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MD vs PhD - Which should You study?

If you want to further your position on the career ladder within the medical profession, then a course of postgraduate study may be your best choice. However, there are two options available for those wishing to pursue further qualifications in medicine - a PhD (Doctor of Philosophy) or an MD (Doctor of Medicine).

Which one should you go for? We take a look at the differences between the two to help you decide...

PhD vs. MD: Course Structure

One of the key differences between a PhD and an MD is the structure of the course. While a PhD is generally lab-based and lasts a minimum of 3 years, the MD lasts 2-3 years and combines a student’s research findings with clinical practice.

Both qualifications require a student to submit a thesis or a portfolio of published work at the end of their course.

PhD vs. MD: Career Ambitions

Whether you decide to study for a PhD in Medicine or for an MD qualification, this will have a significant impact upon your career. For the most part, those with an MD are more suited to clinical roles, using their specialist knowledge to diagnose and interact with patients. For those wishing to be working doctors, this may be the ideal option for you.

However, if you’re looking to take your career in a research-based direction, then you may wish to study a PhD.

PhD vs. MD: Academic Prestige

While both the MD and the PhD are highly regarded qualifications, it could be argued that there is (in general) slightly more prestige attached to having a PhD, as the course is longer and the research more thorough.

Having said this, if you want to pursue a career in clinical practice but academic reputation of your qualification isn't that important to you, it isn’t essential to study on a PhD course. There are a number of prestigious institutions (including University of Cambridge) that offer a wide range of renowned MD qualifications. 

PhD vs. MD: Financial restrictions

One of the key things to take into consideration when studying any postgraduate course is the cost. While all courses are going to cost money, it is important that you consider whether or not you can afford the course before making your application. In order to study on an MD or a PhD the majority of students will finance the course through a combination of loans and external funding.

Despite this, studying on an MD or a PhD may become a financial struggle as both courses are very time demanding. However, with an MD, there are some opportunities to find medical paid work during your clinical learning, whereas this is much harder for those studying on a PhD.

Both MD and PhDs typically costs between £4,000 and £6,000 per year, but as the MD course only lasts 2 years (full-time), the cost of fees is a lot lower. 


- Search for MD courses or PhD courses 

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