MD and DO Degrees

There are two main types of medical schools in the United States and Canada: allopathic (MD) schools and osteopathic (DO) schools. Pre-medical students are sometimes confused by the difference between the two types of schools and the degrees that they grant, but the reality is that they are more similar than you may realize. For instance, the curricula of both schools are similar, state licensing exams are required for graduates of both programs, and most hospitals and residency programs recognize the degrees as equivalent.

Philosophical Differences

The differences between the two types of schools are largely rooted in their philosophical approach to medicine. Allopathic medical schools are often considered to be the "traditional" medical programs, although osteopathic medicine has existed since the late 1800s. Osteopathic medicine is rooted in a belief in treating the "whole patient” (including lifestyle and community), and as a result a higher percentage of osteopathic graduates pursue careers in primary care fields. The training an osteopathic physician receives in medical school includes courses in osteopathic manipulative medicine, or OMM; through this hands-on approach, much emphasis is put on the musculoskeletal system and its effect on the patient's health.

Admissions Differences

As compared with allopathic medical schools, osteopathic medical schools have a reputation for looking at the applicant as a whole, and are therefore more likely to admit students who would be less competitive applying to top-tier allopathic programs. The average GPA and MCAT scores for incoming students are slightly lower in osteopathic programs, but both require an undergraduate degree and foundational science coursework before applying. Allopathic medical schools are represented by the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) with applications submitted through AMCAS, while osteopathic medicals schools are represented by the American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine (AACOM) with applications submitted through AACOMAS.