Difference between MD and DO

Published on March 28, 2016

In terms of education and certification, an MD (acronym for Doctor of Medicine) and a DO (acronym for Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine) are similar. Both follow an undergraduate degree of four years followed by medical training. Both are doctors with a license to practice in the US. Nevertheless, their jobs differ when it comes to the type of training they receive and in terms of their philosophy related to patient care. Let’s go into a little detail.


MD vs DO

An MD is an acronym for Doctor of Medicine or Medical Doctor. The term was coined by a man named James Whorton, who enlightened that MDs use such treatments which affect the ill in a different way than they would affect the healthy people. For an instance, a healthy as well as a sick person may take an antibiotic. But, it would not help the healthy person ameliorate his health. People often talk about an MD when they are actually talking about a physician. The role of an MD is to practice the allopathic form of medicine.

The osteopathic doctor follows more of a holistic approach to treat his patients and considers the patient’s body system, his nutrition and his environment. A DO gets his undergraduate degree from an osteopathic school in the US, and is American Osteopathic Associate Commission-certified in the Osteopathic College Accreditation (COCA).

MD vs DO

While an MD and a DO share numerous similarities in that they both use scientifically-proven techniques of treatment, the major difference between an MD and DO is their patient care-related philosophy and their approach to medical practice. Where the osteopathic philosophy is based on an all-inclusive approach, MDs follow the allopathic approach.

Dr. Andrew Taylor Still introduced the osteopathic form of medicine in 1874. According to him, all body systems are dependent upon each other and are interrelated. Kirksville, Missouri saw the first osteopathic school in 1892, which was opened by Dr. Still.

Almost 65% of DOs work in primary care, whereas most MDs hold another specialization. A number of DOs practice as primary care physicians in rural areas, but most MDs are seen practicing in metropolitan cities.

In terms of salary, the MD and DO are almost equal. Generally, their salaries are calculated after taking into consideration various aspects, in particular, their area of specialization. Still, the salary of an MD may be slightly higher as compared to that of a DO.

Comparison Chart

An MD practices the allopathic approach of medicine.A DO follows a more holistic approach.
MDs usually specialize in different areas of medicine such as Cardiology or Dermatology.Most DOs are primary care physicians


Here’s a video with a wonderful explanation of how an MD differs from a DO.