Doctors and nurses are key personnel in the health-care industry. Both professions require people who are highly educated and proficient in the world of medicine. While they must work together very closely, their responsibilities are quite different. Their educations are quite different as well.

Nursing Undergraduate Education

Nurses can enter the field in three ways. They can earn a diploma from a hospital-based nursing program. They can earn an associate’s degree in nursing from a community college or technical school. They can also start by earning a bachelor’s degree in nursing from a university. Each level of education prepares the nurse for entry-level positions. Courses in these programs include numerous science courses including biology, chemistry, anatomy and nutrition. Nurses with bachelor’s degrees are often able to move into supervisory roles more quickly than those without because their programs also include courses that teach leadership and management skills. Whichever route they take, meeting the requirements of an accredited degree program will meet the licensing requirements of the state in which the program is located, and possibly other states.

Medical Undergraduate Education

Students wishing to become medical doctors have no choice but to start with an undergraduate program. Medical schools require a heavy course load in the sciences including biology, chemistry, anatomy, physiology, microbiology, genetics and pharmacology. Medical schools also like to see courses in the humanities and social sciences including psychology, business and communications. Medical doctors are not able to practice with just a bachelor’s degree, however.

Nursing Graduate Education

Nurses who want to go further in their careers often pursue graduate studies. Graduate work is not required to be a registered nurse; however, it is required to be an advanced practice nurse such as a nurse practitioner or clinical nurse specialist. The American Association of Colleges of Nursing recommends that the current master’s level programs in nursing be eliminated and replaced with doctorates by the year 2015.

Medical Graduate Education

Future medical doctors are required to go to medical school after their undergraduate educations are complete. Medical school is a four-year program that includes two years of intense lecture and lab-based coursework and two more years of a combination of lectures and labs with clinical rotations. After completing medical school and passing the required licensing exam, doctors also must go through a residency program. A residency program is an on-the-job learning experience. They work as doctors but are heavily supervised by more experienced doctors. After the residency is complete, specialists also must do a fellowship that involves even more on-the-job training in their specialty. After the residency and fellowship are complete, the medical doctor is finally considered fully trained.