MD vs. PhD vs. MD/PhD : what's best for research?

Fri Dec 17 13:53:11 EST 1993

There are several issues to be considered.

1.  The MD gives more job security - academia or not.   You are more likely to 
work in your field with an MD.
2.  The MD pays better.
3.  The Ph.D. provides better training for many, but not all, kinds of research.
 If you want to do basic science, you need either a PH.D. or a good postdoc, or 
probably both.  If you want to do clinical research, you need an MD; depending 
on the type of research, the Ph.D. may or may not help.  Clinical epidemiology 
may benefit from both, as will gene therapy.
4.  Most commbined MD/PhD programs give a cheap PhD, but this is not always 
5.  The topic of the PhD is not as important as the style and rigor of the 
6.  It is easy to get an MD and then a PhD if you can afford it, which you 
probably cannot.  It is often quite hard to get into med school after you have a

In other words, there is no generic right answer to this question.

For perspective, I got my PhD in chemistry, then went to med school, and do 
research which touches on both chemistry and pathology  (my medical 
subspecialty).  I have never regretted the investment in the PhD, my postdoc, 
the MD or my residency.

Tim O'Leary
oleary at

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