While the degrees have much in common, there are several differences between DO and
Doctors of osteopathic medicine (DOs) take a holistic approach to patient care in
which the goal is to diagnose and treat the patient, not just the disease. This approach
encompasses assessing lifestyle and being cognizant of how an injury or illness in
one part of the body may cause symptoms in another.
DO students complete additional training in osteopathic manipulative medicine (OMM).
DOs use OMM to assess the neuromusculoskeletal system and determine if osteopathic
manipulative treatment (OMT) would benefit the patient. OMT can be used to address
musculoskeletal pain, neural responses, circulation, respiration and immune response.
DO vs MD residencies
DOs and MDs complete residencies following medical school training. As of July 2020,
the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME) and American Osteopathic
Association (AOA) transitioned to a single accreditation system. Residencies with
an osteopathic focus still exist, but are open to DOs and MDs.
Though there is a single accreditation system, DOs and MDs continue to take separate
board exams—COMLEX (Comprehensive Osteopathic Medical Licensing Examination of the United States) for
DOs and USMLE (United States Medical Licensing Examination) for MDs. Many DO students elect to
take the USMLE in pursuing residencies. The need for this changed in late 2018 when
the American Medical Association approved a resolution promoting the equal acceptance of both types of exams by residency program directors.
DO vs MD career paths
DOs and MDs pursue specialties in all areas, but DOs tend to enter family medicine
and primary care at a higher rate than MDs.
DO vs MD salaries
Salaries for DOs and MDs are determined by a variety of factors including location,
experience and specialty. For more information, visit the Bureau of Labor Statistics website.