The debate of “MD vs DO” commonly comes up when one is deciding what route they would like to pursue when applying to medical schools. In this post, I'll share my personal journey when picking between both DO and MD, as well as insights on the DO vs MD curriculum, the application process, medical school requirements and so much more.

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9 min read

DO vs MD: Which Path is Better? DO vs MD: What's the Difference? 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 DO vs MD: Salary and Career Outlook FAQs

DO vs MD: Which Path is Better?

When looking into both MD and DO schools, I did not have a preference between the two; I just wanted to get my foot in the door! I applied to both MD and DO schools to give myself the best chance of getting into medical school.

From my experiences before medical school, shadowing MDs and DOs, volunteering, and having friends go into both types of schools, I knew I would get an excellent education regardless of which route I chose.

When applying to both MD and DO schools and talking to classmates, the general idea was “We just want to get in somewhere” by the end of the application cycle. At first, I saw a slight stigma against DO schools due to reading online forums and so on. As the cycle went on, I concluded that both routes are great options and that getting accepted to either is an accomplishment.

DO vs MD: How I Decided

I did apply to a multitude of both MD and DO schools. I wanted to give myself the best possible chance of getting accepted; I knew that I wanted to be a physician and, for me personally, the different schools of thought did not matter.

When researching the various programs, the biggest factors for me were cost, proximity to my family (location) and the resources available. So my state school was my number one choice. One thing I did not consider when looking for programs was their match rate and the specialties that their students match into. I recommend looking into this (usually available on the program’s website) to understand what type of career opportunities you may have after graduating.

I did get accepted to both MD and DO schools, and my deciding factor was the cost. I went to my state school's MD program, which in the long run will save me hundreds of thousands of dollars once my student loans are paid off. If you end up being in a position where you get accepted to multiple medical schools, be sure to take cost into consideration when choosing; a decision that can cost you hundreds of thousands of dollars!

DO vs MD: What’s the Difference?

The differences come down to the school of thought where osteopaths, since the beginning of their profession, have focused on the holistic approach of treating a patient. Whereas an allopathic physician focuses on treating symptoms and diseases with various treatments such as medications, surgeries, and other means such as radiation. While this has been a point of contention to differentiate the two, in today’s medical landscape, this is not an accurate sentiment.

DO vs MD: Education and Curriculum

While in the past and even today, people will tag terms like “holistic” care with the DO profession and use more negative descriptors for MD programs such as “pushing pills” or “treating symptoms”, these differences are not so black and white. The education you receive in both programs is nearly identical.

You will learn everything you need for different body systems such as neurology, cardiovascular, gastrointestinal, endocrine, etc. regardless of which education you choose. The primary difference in the DO curriculum is the inclusion of osteopathic manipulative medicine (OMM), consisting of muscular manipulations to help aid the body’s natural healing response, which is a big part of osteopathic education.

The real differences come down to each individual school. For example, the program I went to focused on different body systems in 6-week blocks. This was done to focus on every aspect of said system and make those connections between pathology and physiology. Some other programs I applied to had semester long courses such as pathology or physiology which would focus on different body systems as the semester went on.

Being an MD, I bring this point up to say this: No matter what route you go through, you will be well prepared. Being in residency with DOs, I see no difference in our level of education or ability to treat patients. Additionally, OMM is not something that is usually done unless you do a residency focused on OMM or, at times, in the primary care setting. This holistic aspect of DO training is indeed incorporated in allopathic education as well, learning about topics such as social determinants of health, faith, mental health, preventative care, financial factors, etc., as a way to help treat patients to ensure the best outcomes.

When it comes to deciding between the two, it should be less of “what school of thought do I want to be a part of?” and more so what program you get accepted to. 

Medical School Requirements: DO vs. MD

The general requirements to gain acceptance at both types of programs, for the most part, are identical.


One of the differences in matriculated students in MD and DO programs is that historically, MD students do have higher GPAs and MCAT scores. For recent matriculated classes these stats are:

DO Programs

o  Science GPA: 3.52

o  Non-science GPA: 3.71

o  Overall GPA: 3.62

o  MCAT: 504

MD Programs

o  Science GPA: 3.71

o  Non-science GPA: 3.85

o  Overall GPA: 3.77

o  MCAT: 512

There are many reasonings why MD schools generally have higher GPA and MCAT scores. Some of these reasons include ties to large academic centers, established programs with many alumni connections and backing, public funding (for state schools), access to cutting edge research, and professors/physicians who are experts/leaders in their respective fields teaching you.

While these may not all be exclusive to MD programs, these are generally more likely to be found in these programs. When applying to both MD and DO programs, take this into consideration as you look at your stats and figure out what you want your medical experiences to be like. If you are gunning for a more specialized residency, it may be in your favor to apply to more MD schools since there may be more clinical opportunities there. 

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.


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.


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.

Medical School Admissions Essays

During the application process, the major differences I experienced came down to the philosophical approach. For example, when writing my personal statement for DO programs, I made sure to include my DO experience and how that has piqued my interest in becoming a DO. Additionally, when it came to writing secondary essays, I had questions about holistic approaches to medicine and how I would resonate with that. Also, I made sure to highlight more of the holistic thought process in my general application when describing my activities, even though I used the same ones for both applications. I made sure to change my verbiage and emphasized those holistic teachings.

Medical School Interviews

During medical school interviews, the same applied with emphasizing more holistic thought processes and preparing answers that came across as understanding the whole patient. In contrast, for my MD application, I approached it as I approached any other educational application by highlighting my educational and personal strengths. 

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

DO vs MD: Main Application Differences

What About Shadowing Experiences?

My shadowing experience of both MDs and DOs were very similar. The MD I shadowed was a small-town pediatrician that was focused on the overall health and wellbeing of not only the child, but also the overall health of the family. He provided excellent care connecting families to various free resources such as food pantries, employment help, and schooling help.

The DO I shadowed was a general surgeon who was caring and made sure to provide excellent care for her patients by asking a lot of generalized questions on follow-ups that pertained to the patients emotional, spiritual and financial health after surgery and helped connect with resources that the patient may need.

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.

DO vs MD: Residency Differences

Another point to take into consideration when applying to either type of programs is your ability to match into a residency. Overall, it is easier to match into residency as an MD applicant, but both types of students have high match rates overall:

From my experience, the reasoning behind this is historically, many of the residency positions are held by large academic institutions that are associated with MD medical schools. Additionally, DO students do tend to go to more primary care focused programs. For MD applicants, the top five specialties and their match rates according to the NRMP are: 

  1. Internal Medicine (85.4%)
  2. Pediatrics (90%)
  3. Family Medicine (86%)
  4. Anesthesiology (69%)
  5. Psychiatry (86%)

For DO applicants, the top five specialties and their match rates are:

  1. Internal Medicine (80%)
  2. Family Medicine (77%)
  3. Emergency Medicine (91%)
  4. Pediatrics (85%)
  5. Psychiatry (72%)

Why Do Match Rates Differ Between MDs and DOs?

While it is easy to get caught up in the numbers when it comes to match rates and what the top specialties that MD vs DO applicants match into, there are many other factors that go into matching. For example, USMLE Step 1 scores, extracurricular activities, research, awards, letters of recommendation, clinical and non-clinical grades.

Additionally, different students do apply to other specialties as “back-ups” or when they are undecided. Having a back-up specialty that is less competitive for students who are not 100% confident in matching in their desired specialty may decrease the match rate. These students may be increasing the pool of applicants even though they may truly not want to go into that specific specialty. Because of this, the numbers may not truly reflect accurate match rates. 

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.

DO vs MD: Licensing Differences

DO vs MD: Salary and Career Outlook

After all of that schooling and additional training, pay is certainly an important factor to consider. There are many articles out there that show a discrepancy between salaries for MDs and DOs. For example, a prominent job website states that on average, DOs in the US make approximately $163,908 per year, while MDs make approximately $201,918 per year.

What this article does not explain is that historically, DOs tend to go into more primary care focused specialties such as family medicine and pediatrics. These specialties pay physicians less than specialized practices, such as plastic surgery, interventional radiology, or dermatology, of which MDs make up a larger percentage. If we were to compare MDs vs DOs salaries in the same specialties, the pay will be the same (obviously there is some variability between region, academic vs private practice, etc.).

In short, websites out there are misleading in an attempt to have people believe that there is a pay gap between MDs and DOs, when in reality there is no gap when comparing by specialty.


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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