Difference Between MD and PhD

Edited by Diffzy | Updated on: April 30, 2023


Difference Between MD and PhD

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Both MD and PhD are higher degrees related to the medical field. MD stands for Doctor of Medicine whereas PhD stands for Doctor of Philosophy. Both are doctoral degrees but it does not mean that those awarded with MDs cannot pursue research nor does it means that those with PhDs cannot pursue clinical studies. They can pursue various studies but a PhD holder cannot prescribe medicines because their work is to carry out research in that field only. However, an individual with an MD degree can prescribe medicines. Though both degrees seem to possess similar characteristics, some minute differences exist between the two. This article shall be dealing with the differences between PhD and MD. 

MD vs PhD

The key difference between MD and PhD is that MD is related to curing patients by prescribing medicines. On the other hand, a PhD is a degree which is provided to individuals doing research in various fields. While MD refers to a professional degree in medicine, a PhD can be obtained in many different disciplines, including the arts and sciences. An individual with an MD degree can suggest medicines, but a person with a PhD cannot since it is a research-oriented course of study.

Difference Between MD and PhD in Tabular Form

Parameters of Comparison MD PhD
Meaning MD stands for Doctor of Medicine. PhD stands for Doctor of Philosophy.
Origin MD is derived from Latin and means 'teacher of medicine.' PhD is derived from the Latin word Philosophia meaning ‘philosophical teacher’.
Beginning or Initiation in universities MD was initiated in Arabic universities during the medieval period. PhD was initiated in the European Universities during the middle ages.
Time required For completing an MD degree it takes two years of course work as well as two years of rotational work. To complete a PhD degree, one has to do extensive research on a selected topic or area of interest and submit a thesis paper on the same within the particular time given by the institute.
Association MD pertains to a higher degree in medicine. Individuals associated with MD can prescribe medication as well. PhD pertains to the field of research in various fields ranging from arts and literature to other science subjects.
Career Possibilities Candidates who acquire MDs often pursue careers in medicine. They may run their businesses or work with larger healthcare companies, hospitals, and pharmacies. The majority of MDs provide direct patient treatment. They may make a diagnosis of illnesses and injuries, perform procedures, and prescribe medicine, relying on their specialization. Based on their areas of knowledge, individuals holding PhD degrees are recruited to serve as academic researchers in governmental or non - governmental business consulting firms. PhD specialists can specialize in practically any field, including linguistics, philosophy, art, marketing, cognitive science and so on. Many PhDs also choose to serve in higher educational institutions.
Program structure MD program usually lasts for 4 years. PhD program usually requires 5 to 7 years for getting the degree. The individual has to undergo the final round of viva voice as well and may also be required for defending their submitted thesis paper.

What is MD?

MD is an abbreviation for Doctor of Medicine. It is typically a 3-4 year postdoctoral degree in Medicine that may either be undertaken as a generic or specialized course. It includes both scientific and empirical instructions to assist aspiring healthcare professionals to comprehend the minute nuances as well as the fast-paced essence of the field.

An MD degree professionally prepares a person to provide patient care. If a person is preparing to become a specialist, the degree takes longer to complete since they receive more thorough instruction than others. The primary goal of this course is to educate and empower students to focus on the whole assessment and make appropriate judgments about where the person's treatment should be directed.

MD pertains to a higher degree in medicine. This means a person having this degree can prescribe medicines to patients. These doctors can also engage in highly specialized sub-fields, such as surgery, for which other healthcare professionals are not educated. They can even perform procedures in their domain of expertise if they are specialized in sub-fields.

Some Specialization Courses of MD 

There are various courses for specialization in MD. Some of the most common ones are as follows:

  • Cardiology
  • Rheumatology
  • Oncology
  • Dermatology
  • Paediatrics
  • General Medicine
  • Gynaecology
  • Neurology
  • Nephrology
  • Endocrinology 
  • Gastroenterology
  • Pulmonary Medicine
  • Haematology etc.

Professional Skills Required to be an MD

Some of the necessary skills that an individual must possess to be professionally available for receiving an MD degree are as follows:

  • Communication skills
  • Critical thinking
  • Problem-solving
  • Decision-making skill
  • Interpersonal skills such as building cordial relationships with patients to entrust their trust and faith in themselves.
  • Time management 
  • Leadership quality
  • Team building 
  • Ability to handle any emergency
  • Empathy and perseverance 
  • Diagnosis skills
  • Use of modern technology and types of equipment related to the new medical innovations etc.

Eligibility Criteria for MD Degree

The eligibility criteria vary from institute to institute depending upon the requirements of the individual applying for receiving the degree of MD. Some of the common criteria followed by almost every institution are as follows:

  • The applicant must have completed senior secondary i.e. 12th with Physics, Chemistry, and Biology (PCB) as core subjects from a recognized board.
  • An MBBS degree is required. It is preferable if they have past expertise in their selected practice of medicine.
  • Scores from English language tests such as GMAT, IELTS and TOEFL are also essential in some institutions.
  • Candidates with an MBBS degree must take the MCAT test (for foreign universities such as the United States and Canada) or the PLAB exam (for universities in the United Kingdom) or the CAT Multiple choice exam (for Australia Universities). The test scores are necessary when registering for various overseas colleges to pursue a Doctor of Medicine degree (MD).

Employment Opportunities for MD

Some of the areas where MD doctors can find their job opportunities are:

  • Government and Private sector hospitals
  • Polyclinics
  • Pharmaceuticals
  • Medical Colleges
  • Nursing Homes
  • Research Institutes
  • NGOs
  • Laboratories etc.

What is a PhD?

PhD stands for Doctor of Philosophy. A PhD can be given for unique discoveries in any subject, not just healthcare. In contrast to an MD, a PhD in a medical discipline is focused on discovering new information rather than using existing understanding. A PhD program typically lasts three years, with applicants having a potential time frame of six to seven years to finish the degree. However, the length of the study may differ from one university to another. To be suitable for a PhD position, applicants must have a post-graduation degree. Applicants may undertake a PhD degree in any discipline ranging from arts to science or any other discipline.

Candidates who have cleared entrance exams like UGC NET (JRF), GATE, JEST and the likes are usually offered fellowships while pursuing a PhD course. For a person to get a PhD degree, he/she has to submit a thesis paper. This paper is then examined by experts and they may even conduct viva voices or may call the candidate for defending their work before these experts. They might even have to elaborate their paper, in some cases.

The prime objective of PhD students is to do original investigations on their subject. In the discipline of medical science, a PhD degree is also offered. The agency provides learners with a combined MD-PhD pathway in several medical degrees. PhDs are available in practically any academic field ranging from literature to sociology. All PhD holders are referred to as doctors in the discipline in which they have specialized.

PhD Courses

Some of the most popular PhD courses are:

  • Arts
  • Humanities
  • Social work
  • Education
  • English
  • Geography
  • Economics
  • Mathematics
  • Chemistry
  • Psychology
  • Biotechnology
  • Zoology 
  • Commerce
  • Physics
  • Environmental Science
  • Literature
  • Life Science 
  • Engineering 
  • Business Administration
  • Marketing
  • Law
  • Ceramic engineering
  • Aeronautical engineering
  • Computer Science etc.

Skills Required for PhD

  • Interpersonal skills
  • Communication
  • Research
  • Hardworking
  • Organised
  • Keen observer
  • Motivated
  • In-depth knowledge of the subject chosen
  • Quick learner
  • Problem-solving
  • Good writing capability etc.

Various Categories of PhD

Full-time Research Scholars

These scholars include:

  • Self-financed candidate
  • Government-funded researchers
  • Institute Research Scholars with Teaching Assistants
  • ICCR Awardees
  • Sponsored Candidates (e.g. sponsored by Research and Development etc)

Part-Time Research Scholars

These scholars include:

  • Project staff
  • Faculty
  • Research assistant
  • Externally sponsored research scholars
  • Researchers with special Teaching Assistance etc.

Eligibility Criteria for PhD

  • PhD students' primary goal is to do original research work in their selected field.
  • A PhD degree is also available in the field of medical science.
  • The organization provides a joint MD-PhD course in several medical specialities.
  • PhDs are accessible in almost any academic pursuit, from literature to social science.
  • Every PhD recipient is acknowledged to be a doctorate in the field in which they have majored.

Main Differences Between MD and PhD In Points

  • MD is an abbreviation for Doctor of Medicine. PhD, on the other hand, is an abbreviation for Doctor of Philosophy.
  • The MD degree takes years to finish, whereas the PhD degree might take four to seven years.
  • MD refers to a greater level of medical education. Individuals with an MD degree can also administer antibiotics. PhD, on the other hand, refers to the area of research in a variety of issues ranging from the humanities, language, and other academic subjects.
  • The MD degree dates back to initially offer at medieval Arabian institutions, while the PhD degree was first offered in European universities.
  • A four-year MD program is typical. A PhD program, on the other hand, typically takes 5 to 7 years to complete. The individual must also go through the last round of oral or viva voice and may be needed to defend their submitted dissertation.
  • M.D. programs educate students for employment in a variety of sectors of medicine by focusing on biomedical sciences, drug development, and hospital rotations. This provides students with an understanding they need to choose a medical practice field that is a good fit for their talents, hobbies, and aspirations. Throughout their scholastic careers, PhD candidates, on the other hand, focus nearly solely on doing, organizing, and submitting to work. PhD programs at universities often provide candidates with opportunities for research outside the college environment by studying abroad, working as research assistants and participating in other programs that allow them to build on their research.
  • Because of the period of study, both MD and PhD programs need a considerable investment, although a PhD that extends more than 4 years may cost much more than MD courses.


MD and PhD are thus seen to be both higher degrees and require lots of patience and hard work to succeed in the course of study. The MD degree lasts four years, whereas the PhD degree lasts four to seven years. In today's changing culture, we require both types of people: those who use existing information (like the MD does in medicine) and those who develop it (like the ones applying for PhDs). Regardless of how people raise cash, studying for an MD or a PhD can be a budgetary challenge because both degrees are time-consuming and offer few possibilities to make money. However, throughout an MD program, students have some paid employment possibilities in addition to their regular professional education. However, if one is studying for a PhD, there is hardly any extra time present to allocate time for other work. Notably, clinical procedures are tentatively included in M.D. An M.D individual can apply in numerous research fields or discoveries for medical studies. The Ph.D., on the other hand, includes simply exploratory research work. A Ph.D. candidate can create or propose several approaches and hypotheses. Thus, it is seen from the above discussion that there are some major differences between the two courses and both of them are time-consuming which when pursued properly can provide the required results to the candidates applying for any of them. 



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"Difference Between MD and PhD." Diffzy.com, 2023. Thu. 21 Sep. 2023. <https://www.diffzy.com/article/difference-between-md-and-phd-773>.

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