PhD vs MD – Differences Explained



A PhD and an MD are both doctorates, but there are important differences between the two degrees.

An MD is a Doctor of Medicine, and a PhD is a Doctor of Philosophy. An MD program focuses on applying medicine to diagnose and treat patients. A doctoral program of study focuses on research (in any field) to increase knowledge.

Most people with an MD degree go on to work as physicians in some capacity, while those with a PhD often become researchers or professors. It’s important to keep in mind that both degrees can lead to a number of different career paths.


The article will outline the key differences between an MD and PhD. If you’re not sure which degree would be best for your goals, then read on to find out what each offers in terms of career prospects!

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Meaning of PsyD & PhD

Let’s look at the meaning of PsyD and PhD in depth.

What is a MD?

A MD is a Doctor of Medicine. This is a professional degree that is earned after completing four years of medical school. After completing medical school, MDs must complete a residency program before they can start practising medicine.

According to Cambridge Dictionary,

“Doctor of Medicine: a degree that someone must have to work as a doctor, or a person who has this degree”.

Modern medicine is an important part of our society and those that practice it is known as doctors. There’s one type, in particular, that would be called “allopathic,” which means they use drugs or surgery to treat symptoms and diseases rather than looking at what’s causing your illness from a holistic point-of-view like traditional healers might do (though there can still sometimes come together).

What is a PhD?

A PhD is a Doctor of Philosophy. This is an academic degree that is earned after completing a doctoral program of study. A PhD program focuses on research (in any field) to increase knowledge.

According to the Cambridge Dictionary,

“Doctor of philosophy: the highest college or university degree, or someone who has this”.

The PhD is a stepping stone to becoming an academician. You will not have the same requirements as someone who attended medical school or completed their residency program, but instead must defend your research findings and produce a thesis for evaluation by others within this field of study

What is the Difference Between MD and PhD? 

It’s now time to compare the two degrees side by side, utilizing the definitions of PhD and MD.



PhD is a Doctor of PhilosophyMD is a Doctor of Medicine
PhD program focuses on researchMD program focuses on applying medicine
People with a PhD often become researchers or professorsMost people with MD degree go on to work as physicians
PhD does not have complete a residency programMD is required to complete a residency program
The requirements for a PhD requires the completion of a doctoral program of studyThe requirements for MD include completing four years of medical school
PhD is focused on increasing knowledge.MD is focused on diagnosing and treating patients

 Course structure and duration

The typical duration of an MD program is four years, with two years of coursework and classroom-based learning followed by two years of rotational employment in a clinical setting (such as a hospital). To become an MD, you must first attend a medical school (accredited by the Liaison Committee on Medical Education) and complete their resident program. The curriculum teaches students how to diagnose patients while also practising clinical medicine.

The length of a PhD program ranges from 6 to 8 years, and it is designed to conduct research. A PhD alone is insufficient in most cases for physicians to prescribe medication.

The process of earning a PhD starts with writing and defending an original thesis. There are many steps to this, but it’s important that you know what all these entail so there aren’t any surprises along the way. The final stage of a PhD program is the viva voce, or oral examination, where you will be required to answer questions about your research from a panel of experts.

MD vs PhD: Which one is better?

So, which one is better? It depends on your goals and interests. If you want to be a practising physician, then an MD is the better choice. However, if you’re interested in research or teaching at the university level, then a PhD would be the better degree. There are advantages and disadvantages to both MD and PhD programs, so it’s important that you choose the one that’s right for you.

Let’s see the advantages and disadvantages of both MD & PhD.

MD Program:

Advantages of MD program

Disadvantages of MD program

You will be able to practise medicine after completing your residency program.You will have to complete a four-year medical school program.
You will have a more direct impact on patients’ lives.You may have to complete a residency program.
You will have the opportunity to work in a variety of medical settings.You will have less time for research and writing than you would if you earned a PhD.

PhD Program:

Advantages of a PhD program

Disadvantages of a PhD program

You will have the opportunity to focus on research.You may not be able to practise medicine.
You will have more time for writing and publishing papers.You will have to complete a doctoral program of study.
You will have the opportunity to teach at the university level.You may have to write and defend an original thesis.

What Kinds of Jobs Can MD Prepare You For?

There are many different types of jobs that an MD can prepare you for, including

  • Physician
  • Surgeon
  • Anesthesiologist
  • Emergency medicine physician
  • Family medicine physician
  • Psychiatrist
  • Pediatrician

What Kinds of Jobs Can a PhD Prepare You For?

There are many different types of jobs that a PhD can prepare you for, including

  • Research scientist
  • University professor
  • Medical researcher
  • Pharmaceutical researcher
  • Health policy analyst
  • Medical writer


MD and PhD programs are both excellent choices for those interested in pursuing careers in medicine or research. Both degrees will provide you with the skills and knowledge necessary to be successful in your chosen field. The decision of which degree to pursue should be based on your specific goals and interests. Whichever degree you choose, you can be sure that you will have a rewarding and fulfilling career.

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