MD Versus DO: 5 Key Differences and Which Is Better In 2022

By Juliet D'cruz

In the ever-expanding field of healthcare, job prospects are increasing. This is due to the growing health issues in today’s world and the number of elderly patients requiring additional healthcare services. Researchers uncover a new aspect to offer a fresh perspective in related fields with each passing day. This results in the rapid growth of the industry and hence many different career choices and job opportunities.

Students usually opt to qualify as a doctor. Even though they have to put in long hours of tireless work for a few years, the result is worth the trouble. Even then, it is not as simple. While doing your research, you may come across two choices of medicine; allopathy and osteopathy.

MD versus DO

MD is the Doctor of Medicine. They are trained doctors in allopathic medicine who treat specific diseases through tests and medicines.

DO is the Doctor of Osteopathy. They are trained doctors in osteopathic medicine who treat diseases by considering the body as one unit and its effect on other body parts.

While both these disciplines are qualified as doctors and authorized to prescribe medicines, some differences distinguish one from another. MD vs. DO debate is quite similar to the DNP vs MD debate, the former being milder and less common than the latter. 

MD is different from DO in more than one way.


The primary difference between a doctor of osteopathy and a medical doctor is their treatment of philosophy. Allopathic medicine is also known as ‘Western Medicine’ because it revolves around the evidence-based treatment of patients. It focuses on the disease and ways to cure it, either through surgery, medicine, or both.

Osteopathic medicine takes a different approach towards the treatment of patients. The main philosophy is the indirect treatment of disease by correlating the structure and function of the body. It focuses on preventative measures rather than a direct approach towards pain and illness. The main focus is on joints and muscles and how moving and stretching them in a specific way can contribute to pain management in the future. For example, back pain is caused by bad posture. If you consult a DO, they may start by giving you exercises for your posture correction and pain regulation. Osteopathic doctors also think that the body can heal itself and focus on specific treatments that enhance the process.

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There is not much difference in the curriculum of an MD and a DO degree program. Both involve a 4-year degree program and offer the same courses, though they may differ in the order in which they are taught. Both an MD and a DO are qualified to pursue the field of their choice, including but not limited to surgery, family medicine, pathology, radiology, pediatrics, internal medicine, and public health. There may be medical schools that distinguish between allopathic medicine and osteopathic medicine from the start, but it is not universal.

The key difference in the curriculum is that a DO needs to take osteopathic manipulative therapy (OMT). A more direct approach involves moving the joints, stretching the muscles, and identifying pressure points to relieve pain and illness. OMT aims to reduce invasive procedures that may hinder the body’s ability to heal itself.


Same as the curriculum, there is not much distinction between an MD and a DO training. Both are required to complete a specific time in residency and training. Both must work and train in all medical departments for a fixed time. During their residency, a DO student usually works with an osteopathic professional. A DO can apply for an MD residency program if they wish to, but the same is not the case for an MD, as they can only apply for an MD residency.

There are still few schools in the US that offer DO degree programs and residency with all the similarities. DO is not a well-known field, so that it may be less competitive than MD. 


Allopathic and osteopathic doctors are trained in the same fields, except for a few courses. As a result, both are competent to choose from various specialist fields, as long as they have completed all the requisite courses. And they’ve finished the residency years required for their chosen field of study.

All the same, an MD often opts to go for surgery, cardiology, and dermatology as they are more focused specialties. On the other hand, a DO chooses to go for anesthetics, family medicine, and pediatrics. These fields go for a more comprehensive approach to medicine, which the osteopathic philosophy is all about. These parameters, however, are not set in stone. You might encounter many DO physicians that are surgeons and many MD physicians that practice family medicine.


 MD and a DO have a few differences, and one of the main is salary difference. DOs make slightly less than MDs, which their specialty and experience may influence. Because osteopathic medicine is not quite common, many MDs specialize in a better-paying field. 

Similarly, MDs mainly practice in urban areas with busier schedules and challenging hours. In contrast, DOs specialize in fields practiced more in rural areas, so their workload and the patient pool are significantly smaller, hence lesser salary packages.

Conclusion: Which is Better in 2022?

MDs may have the upper hand when interviewing because many people are still skeptical over osteopathic practices. Although there is no noticeable difference between the two practices, the lack of information about osteopathic medicine seems a little un-trustworthy. 

MDs tend to have tougher competition than DOs. It is only a matter of time before osteopathic medicine is given the same hype and importance as allopathic medicine.

The choice between an MD and a DO is entirely up to you. After intensive research into both fields of medicine, it comes down to the philosophy that clicks with your way of thinking better. Although these professions are identical in many aspects, the variation in treatment methods is all that matters. 

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