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Difference Between Physician and Doctor

Difference Between Physician and Doctor

Physician vs. Doctor

“If symptoms persist, consult your doctor.”

This is one of the statements commonly heard by health enthusiasts. The reminder can be encountered in almost all commercials for medications and vitamins. When patients experience a recurrence of symptoms, they dial the number of their physician to set an appointment for a consultation.

So which one is should you visit: the doctor or the physician?
Perhaps it is more proper to ask whether there is indeed a difference between a doctor and a physician.

Various medical books and publications imply that physicians have the responsibility to provide patient care after thorough diagnosis, which should be based on interviews with patients and a physical examination. They may also give tidbits of knowledge on how their patients can maintain wellness and prevent diseases.

Physicians also have the authority to determine the urgency of follow-up checkups and appointments, as well as prescribe medications and treatments. Simply put, it is the physician that patients consult whenever they feel something is wrong about their bodies. Physicians plan the treatment for the disease based on the observed symptoms and diagnosis. They may also refer the patients to specialists.

Judging from the list of the physician’s duties and responsibilities, it is natural to assume that the terms “physician” and “doctor” are synonymous. True enough, the two terms can be used interchangeably in many instances. Note, however, that all physicians are doctors, but not all doctors are physicians.

To become a physician, a prospective medical school student needs to obtain a 3.8 GPA, which gets them into college for a four-year Bachelor degree; this can be considered as their pre-med education. Taking the MCATS and obtaining a high score allows the student to get into four more years of medical school. Upon completion, they automatically become a Doctor of Medicine (M.D.), or a physician.

Continuing their studies for a two- to five-year specialization or residency, however, can get one into specific fields of medicine, remaining a doctor, but no longer just a physician. They may opt to specialize in surgery, oncology, or dermatology. They are labeled as doctors, but not physicians. This is where the difference is drawn: physicians have completed eight years of medical school, but doctors with specialization have gone through 11-13 years of studying.

Doctors can be a physician, dermatologist, oncologist, dentist, orthopedist, pediatrician, etc; there are various subcategories of a doctor.

Their job requirements may also differ; physicians need a medical degree from medical schools accredited and recognized by the state. They may also need to present current DEA and DPS Certificates of Registration along with proof of completion of a minimum of two years of internship. Doctors also have the same requirements; however, additional internship experience is needed whenever they choose to work under their specialization. Further exams and certifications also serve as a prerequisite depending on the state they reside in.

Lastly, doctors and physicians can differ in their methods of treating patients. Physicians use drugs and medications to make their patients well. Doctors, on the other hand, can perform surgery and more comprehensive medical procedures. Given this information, anyone can infer that the term “doctor” is used in reference to those who have completed doctoral programs in medical schools, regardless of their specializations. “Physician,” on the other hand, applies only to those who have completed their doctorate in the practice of medicine.


1.“Physicians” and “doctors” can be used interchangeably because a physician is a doctor. Not all doctors, however, are physicians.
2.Physicians have finished pre-medical and medical school. Doctors have completed two to five more years of residency after graduating from medical school.
3.Doctors have more requirements than physicians in terms of internships and certificates.
4.Physicians treat patients with drugs and medication; doctors may cure using surgery and more comprehensive medical procedures.

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  1. Your information is incorrect. A Physician is a higher level than a doctor. The Physician gets the specializations. For example, an Opthamologist is a Physician, but an Optometrist is a Doctor.

  2. Thumbs up I enjoyed reading it.

  3. Very useful

  4. In Sept last year (2015) I had open heart surgery after a heart attack resulting in a new aorta valve, two by-passes (5 blockages) and a pacemaker. I am left with “brain fog” and the best answer my gp can give me to date is that the bf may last up to 2-3 years or for the rest of my life. I am not happy with that prognosis and I would like someone who knows to tell me what to do or what type of specialist to consult. Please.

    • Hi,I’m sorry to hear of your ordeal..it seems a cardiologist is best fit to give you clarity and perhaps a permanent fix to the pacemaker problem.If you in gauteng I would recommend mill park hospital,,they have the best of all desciplines.goodluck

    • Consider consulting a neurologist for your brain fog. Another person to consider is a nutritionist. There are specific foods that can help. There was an article in the BBC some time back about a village in India having the answer to memory loss because they have no one over 55 with it or even dementia of any kind due to their diet. One of the main ingredients is coconut oil. Stay away from anything with Soy oil or soy at all for men. However I highly recommend seeing the neurologist & nutritionist. There you will likely find the help you are looking for. I wish you the best of luck & best of health. Good luck & God bless. I hope this helps you.

  5. So I have heard a little about coconut oil…is coconut oil good if a person has diabete?

  6. It is now the end of Nov. 2017. Along with others, I’ve noticed a disterbing trend. Medication for pain is becoming less available for those in need. I am very aware of the crices the U.S. has experience reguarding the abuse of opiates. However, myself and others who have shown proper use are suffering. Is this an attempt by the DEA to resolve the issue at hand? Or, even worse. Are our Dr.’s affraid to prescribe?

  7. Simple google search on the term “doctor” would have answered your question.

    The title doctor in its true sense is for PHDs. All other professional doctorates are referred to by their professions: JD = Juris Doctorate =Lawyer; MD = Medical Doctor or Physician, Pharm.D=Doctor of Pharmacy = Pharmacist etc. It is strange for a lawyer to introduce themselves as doctor xx or pharmacist doing the same.

    In fact many nations refer to PHDs as doctors. Don’t forget that many medical school programs are NOT doctoral. For example, MBBS, which is the UK medical school program, is Bachelors of Medicine and Bachelors of Surgery. Where in that program is a the word “doctor”? In summary, use of the title doctor to refer to Physicians is an informal gesture.

    • Thank you for clarifying that the origin of the title doctor is not medical rather academic

    • Lawyers don’t have doctorates or Ph.D.’s it’s a different type of degree. Pharmacists have a doctorate, not medical degree. Physicians have a doctorate of medicine and all doctors of medicine are physicians but dentists aren’t physicians nor are pharmacists. This article is just a bunch of BS. We know who we are talking about when we talk about physicians and doctors. I agree physicians should not be called doctors. Nor should anyone that gets a Ph.D. No one should be able to use “doctor” as a part of their name. Their name is not “doctor.” I have heard people use just “doctor” when addressing someone.

  8. I had Colon cancer 14 yrs ago, autoimmune thyroid Disease.. Insulin resistance. High blood pressure, anemia,multiple Hernia ops. Resulting from the cancer, chronic fatigue, node. On my lung. L3 vertebra damage. I’m 57. Just cant deal the fatigue. I. Work as I have no support. Need one Dr to manage all my problems. ANY SUGGESTIONS PLEASE

    • Eat organic, stop alcohol, get outside and Breathe! Yoga all day! Review your life and address any social and personal hang-ups to relieve built up tension and anxiety. Don’t let these controllable things lead to your demise. You have a long life to live. See your Chiropractic “physician”. Best wishes.

  9. I hope this information is accurate. I enjoyed reading it and just want to say, I have a lot of respect for all the doctors including myself because we are smart cookies.

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