Doctor of Medicine (M.D.)
The Doctor of Medicine (M.D.) treats and prevents human illness, disease
or injury. He or she is licensed to prescribe drugs and perform surgery.
M.D.’s graduate from colleges of Allopathic Medicine. There are
126 schools of Allopathic Medicine located throughout the United States.
Medical doctors may practice medicine in specialty areas such as: family
practice, internal medicine, surgery, obstetrics and gynecology, pediatrics,
psychiatry and many more.
Generally, the minimum entrance requirements for medical school are three
years of college, competitive scores on the Medical College Admission
Test (MCAT), and letters of recommendation. However, the majority of students
entering are college graduates. Medical school programs are traditionally
four years in length. Additional training is needed to specialize. Most
M.D. graduates do a hospital residency, which takes three or more years
Doctor of Osteopathy (D.O.)
The Doctor of Osteopathy is concerned with the prevention, diagnosis
and treatment of human illness, disease and injury. He or she also prescribes
drugs, performs surgery and selectively utilizes all accepted scientific
modalities to maintain and restore health. The primary factor that distinguishes
osteopathic medicine from allopathic medicine is manipulative treatment
D.O.’s graduate from colleges of Osteopathic Medicine; they are
not M.D.’s. There are 17 schools of Osteopathic Medicine located
throughout the United States.
Only D.O.’s and M.D.’s are qualified to be licensed as physicians
and to practice all facets of medicine and surgery. Some 55 percent of
active D.O.’s provide primary health care to individuals and their
families. The other 45 percent are specialists, practicing in such areas
as internal medicine, surgery, psychiatry, obstetrics and gynecology and
The requirements for entry into a school of Osteopathy are similar to
those of schools of Allopathic Medicine.
Doctor of Dental Surgery (D.D.S.)
Doctor of Dental Medicine (D.M.D.)
Dentists treat oral diseases and disorders such as tooth decay, gum disease
and crooked teeth. They may fill cavities and extract teeth and provide
dentures for patients. Dentists can also specialize. Some examples are
oral surgeons, pedodontists (work with children), orthodontists (straighten
teeth), periodontists (gum disease specialists) and endodontists (perform
root canal therapy). Admission to a dental school requires three to four
years of college with specific science courses; however, most entering
students possess a bachelor’s degree. Competitive scores on the
Dental Admission Test (DAT) are also required.
The dental school curriculum is a four-year program leading to a D.D.S.
(Doctor of Dental Surgery) or a D.M.D. (Doctor of Dental Medicine) degree.
Specialization requires an additional two or more years of training.
Doctor of Veterinary Medicine
Doctors of Veterinary Medicine (D.V.M.) perform a wide range of services
related to animal and human health. Some veterinarians prevent, diagnose
and resolve health problems in all species of animals, family pets, farm
livestock, zoo animals and wildlife. Some veterinarians develop, test,
license and market new medicines and vaccines. The welfare of laboratory
animals used in medical research is assured by some veterinarians. There
are also D.V.M.’s who manage meat and poultry inspection programs,
while others work to prevent the entry of livestock diseases into the
Admission to a college of Veterinary Medicine requires two to three years
of college work with courses in math and science. Most veterinary students
have bachelor’s degrees. After the four-year veterinary college
program, many graduates complete an optional internship or residency program;
others go directly into practice. Competitive scores on the Medical
College Admission Test (MCAT) are required. Some schools also require
Graduate Record Exam (GRE) General, and the GRE biology subject test.
Doctor of Optometry (O.D.)
Doctors of Optometry (O.D.) are primarily health care providers who diagnose,
manage and treat conditions and diseases of the human eye and visual system,
as regulated by state law. Optometrists are thoroughly trained to recognize
signs and symptoms of eye or systematic disease and make referrals to
the appropriate health care practitioner for further diagnosis and treatment,
if required. Doctors of Optometry provide vision care by prescribing ophthalmic
lenses, contact lenses, other optical aids and vision therapy. Doctors
of Optometry receive four years of specialized professional education
and clinical training at an accredited school of Optometry, after competition
of their undergraduate prerequisites. Although a minimum of two years
of college is required, the majority of today’s optometry students
have a bachelor’s degree or higher. Competitive scores from the
Optometry Admission Test (OAT) are required.
Doctor of Podiatric Medicine (D.P.M.)
A Doctor of Podiatric Medicine (D.P.M.) specializes in the prevention,
diagnosis, and treatment, both medically and surgically, of diseases and
disorders affecting the foot and leg. D.P.M.’s make independent
judgments, administer treatment, prescribe medications, and when necessary,
In addition to general and preventive podiatric medicine, there are a
number of specialty areas, including: podiatric sports medicine, podiatric
surgery, podopediatrics, orthopedics and podiatric medicine. Students
of Podiatric Medicine engage in a rigorous four-year course of professional
studies. Following pre-doctoral education and training, D.P.M.’s
enter into a one to three-year residency program or a 12-month preceptorship.
The requirements for entry into a School of Podiatric Medicine are similar
to those of Schools of Allopathic Medicine.
Doctor of Pharmacy (Pharm. D.)
Pharmacists are experts in the science of drugs and the art of drug therapy.
They are also vital members of the health care team. The first professional
degree program in pharmacy, which qualifies the graduate for licenser
examination, may be either the baccalaureate or the doctor of pharmacy
(Pharm D.) degree. The baccalaureate curriculum customarily requires a
five-year program of college study including pharmacy. A Pharm. D. program
customarily requires six years and may also be designed as a post baccalaureate
program, usually exceeding six years of study.
Admission to pharmacy programs is usually contingent upon successful
completion of a pre- pharmacy curriculum. Many programs require that the
applicant take the Pharmacy College Admissions Test (PCAT). In addition,
admission requirements may include grade point average, residency status,
letters of recommendation and applicant interviews. Prepharmacy course
work typically consists of chemistry, biological sciences, physical sciences,
English, social and behavioral sciences, and the humanities.
Doctor of Chiropractic (D.C.)
A Doctor of Chiropractic (D.C.) is a physician whose purpose is to help
meet the health needs of the public as a member of the healing arts. He/she
gives particular attention to the relationship of the structural and neurological
aspects of the body and is educated in the basic and clinical sciences
as well as in related health subjects. Chiropractic science concerns itself
with the relationship between structure (primarily the spine), and function
(primarily coordinated by the nervous system), of the human body as that
relationship may affect the restoration and preservation of health.
The purpose of his/her professional education is to prepare the doctor
of chiropractic as a primary health care provider; to provide the students
with a base of knowledge sufficient for the performance of his or her
professional obligations as a doctor of chiropractic. As a portal of entry
to the health delivery system, the Doctor of Chiropractic must be well
educated to diagnose for chiropractic care, to provide chiropractic care,
and to consult with, or refer to, other health care providers as indicated.
Public Health/Community Health Educators promote good
health by educating the public about the causes of disease and the means
of prevention. They also assist other health personnel plan by developing
health services, which meet a community’s special needs. Master
and doctoral degrees in public health or community health education are
generally required for professional positions in the field. A four-year
bachelor’s degree in health education may prepare students for beginning
jobs in some health agencies. The Graduate Record Exam may also be required.