How to earn an MD
Becoming a Doctor of Medicine requires a significant investment of time and money, but the reward can be well worth it. Before medical school, you’ll need to take the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT®) and earn a passing score. You’ll also need to build a portfolio of coursework and experience to help you gain admittance to medical school.
Medical school typically takes students four years to complete. You’ll learn the latest techniques and approaches for patient assessment, diagnosis and treatment. Medical schools commonly provide a combination of classroom, research and clinical experience. You’ll work alongside peers and healthcare professionals as you develop skills in general medicine.
You’ll choose a field to specialize in during your final year of medical school. Students have more than 120 options to choose from when specializing, including primary care, pediatrics, geriatrics, emergency medicine and family medicine.
After graduating, you’ll complete residency training to further develop skills in your specialty. Residency typically lasts three to seven years, depending on the field you’ve selected. During the residency portion of your education, you’ll treat patients under the supervision of more experienced physicians.
Even after you begin to practice as an MD, the educational portion of your career never stops. As practices change, patient needs evolve and research continues, MDs benefit from ongoing education to stay current.
What does PhD stand for?
A PhD, or Doctor of Philosophy, is a doctoral degree that recognizes graduates who have completed a full postsecondary program. Students can earn a PhD in more fields than philosophy. After completing the necessary coursework, original research and hands-on experience, you can earn a PhD in fields like science, the humanities and engineering.
Earning a PhD can help unlock a wide range of potential career opportunities. Computer engineers, research scientists, statisticians, healthcare administrators, professors, chemists and other careers commonly require a PhD degree, in addition to appropriate undergraduate study.
How to earn a PhD
Becoming a PhD is also a serious commitment that requires an investment of time, money and energy.
Here is what’s typically required to become a PhD:
- Complete a bachelor’s degree in your field
- Complete a master’s degree in an appropriate field
- Pass any program entrance exams
- Fulfill coursework, research and hands-on lab requirements in your program
- Finalize and defend your dissertation as a doctoral candidate (unless your program specifies otherwise)
It’s important to note that many PhD programs have different requirements, prerequisites and parameters for students. Check with your preferred institution for a more detailed explanation of these requirements.
What is a professional doctorate?
While some professional or practice-based doctorate programs are medical, others are designed for professionals in other fields. These programs are meant for scholar-practitioners in disciplines like education, business or psychology. One of the key differences between this degree and a PhD is the focus on applying research to a professional setting rather than conducting theoretical and research-focused studies. Often, programs are differentiated as academic versus professional.
Examples of doctoral degrees are Doctor of Education, Doctor of Nursing Practice and Doctor of Business Administration. Each of these programs focuses on a specific discipline and applying research in those areas to a professional setting.
How to earn a doctorate
While practitioner doctoral programs teach different skills, they all share common requirements. You’ll need to complete a bachelor’s degree in your field and sometimes a master’s degree, depending on program requirements.
After completing the necessary coursework and research, students also typically need to finish a supervised thesis and defend their dissertation or capstone project-specific coursework, research and hands-on labs alongside other students in the same field. However, this will depend on the specific program and its requirements.
What does the title “Dr.” really mean?
The term “doctor” or “Dr.” is commonly used today to describe a wide variety of occupations. Students who complete a doctoral degree can earn the title of “Dr.” even though they earned their credentials in a non-medical field like education or business management.
While a variety of professionals can earn a doctorate, the term is often still reserved for medical practitioners. In conventional use, doctors typically refer to medical physicians. However, it is appropriate to use “Dr.” if you graduated from any of the three programs discussed above.