Applying to MD-PhD Programs

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Are you considering a MD-PhD program? Here the basics about applying to MD-PhD programs to help you get started.

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The MD-PhD dual degree training prepares you for a career that is busy, challenging, and rewarding, and offers opportunities to do good for many people by advancing medical science, developing new diagnostics and treatments for diseases, and pushing back the boundaries of the unknown.

How do I know if a combined program is right for me?

MD-PhD programs are specifically designed for those who want to become physician-researchers, also known as physician-scientists. Graduates of MD-PhD programs often go on to become faculty members at medical schools, universities, and research institutes such as the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

MD-PhD program students are being prepared for careers in which they will spend most of their time doing research in addition to caring for patients. It is critical that applicants have a passion for doing both—most MD-PhD graduates feel strongly that they would not be fulfilled by only pursuing medicine or science.

How do I apply?

Nearly all MD-PhD programs participate in the application process via the American Medical College Application Service® (AMCAS®). On the AMCAS application, students designate themselves as MD-PhD applicants and complete two additional essays: one related to why they are interested in MD-PhD training, and the other highlighting their significant research experiences.

What schools offer this type of program?

Nationwide, there are more than 90 MD-PhD programs affiliated with medical schools. The National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS) supports Medical Scientist Training Programs or MSTPs. They currently provide training grants that partially support MD-PhD programs at 49 degree-granting institutions. You can see which schools offer MD-PhD degrees in the Medical School Admission Requirements profiles under “Combined Degrees and Special Programs.” You can also review Individual MD-PhD Program Information for Prospective Applicants  for easy access to individual MD-PhD program websites.

How long does it take?

Students enter an integrated curriculum that typically takes seven to eight years to complete. During which time, they satisfy the full requirements for both the MD and the PhD degrees.

What kind of work can I do? How much time is spent as an MD? As a researcher?

According to a study of MD-PhD program outcomes, nearly 80 percent of graduates are following career paths consistent with the goals of their training, including working as full-time faculty in academic medical centers or for the NIH, research institutes, industry, and federal agencies. Those in academia, spend between 50 and 80 percent of their time conducting research, though this can vary by specialty. Their research may be lab-based, translational, or clinical. The remaining time is often divided between clinical service, teaching, and administrative activities.

MD-PhD Application Timeline

AMCAS application opens: May preceding the year of expected entry
Applicants interviewed: October–March
Final decisions sent to applicants: December–March
Applicants revisit program(s) to decide where to matriculate: March–April
MD-PhD programs start: June–August

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MD-PhD Dual Degree Training

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