When pre-meds apply to med school, prospective MD and DO students face similar requirements. They must have a bachelor’s degree and have completed specific prerequisite coursework. Both MD programs and osteopathic schools require the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) too.
However, average GPA and MCAT scores can vary between allopathic medical schools (MD programs) and osteopathic medical schools (DO programs). Typically, MD schools have higher average GPA and average MCAT requirements than DO schools.
Applying to medical school in the United States typically involves one of two primary application services:
Please note: Medical students applying to schools in Texas will also need to use the Texas Medical & Dental Schools Application Services (TMDSAS).
Use this quick guide to check character lengths:
|Application||Personal Statement Character Limit||Activities Section||Most Meaningful Activities|
|MD (AMCAS)||5300 characters (including spaces)||700 characters (including spaces)||3 can be selected as a “most meaningful activity.” You’ll have an additional 1325 characters for these|
|DO (AACOMAS)||5300 characters (including spaces)||600 characters (including spaces)||Not applicable|
Remember, both systems require a considerable amount of time and effort to complete, so it’s essential to start preparing early to ensure a timely and successful application.
Both allopathic and osteopathic medical students spend their first years of med school on classroom and laboratory coursework in subjects like biochemistry, anatomy, and biomedical ethics.
They then spend the final two years in clinical rotations across various medical specialties such as pediatrics, family medicine, and internal medicine.
One main difference in the training DOs receive is the special focus on the musculoskeletal system. In DO programs, over 200 hours of instruction in osteopathic manipulative medicine (OMM) or osteopathic manipulative treatment (OMT) have to be completed.
This unique approach equips osteopathic physicians with a more whole-body understanding of how an injury or illness in one part of the body can affect the rest. OMM/OMT have similarities to chiropractic adjustments, but they aren’t the same thing.
To be a medical doctor, students of both programs will be assessed on their application of knowledge, concepts, and principles they’ve learned. They will also have to demonstrate their ability to provide effective patient care.
The licensure for MD and DO graduates differ. MD students take the United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE). This exam consists of 3 steps, with the third step taken after the first year of MD residency.
DO graduates are required to take the Comprehensive Osteopathic Medical Licensing Examination (COMLEX). The COMLEX includes a section on OMM, reflecting the osteopathic emphasis on the musculoskeletal system and a whole-person approach to treatment.
Residency is a 3 to 7-year-long postgraduate training program that students take after getting their DO or MD degree. During this time, a resident had the opportunity to hone their skills for a particular specialty.
Both MD and DO graduates apply for residency programs through the National Resident Matching Program (NRMP), often referred to as “The Match.”
Both DOs and MDs can practice in any specialty, but due to the holistic nature of osteopathy, osteopathic doctors are more often seen in primary care specialties and medical practices.
According to the AAMC’s most recent Physician Specialty Data Report, 32% of MDs practice in primary care fields (including family medicine, internal medicine, and pediatrics). The AOA reports 57% of DOs practice in primary care.
Background: In 2020, the AOA and the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME) completed a 5-year transition to a single accreditation system for all U.S. residency programs. Before this time, DO graduates had the opportunity to to match for residency spots via NMRP or the American Osteopathic Association (AOA) Match.
This merger allows DO graduates to compete for the same residency spots as MD graduates, having one residency match, and further aligning the training paths of MDs and DOs.
We can help you match with the residency of your choice with comprehensive coaching.
Choosing whether an MD or DO path is right for you depends largely on your own personal philosophy about healthcare.
Is a DO more prestigious than an MD? The prestige of an MD versus a DO is largely a matter of perspective. While some perceive the MD degree as more prestigious due to the longer history of allopathic medicine and its representation in specialized fields, both MDs and DOs are equally qualified to practice medicine in all 50 states.
Why choose a DO over an MD? If you align more with a holistic approach to medicine, a focus on preventive care, and a strong interest in the musculoskeletal system, a DO program might be a good fit for you.
If you’re drawn to a traditional approach to medicine that places a stronger emphasis on treating specific conditions and diseases, an MD program might be more suited to your interests.
The pros of a DO degree:
The cons of a DO degree:
The pros of an MD degree:
The cons of an MD degree:
Whether you choose to become an MD or a DO, the path will always involve a dedication to serving patients’ healthcare needs. Both allopathic and osteopathic physicians share the common goal of promoting health and healing, albeit through slightly different approaches.
Ultimately, the choice between an MD and a DO depends on your personal philosophy, your career goals, and the type of doctor you aspire to become.
Our enrollment team can help you prepare your application for MD and DO med school.
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