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Difference Between MD and PhD

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The main difference between MD and Ph.D. is that MD stands for Doctor of Medicine, while PhD stands for Doctor of Philosophy. MD and Ph.D. are higher degrees; however, they typically are in very different subject areas. The people with MD qualifications are medical professionals, whereas those with Ph.D. degrees are experts in various subjects in the medical or academic field.

What is MD?

md program
MD Program of Washington University

MD is the term used to describe a medical doctor, and the procedure for becoming MD is lengthy. The first step is that the prospective medical doctor needs to earn an undergraduate degree focusing on sciences like biology, chemistry or physics; pre-medical or humanities sciences, arts, or other areas of liberal arts.

The typical timeframe is 4 years for full-time students. The next step would be to apply to medical school, which lasts about four years, with the first two years called the pre-clinical period, focusing on subjects such as the human body and diseases.

The remaining two years are filled with the form of clerkships, which allow for a rotation through specializations as well as studying for and passing licensure exams. After graduating from medical school, medical doctors can stay for up to 7 years in residency programs, gaining additional education on the job in the specialization they choose.

What is Ph.D.?

phd students
Ph.D. students

Ph.D. is the term used to describe a Doctor of Philosophy. Ph.D. degrees can be obtained in various specializations like biochemistry or higher education and typically take at least 3 years to earn. To begin the process of becoming a Ph.D. one must first obtain an undergraduate degree.

This will take approximately four years to finish for full-time students. A master's degree, which requires about 2 years for full-time college students, can also be required, but it can be obtained along when pursuing the Ph.D.

After being accepted into a doctoral degree program, the Ph.D. student must take classes in a particular area of specialization and enroll in colloquia or residency programs. After all the coursework is finished, Ph.D. students must often pass their comprehensive exams before they can begin writing, researching, and defending dissertations.

Differences between MD and PhD


The person seeking MD is enrolled in graduate school to become a physician. While in the graduate program, they select an area of specialization in medicine and get knowledge in the field before working independently. Ph.D. students can choose any profession, including medical. While MD is a means of certifying a graduate to manage patients in medical facilities, a Ph.D. requires completing extensive research to be a specialist in the discipline.

To earn their Ph.D., a Ph.D. defends a dissertation or research report where they present their findings to an advisory committee, which confirms the applicant's contribution in the area. In lieu of writing dissertations, MD students demonstrate their expertise by demonstrating their knowledge. They are required to complete residencies and internships as part of their studies that allow them to apply their expertise and gain knowledge from experienced doctors before performing their work under supervision.


The range of an MD or Ph.D. program differs based on the institution of study; however, they share many features. MD programs prepare medical students to pursue careers in various areas of medicine with an education centered around biomedical sciences as well as medical research and clinical rotations. The program gives students the training they require to choose an area of medicine that suits their abilities, preferences, and goals.

Ph.D. students concentrate almost entirely on conducting, composing, and participating in research throughout their academic careers. When MD graduates apply their degree to their professional endeavors and research, those who hold the Ph.D. continue their education long after graduating. Doctoral programs at universities usually give students opportunities to research outside the university through a study abroad, working as research assistants or in other programs that permit them to develop their research.


MD and Ph.D. programs require a high cost due to the length of studies; however, Ph.D. programs that run for more than four years can be more expensive than MD programs. The cost of tuition, textbooks, and other materials is contingent on whether students decide to go to an institution that is private or public. Certain Ph.D. students can qualify for grants or scholarships that pay for their research expenses.

Comparison Chart: MD Vs Ph.D.

Full formDoctor of MedicineDoctor of Philosophy
Time of completionFour years are required to complete an MD degreeIt can take between four and seven years to earn a Ph.D. degree
Writing prescriptionsMD degree holders can prescribe medications to patientsPh.D. holders aren't able to prescribe drugs to patients
Degree completionIt requires two years of study and two additional years of rotating work to earn an MD degreeTo earn a Ph.D. doctorate, one needs to submit the thesis


Can I Earn Ph.D. and MD Degrees Simultaneously?

Yes, you can get MD as well as Ph.D. degrees simultaneously. This program is designed for those who wish to become physicians and scientists. The requirements for each degree usually remain similar; however, the sequence of the courses could be slightly different. Although the time it takes to earn the bachelor's and master's degrees remain the same, at 4 years and two years, it could take around 8 years to earn the MD/Ph.D. degree in combination.

Does MD the Only Kind in Medical School?

A Doctor of Medicine degree is not the only medical degree. It also includes another degree called the Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine degree. While the educational and practical requirements might be similar, those pursuing the DO degree will focus more on holistic.

Is Ph.D. Harder Than MD?

Contrary to what academic elites claim, Doctoral programs for professionals (MD, DO, JD and so on) generally are more difficult. The MD is a lot more difficult to attain than other degrees. PhDs aren't comparable to MDs.


MD and Ph.D. each can be earned when you have completed a bachelor's. The timeframe for MD degrees is 4 years, while the timeframe for a Ph.D. is from four to seven years. MD degrees are more advanced qualifications within the medical field. A Ph.D. is a doctorate that can be completed in various areas. MD graduates are doctors in practice. Ph.D. holders mostly perform research in the field but do not prescribe prescriptions.

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About the Author: Nicolas Seignette

Nicolas Seignette, who holds a scientific baccalaureate, began his studies in mathematics and computer science applied to human and social sciences (MIASHS). He then continued his university studies with a DEUST WMI (Webmaster and Internet professions) at the University of Limoges before finishing his course with a professional license specialized in the IT professions. On 10Differences, he is in charge of the research and the writing of the articles concerning technology, sciences and mathematics.
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