DO vs. MD: What’s the Difference? - Fusion Healthcare Staffing

Ever heard the term “osteopathic medicine” and wondered what sets it apart in the healthcare field? Well, the answer lies in the fact that practicing physicians in the United States hold either a DO degree or an MD degree. The world of medicine differs by country, of course, so here is a look at DO and MD as they pertain to medicine in the United States.


DO stands for Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine. DO’s receive their degrees from U.S. osteopathic schools, which are accredited by the American Osteopathic Association (AOA)’s Commission on Osteopathic College Accreditation (COCA). There are 30 osteopathic medical schools in 42 locations across the U.S.

A student at an osteopathic school will typically be trained to have a more holistic approach to medicine, in a curriculum centered around the philosophy of osteopathic medicine. This philosophy acknowledges that all body systems are interconnected, and it puts special emphasis on how the musculoskeletal system can affect all other systems in the body. In fact, a DO student must complete up to 200 hours of osteopathic manipulation training (the practice of manipulating musculoskeletal tissue to relieve pain) in addition to standard medical coursework, showing just how central caring for the musculoskeletal system is in the osteopathic philosophy. Osteopathic medicine also places more focus on primary care, and 65% of DO physicians practice primary care.

DO students take the Comprehensive Osteopathic Medical Licensing Examination (COMLEX) for licensure.


MD stands for Doctor of Medicine (or Medical Doctor). MD’s receive their degrees from U.S. medical schools, which are accredited by the Liaison Committee on Medical Education (LCME). There are 144 medical schools in the U.S.

A student at a medical school will see a curriculum centered around allopathic philosophy (granted, the use of the term “allopathic” is debated). Doctors of Medicine tend to use treatments that would affect an ill person differently than they would a healthy person. (An antibiotic, for example, would improve the health of someone with a bacterial infection, but it would have little or no effect on a healthy person.) This approach to medicine does not put as much emphasis on primary care as the osteopathic approach, and the majority of these physicians choose to specialize.

MD students take the United States Medical Licensing Exam (USMLE) for licensure.


It’s important to note that despite the differences listed here, holding a DO degree and holding an MD degree are in many ways one in the same. Both degrees require spending four years in medical school, followed by three to seven years in residency. Both types of physicians will utilize scientifically-accepted methods of diagnosis and treatment, including prescription drugs and surgery. And finally, despite DOs and MDs taking different tests for licensure, both tests are based on the same requirements set by the state licensing board.

Are your an MD or DO in search of the perfect healthcare facility for you? Contact Fusion HealthCare Staffing today at 855-537-8353 so that we can help you find your perfect match in the medical field.

DO vs. MD: What’s the Difference?