Applying to Medical SchoolGetting into Medical SchoolOsteopathic MedicineRequirements for Medical SchoolUncategorized

What are the Differences Between MD and DO?

And How Do I Know Which May Be Right for Me

The title “D.O.”—shorthand for “Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine”—was a term coined in 1874 by American physician Andrew Taylor Still. This describes a physician who has received their education from an osteopathic medical school. “Osteopathic”, or osteopathy, refers to a branch of medicine that emphasizes treating illnesses through the manipulation of bones, joints, and muscles. When considering going MD vs DO, it’s crucial to have accurate and truthful information about what a DO actually is.

What is a DO? | Prospective Doctor

MD vs DO: What are the Differences Between MD and DO?

Diving further into the question of MD vs DO, in contrast to M.D.s, D.O.s take on a stronger holistic approach when caring for patients. Here is an example: 

Imagine a patient coming into the office complaining of agonizing stomach pain. The doctor takes a brief history of the patient and immediately begins forming a treatment plan. More often than not, if the physician is an M.D. they would prescribe the patient a round of antibiotics and call it a day. However, a D.O. physician would take a slightly different approach. 

Firstly by questioning what is causing that stomach pain, and inquiring about the patient’s lifestyle, diet, and environment.

Through the proposed scenario, we can see that a D.O. methodically looks into multiple contributing factors before creating a treatment plan.

What is OMM?

What is OMM? | Prospective Doctor

OMM stands for “Osteopathic Manipulative Medicine.” This generic term is used to describe the numerous manipulation techniques D.O.s utilize in their treatment. OMM can be applied to a plethora of ailments, ranging from minor headaches to severe back pain. In their training, D.O.s spend 200+ hours learning OMM and how to apply it properly in practice. 


OMM may be used in conjunction with medication, in other cases, OMM completely replaces medication.


What are some OMM techniques?

What are OMM Techniques? | Prospective Doctor

When applying OMM to a patient’s treatment, the techniques can greatly vary.

Generally speaking, there are several key types that stand out: Still, myofascial, and cranial manipulation techniques.

First is the Still technique, which involves placing the patient in a position of ease and comfort. The D.O. will place the dysfunctional area where it wants to go, following its natural movement. Next, they will add a compressive force against the area’s natural movement. Finally, the D.O. releases the pressure and places the patient back into their beginning position.

Next is the myofascial release technique, in which the D.O. applies pressure to the tissue surrounding the patient’s bones, muscles, and organs. This technique is believed to loosen up stiffness in the area, thus reducing pain.

Lastly, the cranial manipulation technique involves applying gentle pressure around the skull and spine to encourage healing. This technique is also used to relieve pain.

Difference between an MD vs DO

Both M.D.s and D.O.s are fully-competent physicians, sharing more similarities than not.

However, there are key differences between the two that must be addressed.

MD vs DO Differences | Prospective Doctor

During their education, an M.D. receives their degree from an allopathic medical school. There, the curriculum is centered around the traditional philosophy of medicine.

On the other hand, a D.O. receives their degree from an osteopathic school. In these specialized institutes, the curriculum is primarily based on the philosophy of osteopathy. D.O. students also undergo 200+ hours of training to learn osteopathic manipulative medicine (OMM).

D.O. students also undergo 200+ hours of training to learn osteopathic manipulative medicine (OMM)

Within these disciplines, allopathic and osteopathic degree-seeking students undergo different licensing exams. M.D. students take the USMLE, while D.O. students take the COMLEX exam.

It’s worth noting that D.O. students are able to sit for the USMLE exam; meanwhile, MD students may not take the COMLEX exam.

MD vs DO — Salary 

The income of D.O.s versus M.D.s can vary drastically.

Historically speaking, most D.O.s tend to enter specialty fields such as family and internal medicine. In contrast, most M.D.s specialize in competitive fields such as dermatology, cardiology, and surgery. Family and internal medicine are two of the lowest-paying specialties, while dermatology, surgery, and cardiology are some of the highest.

Therefore, the data presents a narrative that D.O.s earn less than M.D.s. These statistics are misleading without understanding the big picture. D.O.s are just as capable of earning a salary on par with their M.D counterparts. It’s not the degree that limits their earning potential—it’s the specialty they opt into.

Ultimately, a D.O. and M.D. both specializing in dermatology, practicing in the same area would earn just about the same amount.

The data presents a narrative that D.O.s earn less than M.D.s. These statistics are misleading without understanding the big picture.


What Are the Best M.D. Medical Schools (For Research)?

Medical schools from across the nation compete annually for the title of “best medical school.” Upon extensive review, U.S. News has compiled this concise list demonstrating the top 10 best schools in the U.S. for medical research.

  1. Yale School of Medicine
  1. University of Washington School of Medicine
  1. Stanford University School of Medicine
  1. Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania (Tied for 6th)
  1. Duke University School of Medicine (Tied for 6th)
  1. University of California – San Francisco School of Medicine (Tied for 3rd)
  1. John Hopkins University School of Medicine (Tied for 3rd)
  1. College of Physicians and Surgeons at Columbia University (Tied for 3rd)
  1. Grossman School of Medicine at New York

 1. Harvard Medical School

What Are the Best D.O. Medical Schools (For Primary Care)?

Osteopathic students tend to pursue careers in primary care; as such, it’s only right to rank schools by most graduating primary care physicians. 

According to AACOM, 12 D.O. schools made the top 20 schools list with the most graduating primary care physicians.

How Do I Decide Between Pursuing an MD or a DO?

Making the choice between pursuing an MD vs DO education is a personal, individualized decision. You must evaluate your life goals and interests to see which philosophy of medicine is best path for you. 

If you always imagined yourself working at a prestigious hospital, in a competitive specialty tackling the rarest medical cases, an M.D. would probably be your best bet.

On the other hand, if you’re looking to treat common illnesses and become a figure of trust in your local community, a D.O. will do you just as well.

Regardless of your ultimate decision on going MD vs DO, one fact is certain: you’ll be able to create a lasting impact on people’s lives. The very essence of why so many of us choose a career in medicine.


Yaseen Elhag

My name is Yaseen Elhag. I hold a bachelor's in Health Science and I have aspirations of becoming a physician. I have a deep passion for eliminating healthcare disparities. Some of my hobbies include Mixed Martial Arts, traveling, and playing chess!

Related Articles

Back to top button