have more training on manipulative medicine so they could secure more employment in this region.

The allopathic doctors are more common so it can be easier to build up your salary rate. For osteopathic doctors you can still find benefits because of the specific needs that each osteopathic medicine looks for. 

The Myths of Osteopathic Medicine

For Osteopathic Medicine there are more negative stereotypes associated with this degree. Our team wants to dispel this negativity and show you that both degrees have strong components to offer. The first myth is that DOs are not real doctors, however the DO applicants complete an almost identical schooling as MDs.

The other myths include DOs have limited rights and are just similar to chiropractors. These myths dissuade people to choose DOs, but DOs contribute to the wide care of families and children all over America. It’s important to highlight their pros because they are a vital part of osteopathic medicine. 

osteopathic examination

They can still practice internationally once they receive the approval from Osteopathic practices abroad. It’s more than chiropractors because they’re dealing with the patient as a whole and determining the bodily functions and their overall wellbeing. 

One of the differences is that osteopathic philosophy focuses on the body healing itself through local functioning. The self-healing capability shows how you can change someone’s health through a range of motion and powerful positioning.

Make an Educated Decision About Both

Don’t make your decision based on stigmas or generalizations, make a well-rounded educated decision. This can help you in the long-run because making a career decision is a long-term commitment. Making an informed decision will help you minimize regrets and doubts in medical school.

Think about which degree do you think will benefit you the most? For MDs is a great route if you’re planning to go into the traditional MD route. This can benefit you greatly in job security and networking. Since the majority of medical students choose MD you’ll have an easier time finding instruction and internships.

For DOs if you believe in their philosophy and connect to working in primary care this is a strong degree for you. Look at all the aspects of local functioning and how much you care about patient care performance. Both degrees will serve your passion for medicine! 

Colin Ma
 

As the first hire of Study Prep Lounge I primarily help with growth strategy, but also assisted with managing our small team of writers and designers. Another aspect of work I've taken up is writing and I thoroughly enjoy it! I grew up in Arcadia, CA, and went to school at University of California, Santa Barbara before transferring to University of California, Irvine where I got my BS in Computer Science. I am currently working full time in software and am also fulfilling my prerequisites so I can apply to Medical School.

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