There are two guaranteed routes to becoming a doctor in the US: BS/MD or BS/DO. Which is the better option? The answer to that depends on the particular student.
Before we look at how these programs compare to each other, let’s talk about what they are. Most medical schools in this country lead to the MD or Doctor of Medicine degree which practices allopathic medicine. With allopathic medicine the focus is on diagnosing and treating human diseases. But, there are a number of medical schools that award the DO degree or Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine. They use osteopathic medicine where the focus is on treating the whole patient to reach a diagnosis and not just the symptoms.
The reason we have two routes to become a doctor is more of a historical anomaly than anything. The American Medical Association recognizes both equally as physicians.
Both degrees take four years to finish. The topics covered are basically the same. DO medical schools generally include some training in bony manipulation which is not usually taught in MD schools. Students with either degree can apply to any residency program and go into any specialty that they choose.
So, they are a lot alike. What is the difference? The only real difference is the philosophical view of treating the disease vs treating the whole person. But that difference can be significant to a particular student so it is important to understand.
BS/DO programs tend to be slightly easier to get into than BS/MD programs although this varies from program to program. BS/DO programs also want to see that at least one of the physicians that the student shadows is a DO physician to make sure that the student has seen, and understands, the philosophical difference with MD programs.
The only downside to BS/DO programs is that while the DO degree is fully recognized in the US and Canada, most other countries do not recognize it as a medical degree and it would be impossible to practice medicine outside North America. Since this is rarely an issue with the students we work with, this isn’t much of a concern.
Many students apply to just BS/MD programs or BS/DO programs but it is possible to apply to both if you are comfortable with both approaches to medicine. Although there are more BS/MD programs I am seeing more interest in the past few years in applying to BS/DO programs. Our book lists both BS/MD and BS/DO programs in its appendix. Look at both options. You might find that one of the options is better for you.