If you’re interested in getting a medical degree, you have to decide what type of medicine you wish to pursue. In addition to earning a degree as a medical doctor, or M.D., you can earn a degree as an osteopathic doctor, a veterinarian or a doctor who specializes in naturopathic medicine. Knowing the area of medicine that you want to pursue will allow you to map your educational path effectively.
A medical, or allopathic, doctor is an individual who assesses individuals to prevent, diagnose and treat diseases. To become a medical doctor, you must earn an undergraduate degree, pass the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT), graduate from medical school and complete a residency and fellowship. During your educational career, you have to pass licensing and certification exams offered by both state and medical boards. As a medical doctor, you can choose among different specialties, such as surgery, psychiatry, neurology and optometry.
Doctor of Osteopathy
The educational path to become a Doctor of Osteopathy, or D.O., is similar to the path to become a medical doctor. The difference between osteopathic and allopathic medicine is that osteopathic medicine has a more holistic approach, according to Medline Plus. Instead of focusing on a specific body part or system, a D.O. uses a more hands-on approach that takes into consideration a person’s lifestyle and history of trauma and disease so that the doctor can work with the patient as a partner who promotes wellness and disease prevention. An osteopathic doctor can specialize in the same areas of medicine as an allopathic doctor can and use the same types of treatments, such as surgery and prescription medications.
Doctor of Veterinary Medicine
A Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree allows you to treat and care for animals. To become a veterinarian, you must earn an undergraduate degree and attend an accredited graduate school that offers a degree in veterinary medicine or veterinary science. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics notes that after passing the North American Veterinary Licensing Exam, an aspiring veterinarian usually completes a year-long internship program. If you want certification in a veterinary specialty -- such as microbiology or veterinary surgery -- you must also complete a residency program at an accredited institution.
Doctor of Naturopathic Medicine
Doctors who practice natural medicine earn a degree as a Natural Doctor, or N.D., or Naturopathic Medical Doctor, or N.M.D. The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine at the National Institutes of Health states that naturopathy combines Western medical techniques with complementary therapies like diet changes or herbal supplements. Naturopathic doctors follow principles that are similar to those of osteopathic physicians in that they have a holistic approach to medicine and focus on prevention. An N.D. also focuses on the cause of a condition instead of just on the symptoms and uses natural medicines to treat patients. It takes at least four years of graduate school at an institution accredited by the Council on Naturopathic Medical Education to earn an N.D. or N.M.D. degree. In some states, naturopathic doctors cannot perform procedures or prescribe traditional medications without also holding a traditional physician’s medical license.