The Medical Student’s Guide to Dual Degrees

The Medical Student’s Guide to Dual Degrees
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Noodle Staff September 14, 2012

Being an MD is prestigious enough, but some students are going even further and adding and MBA or MPH to their degree list.

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As if Medical school wasn’t challenging enough, dual degree programs have become increasingly popular in the last few years. Whether it’s an MBA or a MPH, dual degrees can expand a student’s qualifications and levels of expertise. We’ve compiled a list of the most common programs. Keep in mind that requirements and procedures for each program will vary so make sure to check with an advisor or admissions counselor to learn the details!

MD/MS (Master of Science)

Tests required: MCAT

Typical time to completion: 5-6 years

Medical students with a specific research interest may want to complete the MD/MS dual degree. Students can apply to the MS program directly through the medical school. MD/MS students spend the first two years completing standard preclinical medical training. The third year is spent completing the required master’s coursework, after which students will return to finish the last two years of medical school.

MD/PhD (Doctorate of Philosophy)

Tests required: MCAT, sometimes GRE

Typical time to completion: 6-8 years

If you’ve got what it takes, the MD/PhD degree is one of the oldest (and the cheapest) dual degree programs for Med students. Most schools provide full tuition coverage, living expenses and a generous stipend. The course of study allows students to gain the clinical skills of medical school while becoming an expert in a field of scientific research.

Students usually apply to the MD and PhD program simultaneously although some schools will allow medical students to apply to a PhD program once admitted to the medical school. All applicants must submit MCAT scores, but some schools also require applicants to complete the GRE, so make sure to check the requirements in advance of applying.

The first two years of an MD/Phd program are spent in medical school taking pre-clinical courses with their MD-only classmates. When the MD students start clinical training in the wards, MD/PhD students enter the lab and begin conducting research. For the next two to four years, students will research, write and defend a PhD thesis. After they’ve completed the thesis, students return to their medical studies to complete clerkships and electives.

Most graduates work as professors at teaching hospitals, researchers, or medical scientists at private healthcare companies.

MD/MPH (Master of Public Health)

Tests required: MCAT

Typical time to completion: 5 years

The MD/MPH is one of the most popular dual degrees for medical students. Masters of Public Health degrees allow students to study subjects such as epidemiology, global, women’s and community health, as well as health policy or global health. This course of study allows students to apply their medical expertise to public health issues.

Most students apply to the MPH program at the beginning of their second year and begin coursework at the end of second year or beginning of third year. However, some schools may allow students to apply in their first, second or third year of an MD program.

Students who graduate with a dual MD/MPH degree often pursue careers in research, consulting, policy or advocacy.

MD/MBA (Master of Business Administration)

Tests required: MCAT, sometimes GMAT/GRE

Typical time to completion: 5 years

Students who graduate with MD/MBA degrees report high job satisfaction and good salaries. Grads often work in healthcare administration, consultation or leadership. They may also pursue careers in academic medicine, entrepreneurship or industries such as pharmaceuticals or medical devices.

Medical students typically apply to business school in their first or second years. The business school application often requires the GMAT or GRE so students should check test requirements with the schools where they are applying. Students typically devote the first 3 years to medical study, the fourth to business school and the fifth to completing requirements for both schools.

MD/JD (Juris Doctor)

Tests required: MCAT, LSAT

Typical time to completion: 7 years

The MD/JD dual degree program takes about seven years to complete. Because of this, many students prefer to attend medical school and law school concurrently, rather than pursuing a dual degree. Students either apply to both the medical and law schools to begin with, or apply to the law school in their first year. Those who opt for the dual degree spend the first two years completing preclinical medical courses. The next three years are devoted to law studies and the final two years are spent back in the medical field completing clinical training.

Graduates usually work as academics at medical and law schools, malpractice attorneys, or leaders of medical and legal organizations.

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About the Editor

Tom Meltzer spent over 20 years writing and teaching for The Princeton Review, where he was lead author of the company's popular guide to colleges, before joining Noodle.

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