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
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 to complete.
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 or “biomechanics.”
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 pediatrics.
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 U.S.
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, perform surgery.
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.