Joint Degree Programs
There is an increasingly diverse selection of joint degree options being offered at medical schools across the country. By far the most popular joint degree program is the MD/PhD. If you are committed to doing medical research, this is the program you should explore. It has several advantages, including excellent research experience, strong background in medical science that can provide critical insight into difficult clinical cases, and graduating from medical school with little or no debt. You may incur no debt because, depending on the school, you may receive both tuition remission and a stipend. Such programs may be funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) through its Medical Scientist Training Program (MSTP) or through private funding. A list of MSTP funded programs can be found at the NIH website. More information on privately funded programs is available on individual school websites, and a list of schools offering MD/PhD programs can be obtained on the AAMC website.
Getting accepted to an MD/PhD program is more competitive than the MD program, and requires strong research credentials. The program also takes longer (8-10 years). If you are strongly inclined towards research, this may be the right program for you. However, getting the MD degree and strong research experience through training fellowships after graduating from medical school may provide you with the same career opportunities. The ability to graduate without debt is attractive, but should not necessarily be decisive. If you are qualified for the MD/PhD program, but choose to pursue the MD option instead, chances are you will be able to pay off debts incurred in medical school with no problem, pursue research if you so desire, and you will not have locked yourself into an 8- to 10-year program.
Other joint degrees include MD/MPH (medicine and public health), MD/JD (medicine and law), MD/MBA (medicine and business), or other combinations.