Pursuing a medical degree is a lengthy and challenging journey. While it might be tough, it can also lead to some of the most rewarding careers possible. It’s important to avoid becoming burnt out as you prepare to apply to medical schools.
At some point, you should take a break from even the best MCAT practice tests and consider your career from another perspective. While you may already know what you want to do with your degree, it can never hurt to explore the whole realm of options available.
Medical degrees are categorized under two specializations: M.D. and D.O. These degrees each come with their own nuances, and both courses of study are equally stringent. While the curriculum structures of both degrees are more or less the same, the clinical practice training that extends beyond the initial one or two-year period is quite different.
- M.D.- Medical Doctor
The M.D. (Doctor of Medicine) degree is the more traditional one of the two. Fields of studies and careers related to this degree prescribe to the allopathic medical approach. Common career paths for M.D. degree holders include pathology, neurology, radiology, and more.
- D.O.- Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine
The D.O. (Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine) degree is the newer of the two. Fields of studies and careers related to this degree prescribe to the osteopathic medical approach that takes a more holistic approach to healthcare than traditional medical studies. In addition to practicing medicine, common career paths for D.O. degree holders include public health, teaching, forensics, research, alternative medicine, and more.
Both M.D. and D.O. degrees offer common career paths that can offer you a lot of options and flexibility. As you decide what path you want your degree to take you on, you should be sure to consider all the choices available.
- Private Practice
The most common and sensible career path for anyone who has specialized in advanced branches of medical studies such as neurology, homeopathy, dermatology, pediatrics, and more. This is a perfect option for D.O. degree holders who have more niche specializations than M.D. degree holders.
To be a private practitioner as a D.O. or M.D. degree holder, you ideally need at least a couple of years of experience in a good hospital to gain credibility and recognition in your field.
A career path in research is equally viable for both M.D. and D.O. degree holders. Research is an integral part of continuing to improve the medical field in both disciplines of medical studies. To pursue a career in research, you should get an MD-PhD and be a doctor of both medicine and your area of research. Spending some time as a research assistant will help along the way.
It should be noted that you also need additional skills in writing documentation such as proposals, reports, and more. Some research positions are barred until you have a Ph.D., so keep that in mind when scouting career opportunities.
- Teaching Hospital
Most public hospitals are also teaching hospitals, meaning you will train in one and will likely end up managing trainees yourself if you work in one.
If you feel like switching entirely to teaching medicine, you should keep in mind that you won’t become a professor overnight. To join the ranks of the highest caliber of teachers in the medical field, you’ll need to spend a couple of years as a lecturer and assistant professor before making it to the top.
- Medical Administrator
If you’re skilled at managing and coordinating people and things, a career in medical administration might just be the right fit for you. This is a great career for those who are also organizationally-minded and who like to help people from a big-picture perspective. Having a medical degree is helpful but not an absolute necessity if you want to become a medical administrator.
Some people lose track of what they want to do with their medical degree until the time for specialization is knocking on their door. If you know what you want from the start, you can easily balance and focus your academic efforts on your chosen career path from the very beginning. This will help you avoid indecisiveness and wrong decisions down the line.