If you are a pre-med, you might have heard that it is possible to obtain both an MD and a PhD. But is it worth it? Is it right for you? Let’s explore some of the main differences and see if we can find the answer.

Many pre-med students often wonder whether pursuing an MD/PhD is worth it. It definitely sounds prestigious, but will the extra years of training pay off in the end? Unfortunately, this is not the question that students should be asking themselves. An MD/PhD does not necessarily put someone ‘ahead’ of a physician who has just an MD; rather, an MD/PhD leads to a more research-oriented career. Therefore, it is not a matter of which degree is more worth it, but rather a question of what work you prefer to do as a trained physician. Are you more interested in clinical practice or research experiments? Let’s look at the differences between the two degrees so that you can decide for yourself which type of work best fits you.

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Career Expectation

When a school accepts you into their MD/PhD program, they expect you to enter into a research-oriented career. They are investing in you so that you will make medical advances through your training as a researcher. If you have no desire to pursue research, you really should not pursue an MD/PhD program. MD/PhD graduates often go on to obtain positions at universities, research institutes and medical schools. Though they can and do see patients, most of their time will be devoted to research projects.

Note: You can pursue research opportunities with just an MD degree. MD physicians who desire a research career can pursue fellowship training.

Program Length

Program length is one big factor that tends to deter pre-med students away from MD/PhD programs. A typical MD candidate finishes medical school in four years. A typical MD/PhD candidate finishes medical school in seven to eight years. Add on residency, it will take at least a decade for an MD/PhD student to be a fully licensed physician.

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Medical School Cost

There is no doubt a big time commitment required to pursue an MD/PhD. However, to entice students to consider this pathway, schools offer a generous financial aid package. In fact, most students get their entire medical school tuition waived and it is very possible to get an annual stipend. However, remember this financial investment is made because you will be participating in research.

Level of Competition

Medical school is hard to get into. MD/PhD programs are even harder to get into. According to AAMC, an average matriculant at a medical school has a GPA of just under 3.7 and an MCAT score of 31. Matriculants of MD/PhD programs have an average GPA of 3.8 and an MCAT score of over 34.


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