If you are trying to figure out the differences between DO vs MD – you've come to the right place! In this blog, you will learn the main differences between osteopathic and allopathic medicine and hear from real MDs and DOs on why they chose their medical school path. They’ll also offer insights on the DO vs MD curriculum, the application process, medical school requirements and so much more. 

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Article Contents
12 min read

DO vs MD: What's the Difference? MD vs DO: Why Did you Choose MD/DO? Medical School Requirements: DO vs. MD DO vs MD: Main Application Differences DO vs MD: Curriculum Differences DO vs MD: Residency Differences DO vs MD: Licensing Differences FAQs

DO vs MD: What’s the Difference?

Arguably, the main difference between DO vs MD programs is the philosophy behind their approach to medicine. Your answer to the question "Why do you want to be a doctor?" will have a great effect on whether you choose DO vs MD.

MD vs DO: Why Did you Choose MD/DO?

There are many reasons why medical school applicants may choose MD over DO or vice versa. For example, some applicants may decide to apply to the medical school that fits their personal goals and criteria best, regardless of whether it’s MD or DO. Others specifically chose the osteopathic path for themselves. Here’s why some of our admissions experts decided to choose the programs they did:

“I liked the holistic approach, seeing the entirety of the patient as a person and not just a collection of individual components.” - Dr. Justin Stacer, DO, graduate of the Kirksville College of Osteopathic Medicine at A.T. Still University

Some applicants may choose a program not because it teaches allopathic or osteopathic medicine, but because it has other qualities that appeal to them:

“Of the acceptance offers I received; I believed that the DO school I went to offered the most comprehensive education. It was the best in terms of match rate, 1st time board pass rate, and had a good reputation in securing students the rotations they wanted.” - Dr. Tony Huynh, DO, graduate of Touro University Nevada

One of our former students, Alison, decided to pursue MD because of a more personal experience:

“My mom was working as a pediatric ICU neurotrauma nurse at the time and was like ‘you should just, you know come, shadow me at work maybe you'll like it’... I will never forget there was this kid that came in and just seeing the whole team of the medical professionals surrounding them and working together to help save this kid, I was like, ‘this is absolutely something that I want to be a part of for the rest of my life’.” - Alison Edwards, MS-1, Dell Medical School at UT Austin, former BeMo student 

Medical School Requirements: DO vs. MD


While there are some DO and MD medical schools that do not require the MCAT, most osteopathic and allopathic programs demand that their applicants meet certain medical school GPA requirements and MCAT score thresholds.


You should also keep in mind that many DO and MD programs require the completion of the Acuity Insights assessment. If your schools are among the medical schools that require CASPer, you might also be required to complete the Duet profile. Make sure you know how to prepare for CASPer, as it remains the most challenging component of Acuity Insights Assessment.


Many MD and DO programs have general medical school prerequisites, but the specific course requirements vary from school to school. Generally, both MD and DO programs require experience in the following:

  • One year of biology
  • One year of physics
  • Two years of organic chemistry with lab

AACOM programs’ handbook also specifies that one year of English composition is preferred. Each medical program may have specific prerequisite requirements. Please check each program’s course requirements before you apply.

Here's a summary of the main differences between MD and DO!

How to Choose Between MD vs DO

The amount of time it takes to prepare a good medical school application varies with every applicant. For example, if you’re a traditional applicant, you’ll probably need to use all the time between when the AMCAS application window closes for the previous year in the fall, until it opens again in May.

If you’re applying to the usual number of schools most traditional applicants apply to – between 16-20 schools – then it doesn’t seem like a lot of time. But if you apply to over 20, even 30 different schools that means having to put in the time researching these schools, writing personal statements and MCAT prep.

“I first began looking at medical schools in Canada (as I am Canadian); however, after working as an applicant with BeMo, I expanded my repertoire to include MD and DO institutions within the United States. If I had to guess, I would say I applied to more than 30 (maybe even 50) institutions between Canada and the United States over the years.” Dr. Shaughnelene Smith, DO, graduate of Kansas City University

“With writing the essay, organizing everything (my medical school application) probably 40 hours. Planning probably 80 hours over several year period.” - Dr. Justin Stacer, DO, graduate of the Kirksville College of Osteopathic Medicine at A.T. Still University

The line between MD vs DO is a thin one; so thin some people aren’t even aware of the differences between allopathic and osteopathic when they start thinking of medical schools to apply to. Even some of our BeMo DO experts weren’t aware that DO medical schools were an option when they were thinking of a medical career:

“When applying I had little information regarding the major difference between DO and MD educations. I would encourage students to do proper research if DO schools are right for them.” - Dr. Tony Huynh, DO, graduate of Touro University Nevada 

“I initially didn't apply to DO schools simply because I didn't know anything about them, but through the support of BeMo, I became more aware of what the programs entailed and what the medical trajectory would look like as a student and future physician.” - Dr. Shaughnelene Smith, DO, graduate of Kansas City University

But the other important thing to remember about choosing between allopathic and osteopathic medicine is that osteopathic medical schools tend to have more relaxed admission requirements and are considered some of the easiest medical schools to get into. One of our BeMo MD experts, Dr. Cathleen Kuo, MDc, said, “I chose to apply to DO school because it is easier to get in than MD school,” even though she was eventually accepted and graduated from the University of Buffalo Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Science.

DO vs MD: Main Application Differences

Personal Qualities and Experiences

As part of your MD or DO school application, you will be required to submit a medical school personal statement. The statement should also include your general plans and aspirations in the medical field. A personal statement must articulate and showcase your motivation to be a physician. Both MD and DO programs look for applicants who can demonstrate the following qualities and experiences:

Personal Statement Tips from MDs and DOs

“I focused on my journey to medicine and opportunities that I sought out along the way. Everyone’s path and validation is unique, so walking the reader through your growth to the point of application will naturally be different.” - Dr. Monica Taneja, MD, graduate of the University of Maryland School of Medicine

“What I did was start with a story. Like any good novel, the stories first lines are meant to hook the reader. This can be about anything if you can bring it back and relate it to your application. It is important that the story be REAL. While in my opinion it is OK to slightly embellish some details of story to make it more interesting, straight lying or overly unrealistic situations should be avoided.” - Dr. Jaime Cazes, MD, graduate of the University of Toronto Temerty Faculty of Medicine

Osteopathic medicine is a unique approach to healthcare and all DO schools want to hear why you are interested in taking the DO path, so be sure to focus as much as you can on what osteopathic medicine means to you, what you want to achieve in the field, and why you are choosing DO school. As Dr. Stacer says, “you need to know why DO.”

“My advice for writing a personal statement is the same for MD vs. DO applicants: Share your experiences and relate this to the institution's mission statement. Therefore, I would advise applicants - not just for the personal statement, but so they also understand the philosophy of what it means to be an osteopathic physician - to look into what these (osteopathic) principles are.” - Dr. Shaughnelene Smith, DO, graduate of Kansas City University

“You need to know why DO. They will certainly ask you about it on interview and expect to see it in your personal statement. Don’t go as a back-up.” - Dr. Justin Stacer, DO, graduate of the Kirksville College of Osteopathic Medicine at A.T. Still University


Letters of Recommendation

Your medical school recommendation letters must be written by referees who are ready to give you outstanding references. You do not want mediocre recommendation letters. To write strong recommendation letters, the author must know you well and be able to speak to your best qualities, strengths, and accomplishments.

For DO applicants, most DO schools (but not all) require a letter from a DO physician, which means you have to seek out a DO physician in your community, and build a strong working relationship with them, through shadowing or scribing to secure an outstanding letter.

“Obtaining a letter of recommendation from a DO was the most challenging part of applying to DO schools. This is generally a requirement for most schools and you must build a relationship with a physician before asking for a letter.” - Dr. Noah Hecihel, DO, graduate of the West Virginia School of Osteopathic Medicine

If you can’t find an osteopathic healthcare practitioner, you should check with your school on whether they will accept letters from MDs. If you take that route, do as Dr. Smith did, make sure that your MDs mention your osteopathic bona fides and how you’ve contributed to osteopathic medicine.

“All my letters of recommendation came from MD physicians. When going through the application process, I remember feeling worried that this would reflect negatively on my application, but I was surprised that a lot of US DO institutions were very forgiving of this. I subsequently made sure to ask my letters of recommendations to highlight some of the DO qualities and principles in my letter.” - Dr. Shaughnelene Smith, DO, graduate of Kansas City University

Medical School Interviews

Both DO and MD medical school programs have rigorous interview processes. To be invited for an interview for either program is a significant achievement. You can start to prepare by practicing common medical school interview questions. Remember, how to prepare for your med school interview will depend on the interview format of the school to which you are applying. Try finding out what kind of interview format is used by your program of choice. These may include traditional interview, MMI interview, group interview, panel interview, and hybrid interviews.

“My first interview for medical school was an MMI and I was not prepared! In an MMI, there are not only ethical scenarios, but also instructional exercises, patient simulations, and creative discussions. Just having a better sense of the questions was really helpful in preparing so that I could match different topics with multiple types of questions.” - Dr. Monica Taneja, MD, graduate of the University of Maryland School of Medicine

Check out our blog for lists of MMI questions and panel interview questions to get ready for your interview! While you run through sample medical school interview questions and answers, figure out how to prepare for your MMI and other interview formats, as each interview style has specific nuances that you must be ready for.

“Be the best-prepared version of yourself. For me, preparation meant having a solid grasp of the interview format (MMI) (i.e., being comfortable with timing and the different types of questions such as acting, collaborating, and writing stations), researching the medical school (and understanding their curriculum, mission statement, and extra-curricular activities they offered), reflecting on my life experiences (and extracting lessons applicable to a medical career) as well as ensuring I was well informed about current issues.” - Dr. Shaughnelene Smith, DO, graduate of Kansas City University

Practice with these hardest medical school interview questions!

DO vs MD: Curriculum Differences

While the first two years focus on biomedical and clinical sciences, the second two years focus on patient-oriented clinical training. Most MD and DO programs also allow time for elective courses.

What is the Framework for Clinical Experiences?

Clinical education follows a distributive model in which students get to practice medicine in different health care settings. These include in-hospital experiences, as well as training in community hospitals and out-of-hospital ambulatory settings. Students in many DO programs are required to participate in community-based primary care rotations in rural or underserved areas. To get full information on each program's curriculum, be sure to check their webpages.


The one major difference between allopathic and osteopathic curriculum is the latter’s inclusion of osteopathic manipulative medicine or OMM.

“I preferred the manipulative medicine aspect. I found it interesting that you could treat physical ailments with manipulation.” - Dr. Noah Heichel, DO, graduate of the West Viriginia School of Osteopathic Medicine

Osteopathic manipulative medicine (OMM) is a hands-on treatment that is used to diagnose and treat people in a primary or adjunctive way. This practice promises to enhance the overall health and holistic functioning of the human body. In conjunction with OMM, DO programs provide medical training in current and emerging theories and methods of medical treatment and diagnosis. DOs are also trained in all the other subjects expected of physicians along with the non-invasive skills of OMM.

All DO schools organize their curricula differently but they make OMM a required rotation, similar to how an MD program makes cardiology, and OB/GYN required rotations in their curricula. So, you should be prepared for how much OMM you’ll be immersed in if you decide to go the osteopathic route.

“There is a lot of OMM in the curriculum and if you’re not interested in it you will start to resent it (I saw this in several classmates).” - Dr. Justin Stacer, DO, graduate of the Kirksville College of Osteopathic Medicine at A.T. Still University

Want to avoid medical school rejection? Watch our video:

DO vs MD: Residency Differences

In the past, DO and MD students had separate graduate medical education accreditation systems. This kind of split also helped to propagate the rivalry between DO vs MD degrees. Today, a unified GME accreditation system is available to all medical school graduates under the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME).

How Do MD and DO Graduates Apply to Residency Programs?

Both MD and DO graduates use the Electronic Residency Application Service (ERAS) to apply to their chosen residency programs. Elected applicants are invited to interviews, where their candidacy will be assessed by the Program Director, faculty, and other residents. The interview is also the applicants’ chance to examine the programs to which they applied. Based on the interviews, students submit a list of their rank order list, ranked from their first choice to last. Programs also rank the applicants. Based on these two lists, the residency match is made.

How Do Match Rates Differ Between MDs and DOs?

Most DO and MD graduates focus on one field of practice in their graduate education. Due to osteopathic medicine’s whole-person approach, the majority of DOs choose to practice medicine in the primary care specialties like family medicine, general internal medicine, and pediatrics. However, DO graduates practice a variety of medical specialties including geriatrics, sports medicine, and trauma surgery.

Whether you are applying to the most competitive residencies or not, residency matching is highly competitive for both MD and DO graduates. Osteopathic graduates have relatively high matching rates in GME programs; however, they are usually lower than MDs’ matching rates, according to the NRMP.

Despite the statistics, you still have a very good chance of being matched to a residency program of your choice, if you apply strategically.

DO vs MD: Licensing Differences

Just like their MD peers, DO graduates go through a rigorous licensing process to ensure a high caliber of their theoretical and practical knowledge. To become a licensed allopathic or osteopathic physician, you must:

Stay on top of medical developments related to your specialty through Continuing Medical Education (CME) programs. Participation in CMEs will provide ongoing education and retraining. As the medical field grows and develops new technologies and practices, you as a medical professional will need to improve your competencies. Each state has its own CME requirements.

Licensing Exams

United States Medical Licensure Examination (USLME)

The USMLE is the standard examination required for all US and international MD students to practice medicine in the United States. DO students and residents are also eligible to take this exam. There are three parts to this exam: the USMLE step 1, the USMLE step 2 CK, and the USMLE step 3. Check your residency program’s deadlines to see when you should schedule your USMLE exams.

Comprehensive Osteopathic Medical Licensure Exam (COMLEX-USA)

COMLEX-USA is the standardized test of osteopathic medical skills. The goal of this exam is to test the competency of students’ knowledge of osteopathic medical practice. This exam tests DOs’ theoretical knowledge and essential clinical skills. COMLEX-USA consists of standardized test questions and a pass/fail observed clinical examination performed by the student.

There are three COMLEX-USA components:

Therefore, completing COMLEX Level 1, COMLEX Level 2 CE and COMLEX Level 2 PE is required for graduation from the osteopathic school.

Important note: some MD residency programs may accept COMLEX-USA exam scores, but most will require DO students to also take the USMLE exam in addition to COMLEX-USA.


1. Are DO programs less competitive than MD programs? Is it easier to get in?

In general, it is considered easier to get into DO programs. The average GPA and MCAT scores for DO admissions tend to be lower. While the medical school acceptance rates for both DO and MD programs are similar, the number of candidates for MD programs is much higher and therefore there is more competition.

2. Does being a DO limit my choice in residency matching?

An osteopathic medical degree will not severely limit your choice and chances of matching. While DOs tend to have lower match rates than MDs, especially in more competitive specialties, DOs can apply to all the same programs as MD graduates.

3. How are osteopathic and allopathic curricula different?

Osteopathic medical school curricula are similar to those in MD programs. Both programs take four years to complete and provide training to prepare students for a variety of specialties. The key difference between them is in the approach to medicine. Specifically, DO programs will teach osteopathic manipulative medicine techniques.

4. Where can I learn more about DO programs?

Start by visiting DO programs’ websites. The Choose DO Explorer is a useful tool to find information about osteopathic medical schools. If you get a chance, try visiting the program that interests you. Talk to current students and faculty, they may be able to answer most of your questions.

5. Is there a significant difference between DO and MD salaries?

On average, there is a slight difference in salary between MD and DO physicians. Keep in mind that a doctor’s salary is heavily influenced by his or her specialty. With this said, MD practitioners do earn a slightly higher salary on average, simply because MDs tend to enter into higher-paying specialties.  

6. How do match rates differ between MDs and DOs?

Residency matching is highly competitive for both MD and DO graduates. According to the NRMP Main Residency Match, DO students experience lower success rates of matching compared to MD graduates for the majority of specialties.

7. When is OMM taught?

OMM is a key component of DO education. OMM education usually occurs in the first and second years of theoretical and skills courses and throughout clinical training. Each student completes around 200 hours of OMM training. 

8. Should I apply to DO or MD schools?

The choice of whether to apply to DO or MD—or both—will vary by applicant. We recommend applying to any programs that fit your profile and criteria for medical school selection, regardless of if it is a DO or MD program, to increase your chances of acceptance. However, before applying to DO schools carefully look at the application requirements and consider whether studying osteopathic medicine is of interest to you.

To your success,

Your friends at BeMo

BeMo Academic Consulting

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Have a question? Ask our admissions experts below and we'll answer your questions!



Do DO’s make more or less money than an MD?


BeMo Academic Consulting

Hello Azell! Thank you for your question. DOs do not make less money when they work in the same specialty. For example, MDs and DOs in family medicine make the same. Let us know if you have any questions!



Can a DO specialize and become a surgeon, dermatologist, paediatrician anesthesiologist, etc the same way a MD can?


BeMo Academic Consulting

HI Azell! Yes, DOs can specialize, but the rate of acceptance to these specialties for DOs is lower than for MDs.