All medical degree programs in the U.S. are at the graduate level, meaning you must complete at least some undergraduate studies. If you enjoy science and working with people, you can become a medical doctor, osteopath or podiatrist. If you'd prefer working with animals, choose veterinary medicine. There's even a medical degree for students who need help in getting into professional school.
Doctor of Medicine
The Doctor of Medicine or M.D. degree takes four years and qualifies you for specialty residencies and medical licensing exams. Most students first complete four years of undergraduate work, including required prerequisites such as biology, anatomy and chemistry. During the first two years of medical school, students take classes and labs in biochemistry, medical ethics, pharmacology and other foundational classes. They also learn basic patient-care skills -- for example, taking a medical history. Working in hospitals and clinics under experienced physicians, students spend their final two years in clinical rotations in specialties such as pediatrics, surgery and family practice.
Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine
Osteopathic college is an alternate route to a career as a physician, and it also takes four years. The prerequisites are similar to medical school, and most students complete a bachelor's degree first. Osteopathic colleges include training in traditional medicine, but they emphasize prevention and a holistic approach. The curriculum includes manipulation of the muscular and skeletal systems. As with medical students, D.O. students spend their first two years in science classes and the last two years in clinical rotations. The D.O. degree prepares you for specialty residencies and osteopathic licensing exams.
Doctor of Podiatric Medicine
Podiatrists must earn a four-year Doctor of Podiatric Medicine degree and pass podiatric licensing exams. Most podiatry applicants have a bachelor's degree, including required coursework in chemistry and biology. During the first half of podiatry school, students study subjects such as biochemistry, physiology, orthopedics of the foot and orthopedic casting. Then students spend their final two years in clinical rotations such as podiatric surgery, orthopedics and podiatric medicine.
Doctor of Veterinary Medicine
Doctor of Veterinary Medicine programs require college science prerequisites in chemistry, biology, zoology and animal science. You don't have to complete a bachelor's degree first, but most students do. DVM students take classes in animal anatomy, animal diseases, animal systems, neurology, anesthesiology and radiology. During the final year or two, students perform clinical rotations in animal clinics and hospitals, choosing a focus such as small animals, food animals, horses or general practice. The DVM degree prepares you to pass veterinary licensing exams.
Master's Degree Programs
Master's degrees in medical science are available for students who haven't decided what professional program to pursue or need a boost to get admitted. These programs typically take one year and offer a Master of Science or Master of Arts in medical sciences. Course offerings parallel those of first-year medical students, including developmental biology, advanced biochemistry, pharmacology, physiology and genetics. Some schools offer a track for educators and researchers, but the major purpose of the degree is gaining admission to doctoral programs in medicine or pharmacy.
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Outlook Handbook -- Physicians and Surgeons
- American Osteopathic Association: About Osteopathic Medicine
- The Princeton Review: Becoming a Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (D.O.)
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Outlook Handbook -- Podiatrists
- Temple University: School of Podiatric Medicine
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Outlook Handbook -- Veterinarians
- University of Florida: Veterinary Education -- Curriculum
- University of South Florida: College of Medicine -- One-Year Master's Overview
- Loyola University Chicago -- M.A. in Medical Sciences
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