Difference between PhD and MD

Both PhD and MD are doctorate degrees and are considered as the highest level of degree which can be conferred upon an individual by an educational organization. PhD comes from the latin word “Philosophiae Doctor” and implies Doctor of Philosophy. While MD comes from the latin word “Medicīnae Doctor” and implies Doctor of Medicine. In this article, we will see the exact difference between PhD and MD.

In layman terms, MD is one who can prescribe medicines while a PhD cannot. Both PhD and MD are degrees that come under the umbrella term “Doctorate”.

MD is restricted to only one field i.e. medicine whereas PhD can be done in the field of arts, science, humanities, etc. So we can have PhD in Chemistry or a PhD in Mathematics but we can have MD only in Medicine.

PhD focuses on proposing new concepts and theories while MD refers to applying these theories and research in clinical practice. However, this does not mean that a scholar having an MD degree cannot pursue a research career, nor does it mean that a PhD scholar cannot pursue the clinical practice. But PhDs are more suitable for those who want to pursue a career in research, and that MDs are more suitable for those who wish the clinical aspects of medicine.

PhD vs MD

The below table clearly elaborates the differences between the PhD and MD degrees.

PhD stands for Doctor of Philosophy MD stands for Doctor of Medicine
It can have wider scope in various fields like arts, sciences, humanities, engineering, etc. It is only limited to the field of medicine.
It is an academic degree It is rather a professional degree.
It involves the evolution of new concepts, theories and knowledge. It involves applying existing research in clinical practice
Scholars are expected to produce new theories, hypotheses and concepts. Scholars need not necessarily produce new research or theories.
PhD was first introduced in medieval European universities. This degree was first introduced in medieval Arabian universities.
A PhD holder cannot examine patients or provide diagnosis An MD doctor can treat patients, prescribe medicines and provide diagnosis
A PhD degree has a duration of about 5 to 7 years. An MD degree lasts for a duration of 3 years.

How to apply?


The first criteria for the scholars applying for PhD is that they should have an excellent academic record. Some colleges may have this criterion to have completed masters before applying for a PhD. The scholar must be an undergraduate with a minimum required score.

Some of the universities require three letters of recommendation out of which one of the recommendation letters should be provided by the scholar’s previous academic advisors, university tutors etc. since they can give remarks of the scholar’s ability to take up the doctoral degree.

The scholar should submit a research proposal to any university requesting an opportunity. The scholar can get admission only if the university accepts the research proposal after which the scholar can continue the research under the guidance of an expert academician.

PhD scholars are required to present a thesis summarising the purpose, methodology, findings and significance of their research. The last step is the Viva Voce where the candidate must justify their thesis to a panel of examiners.

For other countries, candidates should appear for language tests also like the GRE General Test, an English Language Proficiency Test like IELTS, and the GRE Subject Test as required by the specific country’s programs that they want to apply for.


The first basic eligibility requirement for applying for MD is that the candidate should have completed 10+2 with a good score in subjects like biology, physics and chemistry.

The candidate should have completed MBBS (Bachelor of Medicine, Bachelor of Surgery) from a recognized medical university after that. MBBS is a five and a half year duration program that involves an internship period of one year as well.

After satisfying the above eligibility criteria the candidate can go for applying for MD. The entrance exam conducted for this is NEET – PG. The minimum aggregate score for admission differs from college to college and hence one must find out the eligibility criteria under each medical college. Some other entrance exams conducted for applying for MD are

  • AIIMS – All India Institute of Medical Science Entrance Exam
  • All India D.M / M.Ch. Entrance Examination
  • Banaras Hindu University Entrance Exam
  • DUMET – Delhi University Superspeciality Entrance Test
  • IHBAS – Institute Of Human Behavior and Allied Sciences

Career Prospects

PhD – Since PhD is more of an academic career, a PhD can find jobs as university professors, academicians or they can also work in industrial R&D labs. A PhD graduate often finds an extra edge in these R&D centres over usual graduates with rich working experience.

MD – Scholars with an MD degree can find opportunities in Research and Educational Institutes as doctors and Research Scholars. MD Medicine -PG is also recruited by military services and some biomedical companies. Medicine manufacturing companies also venture out looking out for skilled and professional MD Medicine postgraduates. One can also start his/her clinic and establish their practice.

MD/PhD – dual doctoral degree

This is a dual degree program that has a total duration of 7 to 8 years. This program is a blend of clinical learning and practices versus research-focused work. This degree is ideal for those candidates who are interested in both aspects – research and medicine. When compared to PhD and MD programs, MD/PhD positions in the United States of America are rare and hence more competitive. Compared to PhD or MD the tuition fee is also much less

Scholars with the MD/PhD dual degree commonly called medical scientists. A scholar with MD/PhD has the ability to combine their medical knowledge with research skills which enables them to work in a wide range of positions from academics to industrial research and development.


1. https://www.discoverphds.com/advice/doctorates/phd-vs-md
2. https://www.dictionary.com/e/dr-vs-phd-vs-md/
3. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/insight/201103/what-is-the-real-difference-between-md-and-phd
4. https://www.phdportal.com/articles/571/the-guide-to-your-phd-application.html

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