MD vs DO (Doctor of Medicine vs Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine)

MD vs DO – Overview

When you visit a doctor, you have two options- MDs and DOs. Both of these medical professionals are similar in many ways. But in some areas, they both are different.

Everything you want to know about MDs and DOs is given in this article. Moreover, we have also provided a list of similarities and differences between DOs and MDs for a better understanding of these two terms.

Interestingly, both have similar duties and training procedures, but in some areas, they are different, which can confuse people. Let’s find out the differences between MDs and DOs.

What is an MD?

MD vs DO

MD vs DO – Doctor of Medicine

MD is a short form of Doctor of Medicine. They treat patients with various medical conditions with medications and conventional tools. They prescribe drugs, X-rays to diagnose special diseases or organs, and surgeries when needed. MDs are allopathic doctors who use various treatments, including medications and surgery.

MDs work as primary care doctors or family physicians. MDs can choose from different practice areas where they need additional degrees or education to achieve mastery. Here’s the list of professionals from which an MD can choose!

  • Pediatrics
  • Surgery
  • Geriatric Medicine
  • Psychiatry
  • Organs or Specific Body Parts

As noted above, most people prefer to go with the MD as they provide instant care and are easily available as they act as primary care doctors in the healthcare industry.

MDs pursue their education in allopathy, which is a part of modern medicine. In allopathic medicine, treatments include medications, surgery, and other conventional methods.

Doctors may order lab tests to diagnose conditions and then prescribe medications or other treatments based on those results.

Allopathic medicine is a primary subject in most schools for those pursuing their MD degrees.

What is a DO?

MD vs DO

MD vs DO – What is Doctor of Osteopathic

DO is a short form of Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine. Unlike MDs, DOs use a comprehensive approach, incorporating osteopathic manipulative treatment (OMT) alongside conventional treatments. DOs give special care to their patients as they use a holistic method that considers the patient’s mind, emotions, and body.

DOs also work as primary care doctors. They have special clinics or can work in hospitals to serve the patients. DOs, such as MDs, can also choose from several specialties to pursue their future career.

They can prescribe medicines and perform surgeries to treat patients. As mentioned above, DOs involve the patients’ minds and emotions while treating them. It’s a good way to treat patients suffering from various health conditions.

During their medical education, DOs study osteopathic medicine, including OMT and a holistic approach to patient care. As noted above, DOs involve the minds and emotions of the patients. They prefer to study the entire patient’s body while treating a specific medical condition.

In addition to the procedures and methods that MDs follow, DOs learn more about treating patients with the same methods by using osteopathic manual medicine (OMM).

DOs prefer a physical examination of the patient before prescribing any drugs or medical tests. It involves…

  • Feeling body parts such as joints, bones, and organs through the skin
  • Applying pressure to body parts for further study
  • Stretching out body parts to examine deeper

What Are the Similarities between MDs and DOs?

  • MDs and DOs diagnose patients with different health conditions using scientifically proven techniques. They follow a standard structure where they first examine the patient’s body, then prescribe their lab tests, and after that, they can prescribe drugs and try out methods.
  • Both MDs and DOs have to pass the standard 4-year medical course. After completing the 4-year medical degree program, they must practice residency for 3-7 years to earn their license for general practice.
  • MDs and DOs meet the same education and practice requirements to earn their license. Both professionals achieve their licenses from the same state licensing boards.
  • A licensed MD or DO can practice across the US, i.e., in all 50 states with the same license.
  • MDs and DOs have several specialties that are common across the US. In every specialty, there are medical professionals with MD or DO degrees.
  • The undergraduate medical path is the same for both professions. It starts with a bachelor’s degree, pre-medical coursework, and passing out MCAT exams.

What Are the Differences between MDs and DOs?

  • Unlike MDs, students who pursue osteopathic schools must complete 200 hours of courses on new techniques. The new manipulation techniques involve the entire human body, mind, and emotions. The DOs utilize all these techniques to treat the patients.
  • In the US, DOs are primary care providers, unlike MDs specializing in a particular field. MDs practice in a specific field, such as orthopedics, dermatology, cardiology, etc.
  • The majority of medical physicians in the US are MDs, and less than 10% of the medical physicians are DOs. The other medical professionals have earned their licenses from abroad and are now practicing in the US.
  • DOs practice mostly in rural areas, whereas MDs perform their duties in urban areas.
  • MDs take the United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE), while DOs can take either the USMLE or the Comprehensive Osteopathic Medical Licensing Examination (COMLEX-USA) for licensure.

Which medical profession is easier, MD or DO?

The acceptance rate for DOs is lower as the number of accredited programs for DOs is much lower compared to MDs. The specific number of programs can vary over time. It’s important to check current data for the most accurate number of DO and MD programs. Since more programs for MDs are available, most students prefer to go with the MD field.

Moreover, they have better options for choosing their specialty than the DOs with limited accredited programs. Admission competitiveness varies by program and year, and it’s not accurate to universally claim one is harder to get into than the other.

Which Profession is good for me, MD or DO

There is no clear answer to this question as it depends on the candidate choosing the right field per her future goal. Both professions are equal in most things. Only a few differences make both professions different from each other.

If a medical student wants to practice in a more varied field, then DO is a good choice. DOs use a holistic approach, considering the entire patient and using medications as part of a comprehensive treatment plan, not just for general health conditions. They first examine the patient’s body and mind and then prescribe medications for treatment.

On the other hand, MDs specialize in a particular field, such as skin, heart, eye, pediatrics, etc. MDs and DOs can specialize in any medical field, including ophthalmology or orthopedics. Your choice depends on your approach to medicine, not the specialty.

The Bottom Line:

MDs and DOs can practice in any medical specialty as the doors are open for both professions. It depends on the candidate which field is good for them as both have many things in common. Candidates should focus on the differences between these professions, which might clarify their doubts about choosing one of the two available options.

The need for both MD and DO in the United States keeps increasing. The number of healthcare premises is also growing rapidly. We hope this article helps us know the similarities and differences between DO and MD.

Consider this information and share it with others who might have questions about MD and DO designations.

See Also

Psychologist vs Psychiatrist

Endodontist vs Orthodontist

Optometrist vs Ophthalmologist


What is Roe vs Wade?

What is Forensic Nursing?

Current Version
March 12, 2024
Updated By
Franco Cuevas, MD

Follow us