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What Are the Different Types of Medical Degree Programs?

Amanda Barnhart
Amanda Barnhart

Many different types of medical degree programs are available for people who wish to pursue a career in the medical field working with patients. While the specific requirements for medical degree programs vary widely by country, most medical degrees require a year or more of post-secondary schooling. Programs for doctors and nurses are some of the best known programs, but degrees and certificates in the medical field are also available for pharmacists, phlebotomists, and different types of therapists as well.

Doctors fall into several different categories, but medical degree programs for future doctors require multiple years of schooling and training in most countries. In the United States, there are two main medical degrees for doctors. Doctors of Medicine earn an MD degree from a medical degree program that is accredited and teaches allopathic medicine, while DO degrees are awarded to students who complete a medical degree program from a medical school that specializes in osteopathic medicine. Osteopathic medicine differs slightly from allopathic medicine in that it focuses more on holistic medicine and the manipulation of the musculoskeletal system as a large component of treatment.

Medical degree programs require many years of schooling and training in most countries.
Medical degree programs require many years of schooling and training in most countries.

Nurses have several different degree programs available as well. Licensed Practical Nurses (LPNs) typically complete a certificate or associate degree program in the United States. They participate in direct patient care under the supervision of a Registered Nurse (RN). RNs complete either associate or bachelor degree programs and are usually able to participate in more direct patient care activities than LPNs are, though the responsibilities allowed for each type of nurse is different among different states in the US Some nurses continue with a master’s degree program that allows them to become a nurse anesthetist, advanced practice nurse, or nurse practitioner.

MD programs teach traditional medicine.
MD programs teach traditional medicine.

Pharmacists dispense drugs to patients and are knowledgeable in chemistry and drug reactions and interactions. In the United States, pharmacists complete a doctorate of pharmacy degree with the designation PharmD. While this degree takes less time than medical school for doctors, they also have to complete clinical rotations before they can work independently, similar to the residency program required of doctors.

Other common degree programs in the medical field focus on training different types of therapists. Physical therapists assist patients with rehabilitation and pain-relieving techniques. Occupational therapists help injured or ill patients regain basic life skills for daily activities. Respiratory therapists assist patients with breathing exercises and administer oxygen treatments.

In some cases, other allied health professionals also complete medical degree programs. These professionals include phlebotomists, who are responsible for drawing blood for tests and other procedures. Most phlebotomists complete a certificate program. Emergency medical technicians and medical assistants perform limited patient care and often go through certificate programs as well.

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    • Medical degree programs require many years of schooling and training in most countries.
      By: Ammentorp
      Medical degree programs require many years of schooling and training in most countries.
    • MD programs teach traditional medicine.
      By: Rido
      MD programs teach traditional medicine.