When to Consider an MD/Ph.D. Program

January 2, 2015

Article by Global Pre-Meds
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As if earning a medical degree was not tough enough, some students decide to pursue both a medical degree and a Ph.D. at the same time. Dual degree programs for medical students are not right for everyone, but for some people they may provide the career advantages they are looking for.   

Gap Medics students with a patient on the maternity ward in Chiang Mai How Does an MD/Ph.D. Program Work? 

Medical school normally takes four years to complete. Although it may vary, most dual degree programs take between seven and eight years to complete. During the course of your program, you still complete all the medical school requirements including classes and clinical rotations. But you also complete the classes, research and dissertation needed to earn your Ph.D.

The way the program is structured can also vary. For example, your first two years of the program may include mostly medical school with some opportunities to explore research options. Years three through six may include mostly work on your Ph.D. including completing your dissertation. While the last two years of your program will involve completing medical school and your clinical rotations.

Not all medical schools offer dual degree programs. Currently, there are over 100 dual degree programs affiliated with medical schools in the United States. The requirements to get into a program are often tougher than getting into an MD program. After all, a dual degree program involves pursuing two very challenging programs at the same time. School admissions committees want to make sure students have the skills and traits to meet the academic challenge.

If you plan to apply to a dual MD/Ph.D. program, the application process and timeline are the same as when applying to a regular MD program. Plan on writing a personal statement on why you want to travel this path. You will also need research experience and a high grade point average.  

Why Choose a Duel Degree Program?

One reason to choose a dual degree program is the career path you want to follow. Earning a Ph.D. makes more sense depending on what you plan to do. For instance, if you want to be involved in patient care for your entire career, a Ph.D. may not be that helpful. Buy if you want to go into research, teach at a medical school or work in administration, the added credentials of a Ph.D. may give you the edge. There are many disciplines to choose from in duel programs including bioethics, neuroscience, public health and immunology. 

It is important to understand there will be differences between traditional medical school programs and those that combine a medical degree with a Ph.D. Traditional medical schools focus on teaching students how to practice medicine while providing some opportunities for research. Duel programs place a much greater emphasis on the investigative and research side of medicine.

Students should also keep in mind; a medical degree may not always be required to pursue some of the career areas you are interested in. A Ph.D. alone may provide the qualifications needed. Talking with an advisor at your college or an admissions representative at a school, which offers a dual degree program, may help you decide if it is right for you.