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Are you looking for a primary care provider, but are having trouble choosing between an MD or DO? We offer information to help you make the best decision for you and your family.

What's the difference between an MD and DO?

Both medical doctors (MD) and doctors of osteopathy (DO) are physicians who practice medicine. MDs and DOs complete similar levels of education and training. They also share the same healthcare goals: to maintain wellness and diagnose, treat, and prescribe medicine for any disease, both physical and mental. MDs and DOs work in similar settings, too:

  • Doctor's offices
  • Hospitals
  • Clinics
  • Healthcare companies
  • Insurers

DOs undergo special training in osteopathic manipulation. Osteopathic manipulation is a hands-on approach for treating some types of pain like lower back pain or headaches.  DOs use their hands to place pressure or movement on your muscles. This requires extra training about the bones and muscles that make up your body (skeletal system).

Education and training

Both MDs and DOs must also take an exam to become certified to practice medicine in their state. Many doctors also go on to become certified in their area of medicine.  Both MDs and DOs must complete extensive education and training to practice medicine:

  • Undergraduate education: four years at a college or university.
  • Undergraduate medical education involves an additional four years of education at a medical school to earn an MD or at a college of osteopathic medicine to earn a DO.
  • Residency program is three to seven years of training (depending on the specialty chosen) under the supervision of attending physicians.
  • Fellowships are additional training for doctors who want to go on to practice a subspecialty (for example, an internal medicine doctor may go on to complete a fellowship in cardiology, gastroenterology, or another subspecialty)
  • Continuing education is ongoing education for all doctors who continue to learn through courses and trainings.