DO Vs. MD: A Comparison Of Similarities And Differences

Indeed Editorial Team

Updated 14 March 2023

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

The credentials Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (DO) and Doctor of Medicine (MD) vary from one another in many ways. While MDs typically concentrate on using medication to address particular illnesses, DOs prioritise holistic healing which may or may not involve medication. Understanding the differences between these credentials can help you choose one to pursue. In this article, we compare DO vs. MD and outline their main differences and similarities.

Defining DO Vs. MD

While comparing DO vs. MD, it is important to understand that both professionals have similar certifications and practices. A DO practises osteopathic medicine and takes a more holistic approach to healthcare. While identifying and addressing a patient's medical issues, osteopathy teaches DOs to consider the patient's surroundings, diet and entire body as a system. These professionals typically undergo more hours of practical instruction and may have a more comprehensive approach towards treatment. Osteopathy medicine places a strong emphasis on the physical manipulation of the bones and muscles of the body.

Through manipulative therapy and other treatments, osteopathic doctors gain expertise in identifying and resolving structural issues. MDs use treatment methodologies that help sick people. They typically practise an allopathic branch of medical science in which doctors, nurses, pharmacists and other healthcare workers use medications, radiation or surgery to treat symptoms and diseases. Allopathy is an archaic phrase that describes science-based, contemporary medicine.

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Similarities And Differences Between MD And DO

Both MDs and DOs are competent medical professionals who fulfil stringent requirements before acquiring their medical licence. Both DOs and MDs focus heavily on illness prevention mechanisms. The most important factors to consider when selecting a doctor are comfort and a positive, trustworthy connection. Choosing a licensed MD or DO over the other is a matter of preference because they both can address a patient's medical needs. These are some general similarities and differences between the two credentials:

  • Both MDs or DOs base their diagnoses and recommendations for care on findings with scientific backing.

  • Both professionals attend a four-year medical school programme and a three to seven-year residency programme.

  • Both professionals practise medicine after receiving authorisation from the same licensing bodies, therefore MDs and DOs adhere to the same medical standards.

  • Both credentials are common in all specialities of medicine.

  • Both programmes follow the same undergraduate curriculum, including a bachelor's degree, pre-med courses and entrance examinations.

  • Students of osteopathy are required to complete additional hours of study in the manipulation of muscular-skeletal systems, at osteopathic institutions.

  • While MDs ‌concentrate on more specialised areas of medicine such as dermatology, cardiology or orthopaedics, DO physicians often provide general care.

  • MDs typically work in urban settings, whereas most DOs work in semi-urban regions.

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Comparing DO Vs. MD

These are some additional points of comparison between MDs and DOs:


The prerequisites for applying to MD and DO schools are essentially the same. Both osteopathic and allopathic institutions significantly weigh grade point averages and entrance scores. The curriculum is the same for both types of programmes, with students often spending most of their first 12 to 24 months in the classroom and the rest of their training in a clinical environment.

Technically, because there is a lower admission rate, it is more difficult to get into a DO school. One reason for this is that there are far more accredited MD programmes than approved DO schools in the country. As a result, you may be statistically more likely to get into an MD programme than a DO programme.

Related: What Is An MBBS Doctor? (With Skills And Career Scope)

Earning potential

Factors such as location, experience and specialisation determine the salary of any professional in the field of medicine. In situations where characteristics like speciality, position, years of experience and location are equal, the pay of MD and DO physicians are comparable. But because they are more likely to specialise and specialists normally earn more than generalists, MD physicians make more on average than DO physicians. Physicians who work in metropolitan regions typically earn more than those who work in rural areas.

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Use of medicine

The two primary schools of thought in medicine are allopathy and osteopathy. Allopathy is the older of the two systems and ‘modern medicine' is another term for it. In allopathic medicine, the focus is on utilising pharmaceuticals to treat diseases and performing tests or examinations for diagnoses. Most medical schools offer allopathic medicine programmes. After completing a Bachelor of Medicine and Surgery (MBBS) course, medical professionals become eligible to appear for a national-level test that allows them to prescribe medicines.

During their education, DOs study osteopathy. In contrast to allopathy, it places a stronger emphasis on treating the body holistically, ‌as opposed to treating specific diseases. As with allopathic medical students, osteopathic medical students also learn how to assess patients using the same equipment and techniques. They also learn how to administer osteopathic manual medicine or OMM, often known as osteopathic manipulative therapy. This involves diagnosis regimens and physical routines where doctors may:

  • Exercise limbs, for example, by opening an arm or a leg

  • Gently exert resistance or pressure on certain parts of the body

  • Touch and feel a patient's bones, ligaments and organs

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Both DOs and MDs receive training to aid the recognition, management and prevention of illnesses and injuries. DOs and MDs receive training during their education and later, on the job as they start their careers. This may include four years of medical school after receiving a bachelor's degree and a one to four-year residency programme after finishing medical school.

The key distinction between the training that these professionals possess is that DOs usually have additional hours of coursework to complete before they graduate with the credential. The focus of this additional training is on the relationship between the health of the body and its physical components, like bones, ligaments and nerves. DOs may also enrol in extra courses focusing on complementary or alternative medicine. Although they address preventive medicine in allopathic medical colleges, the curriculum may not place a severe emphasis on it like DO courses do.

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Before receiving a medical licence, both types of doctors pass a national exam. These exams typically cover the same topics, but question formulation may vary. Additional OMM-related questions are prevalent in qualifying examinations for DOs.

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For consultations

While deciding between an MD and a DO, there are some key factors a person can consider. Both are equally qualified to diagnose and‌ treat with medicine. Consider seeing a DO if you are seeking a more practical experience under the guidance of a professional who is receptive to alternative therapy modalities. This does not imply that an MD can not be receptive to unique forms of therapy, just that DOs tend to possess specialised knowledge in alternative medicine.

You can also take your health requirements into account while deciding who to consult. Most DOs practise primary care. MDs often focus on a particular area or branch of medicine, like surgery or cardiology. This suggests that if you are seeking a specialised ‌medical professional rather than a general practitioner, you may consider consulting an MD. Regardless of whether you choose a DO or an MD, look for a practitioner who:

  • You feel at ease conversing with

  • You trust and have faith that they are well-informed, sympathetic and skilled

  • Attends to you consistently

  • Provides you with the opportunity to ask ‌questions

  • Aligns well with your requirements and needs

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Difficulty levels of the syllabus

Becoming an MD or a DO both requires an exceptional amount of drive, tenacity and intelligence. DO programmes have lower acceptance rates than MD programmes. DOs complete 200 additional hours of coursework on average. Neither track is more or less difficult. If you are interested in a career in medical science, it is more important to determine which track is most suitable for your personal and professional goals.

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