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Difference Between MD and Phd

graduate-hatMD vs Phd

MD and Phd are both higher degrees. MD stands for Doctor of Medicine, and Phd stands for Doctor of philosophy.

The first difference that can be mentioned of the two, is that MD is associated with treating patients, and Phd is related to a doctor’s degree in other fields.

While MD pertains to a higher degree in medicine, a Phd can be obtained in various fields, like arts and the sciences. A person that has a MD degree can prescribe medicines, where as a person with a Phd cannot prescribe medicines. Phd is completely research oriented.

When discussing the origin of MD and Phd, the former was launched first. The origin of Doctor of Medicine is traced to the ninth century, when it was introduced in the medieval Arabic universities. The Doctor of Philosophy is known to have originated in the Middle Ages, in the European universities.

There is also the difference of time when studying for the degrees. While a person gets a MD after about four years, a person will only get a Phd in four to seven years. Getting a Phd also depends on the submission of the thesis paper.

Doctor of Philosophy comes from Latin philosophiæ doctor, which means ‘teacher of philosophy’. The Doctor of Medicine also comes from Latin, and means ‘teacher of medicine’.

A person gets a MD degree after two years of course work, and two years of rotational work, in some hospital or clinic. On the other hand, a person gets a Phd after he submits his thesis paper. The thesis is examined by a group of experts, and the person may also be called to defend his work.


1. MD stands for Doctor of Medicine, and Phd stands for Doctor of philosophy.

2. While MD pertains to a higher degree in medicine, a Phd can be obtained in various fields, like arts and the sciences.

3. A person with a MD degree can prescribe medicines

4. A person gets a MD degree after two years of course work, and two years of rotational work, in some hospital or clinic. On the other hand, a person gets a Phd only after his thesis paper has been approved.

5. The origin of Doctor of Medicine is traced to the ninth century, when it was introduced in the medieval Arabic universities. The Doctor of Philosophy is known to have originated in the Middle Ages, in the European universities.

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  1. Two glaring inaccuracy about PhDs: 1) completely research oriented, and 2) don’t treat patients. There are many clinical PhD (like a clinical psychologist), and the number of clinical fields in which one may obtain a clinical PhD continues to grow (nursing is an example). Also, in the USA, one frequently completes 3 years of post-college coursework toward a PhD, and then begins working on a dissertation/thesis. In many fields, the graduate of a PhD program is then expected to acquire specialized skills in a post-doctoral position, which typically lasts 3-7 years. Non-clinical, research PhDs may use the postdoctoral fellowship to acquire experience and skills in a clinical setting, and then independently engage in primary patient care after becoming certified by the appropriate “board” or governing body.

    • An MD is a professional doctorate like DBA, EdD, PsyD.
      There is normally a larger taught element and the dissertation/thesis is normally shorter and more directly applied to practice.
      A PhD requirement is ‘an original contribution to the body of ‘human scientific knowledge’’, Hence, although the research element is greater, more rigorous and generally more theoretical. It does not mean this knowledge cannot be applied.
      I blame the yanks. Credentials, credentials, credentials amid a myriad of ‘multi-guess’ testing originated there, as did professional Doctorates. (I remember when Oxford never awarded an MBA but an MPhil (Business Administration). Now the SAID Business School is a cash cow).
      In another field; aviation. US CPL/ATPL written exams (all multi-guess; questions and answers available to memorise) are a joke in comparison to the British/European/ANZAC ones.
      Yankie influence dilution of the meaning of a terminal award called Doctor.
      Let’s also not forget that University originated via the Church. A Doctor of the church was awarded to great and gifted theologians.
      Medical doctors were awarded the title, in effect, for a first degree plus professional qualification, on an honorary basis.

  2. I thank you very much for this so good, intensified, and condensed clarification/explanation about the fundamental difference between PhD and MD. Really i have searched for a long time for this informations and i think now, that i have reached my goal!
    Thanks a lot and have a nice night 🙂

    • Awesome. Because all of this information is at best misleading and at worst downright false. Don’t EVER believe one source.

    • Technically, an MD is considered a technical masters degree [like a J.D. [lawyer] or Pharm.D. [pharmacist], D.P.T. [physical therapist] etc.]. The trend is to add the word “doctor” to all these technical masters degrees and we keep seeing more fields adding the word “doctor” to their programs. These technical masters are training for a specific job that usually require a license as well. They are not a doctorate. You can complete medical school and get an MD degree and still not be licensed to practice medicine. You need further clinical work and to pass licensing exams to be able to practice medicine. A Doctorate [like a Ph.D]. is indeed a research degree and the highest level of education one can have. Many research granting institutions make a distinction such that in order to be the Principle Investigator [PI]on a study receiving grant money you need a doctorate [Ph.D or equivalent]. although an M.D. can be a co-PI with a Ph.D. as can an M.D. who has completed further formal research after the master’s level M.D. The term “Doctor” for physician came more recently [started in Scotland I believe] and used to be reserved for someone with an actual doctorate.

  3. Do one iota of research before you spread BS.

    “Typically, they do 1-2 years of internship. Unlike psychiatrists, psychologists are also trained in giving psychological tests (like IQ tests or personality tests). Because of their medical training, psychiatrists can prescribe medication — probably the most commonly known distinction between the two fields.”

  4. The article is easy to understand it might miss some marks but it puts it in perspective. The comments I’m like – what are they talking about?

  5. Sorry to burst your bubble, but the statement “When discussing the origin of MD and Phd, the former was launched first […]” is completely inaccurate:
    The first doctoral degree i.e. PhD was awarded in medieval Paris around 1150.
    The first medical degree i.e. MD was awarded in 1703 in Glasgow.
    Therefore, the actual PhD degree came first, and not the MD degree.
    If we discuss ‘origins’ we could easily argue that medieval Arabs practiced doctoral studies that could have easily been the precursors to the PhD degree as opposed to the MD degree.

    • I think you are also wrong. What is at the end a MD? A degree in medicine, the qualification to certify that you can work as a physician. The Schola Medica Salernitana in Italy (from 11th until 13th century) was the first university recorded to grant a “medical degree” as you said before.

      Also, I don’t know why remains that “doctor” word in both cases because in any of them, MD or Ph.D., you are able to teach. Actually, to become a professor is a long way ahead.

      By the way, a physician just holding a MD can barely teach because hasn’t started his/her residency yet.

      PS: I didn’t know that medicine takes only four years in some places, because in the European Union and other countries is a minimum of six years term.

      • I’m sorry, but your statement is false. Yes, in some countries MD is a lower qualification and it is basically the medical degree.

        In most countries, PhD and MD qualifications are at the same level. After achieving basic, and at least masters level postgraduate qualifications, you can apply for a doctorate. MD is usually clinically-focused, and PhD more philosophical. Medical doctors and specialists can also do PhD rather than MD – it depends on the focus of their research.

        Still, many countries differ.

  6. In East Africa, all professors that teach medical students and supervise them as consultants at referral hospitals are almost all Ph.D. holders. It is misleading therefore for the original poster to infer that only a person with an MD can prescribe medicine.

  7. Ph.D. is the highest degree awarded by an accredited university. It takes 5 years approximately post Masters to obtain. Most MD’s follow the research of a Ph.D. It is grossly inaccurate to put M.D. before Ph.D. The correct way to list degrees obtained would be Ph.D., M.D., M.S. Ask any Tier I Research Institution. M.D.’s hijacked the term doctor when they truly are physicians, as J.D.’s are lawyers and cannot call themselves doctor.

    • I absolutely agree with you.
      Its comnon knowledge that physicians acquire the title of Doctor before they even get a Msc in thier field. On the other hand,one needs to get a masters and then do some serious research work before acquiring the title.

    • In general, an MD applies existing knowledge. A PhD creates NEW knowledge. The PhD is the highest academic degree that can be earned. The term “doctor” as it pertains to medical personnel has been corrupted. Its original meaning was someone who has risen to a sufficient level that he can teach others and is derived from “docere” to teach. Most doctors graduate with Batchelors degrees. Typically MBBS which stands for Bachelor of Medicine, Bachelor of Surgery, or in Latin: Medicinae Baccalaureus Baccalaureus Chirurgiae. To be strictly correct, medical doctors should really adopt the title “physician” to avoid confusion.

  8. I invented illness diseases cause and treatment.(1)piles (2) gripe heat motion place patient desire dead sudden wants no extra life, breast cancer,head ache half,full gead ache birth 10/15,days continously head ache i invented only one or two times dose head ache dead always.aids,asthma,one invetion product stomach if consumed sux to seven numbers illness of stomach ache curable (i) long instestine no needs of surgery (ii)small intestine(iii)gall bladder(iv) kidney , prostate gland breast cancer, etc

  9. please, I want you guys to help me with this. The degree of a person who did medicine in 6 years.

  10. In most universities in North America, and M.D. is an undergraduate degree, whereas a Ph.D. is a graduate degree.

    • MD is never considered an undergraduate degree.Undergraduate degrees are baccalaureate and that is the least prerequisite for MD.You could say then that MD is a graduate program.to bolster this residency is called postgraduate program all over North America

  11. Hello everyone

    I hold my M.D degree, gained it after the Master degree in orthopedic, and always noticed that books authors in orthopedic writing their degrees as ( M.D, Ph.D ) !!
    Is that right??

    Can I make the same or not??

  12. What is the difference in abbreviation:
    DR (capital “R”) and Dr (small “r”)

  13. If anybody is rating any academic qualifications, it should be based on the academic course credits of such a degree. Medical schools in the US are after a bachelor’s degree & last another 3 or 4 years. PhDs are bachelor’s degree & another 3 or 4 years. In the UK, medical schools are 6 years after secondary education & PhDs 3 years after a 4 year bachelor’s degree & the durations of the medical school terms & learning times are much longer than any of those others. The MDs are after some residency further training & the researches are more broad-based, with clinical outcome or health service output advancements as outcomes. So, it should be easy to evaluate those trainings. In the final analysis, I believe that we will all do well to respect each other after these facts are laid bare for all “to use their tongues to count their teeth!

  14. MD is a lower degree than PhD. Don’t get it wrong. MD is equivalent to Masters level e.g MPhil in academia. I have recently gone through MD admission which is how I found out. It’s never at same level with PhD.

    And MD is not fully qualified to teach because even in PhD you must take teaching training alongside to be able to qualify to lecture afterwards.

  15. The confusion occurred because some countries decided that medical doctors (which is a quack title to start with) should be written after any qualified medical practitioner’s name to identify themselves.

    MD in most of the world means ‘Medical Doctorate’, and not ‘Medical Doctor’. A Medical Doctorate is a doctorate just like PhD but is more clinically focussed. Thus, even a medical practitioner can continue their studies and choose to do a doctorate in philosophy or medicine, depending on their research field.

  16. I know a fellow who obtained his doctor of veterinary science He was called a Vet at that time He then went on to complete a PhD in veterinary science after five years of additional study in a specific research area

  17. Bachelor degree = BS = bull sh**
    Masters degree = MS = more sh**
    PhD = pike it higher and deeper

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