Dual Degree Medical School Programs: Pros and Cons


The popularity of dual-degree medical programs has risen over the past years to accommodate the diversity of medical students and their desires to gain unique clinical perspectives. Deciding whether a dual-degree program is right for you can sometimes be difficult. Although every dual-degree program is different, here we will cover the basics of the common dual-degrees to consider before making your decision.

In general, dual-degree programs will make your training longer and involve tough transitions as you switch between the training for both degrees. However, they will diversify your clinical perspective and your resume, making more career options available.



The MD-PhD is intended for medical students who are interested in rigorous research training. There are over 90 MD-PhD programs throughout the nation, of which 49 are funded Medical Scientist Training Programs. The NIH Oxford-Cambridge Scholars Program (OxCam) is an option for students interested in obtaining a PhD from the University of Cambridge or DPhil from the University of Oxford. Here are some things to consider before applying to MD-PhD programs.

1 | Always a Student

MD-PhD programs are the longest of the dual-degree programs, usually taking 7-9 years to complete. As a result, many students do not start residency until their late 20’s or early 30’s. So, when applying to MD-PhD programs, you should evaluate whether you are prepared to invest this long amount of time into training.

2 | Medical School is Funded

One incentive to pursue MD-PhD programs is that most of them are Medical Scientist Training Programs which are funded by the National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS). This can relieve a lot of financial burden during medical school as medical tuition is covered and students usually receive a stipend.

3 | Lots of Learning Curves

 Like other dual-degree programs, pursuing an MD-PhD will involve some tough transitions. Most programs follow a 2-4-2 structure: 2 years of medical school, 4 years of PhD, and the last 2 years of medical school. You will not be with the same medical school classmates after finishing your PhD and it can be difficult to see your medical school classmates progressing to residency while you are in graduate school. Also, adjusting to the rigor of medical school can be tough after a several-year hiatus. These challenges are certainly surmountable, so just be prepared.

4 | Doctor Squared

Getting both an MD and PhD really opens a lot of career doors. An article published in Science reports that there is an abundance of opportunities in academic medicine for MD-PhD graduates. Although academic medicine is the popular option for MD-PhD graduates, many also choose to pursue clinical medicine or go into industry. There are many ways to pave your career. Along this path be prepared to make difficult decisions about what you want to do. These decisions may change as your personal, financial, and social status changes. an MD-PhD degree will give you may professional options along this road.



MD-MBA programs are tailored to medical students interested in business, including marketing, investing, and accounting. The MBA degree, however, can be utilized for much more than starting a private practice; management strategies and administrative skills have become invaluable in the lucrative healthcare industry. Consulting and healthcare administration are also popular options for graduates of this degree. Some things to consider before starting this program are:

1 | MCAT is Not Enough

For most programs, the GMAT is required for admission.

2 | More School, More Money

Unlike MSTP, MD-MBA programs are not funded, meaning you have to pay for 5 years of school. This can increase your financial burden. Most MD-MBA programs are streamlined to 5 years though, while the MD and MBA are 4 and 2 years respectively. This means that students need to only pay for 1 extra year of tuition rather than 2 years. There are also scholarships that can help relieve some of the financial stress.

3 | MBA: Master of Being Awesome?

There is no doubt that MD-MBA programs have increased in popularity over the past years. The number of MD-MBA programs has grown from 6 to 65 in the last 20 years. The reason is that the healthcare industry is worth over one trillion dollars. It is a complex environment of insurance policies, hospital administration, electronic medical records, and public policy. Getting an MBA along with your MD can help you navigate this modern healthcare system and make you an attractive candidate for jobs in government, industry, and healthcare itself.



Combination MD-Masters program can be adapted to your interests as there are many options for a master’s degree. The most popular options include:

MD-MPA (Master of Public Administration)

MD-MPP (Master of Public Policy)

MD-MPH (Master of Public Health)

MD-MSc (Master of Science)

Students are admitted to the MD-Master’s degree and then apply to their desired specialized Master’s program during medical school. Here are some things you should consider before applying to these dual-degree programs:

1 | More Tuition

Similar to MD-MBA programs, these programs are usually not funded. You will have to pay for 5-6 years of medical and graduate training rather than 4. Although scholarships are available, the extra years of training can add financial burden.

2 | Master Marketable Skills

One thing that is nice about MD-MS programs is the number of options for a Master’s degree. You can get a degree that is geared to your interests. The MD-MSc is a great option for students who want more research experience but do not want to commit to the long timeline of an MD-PhD. The MD-MPH program is great for students who want to work in community health outreach or even global health. Especially with healthcare policy being a hot topic in today’s society, an MPP can equip students with the tools to make policy changes.

3 | Strengthen Your Resume

Although some institutions may require you to get both your Master’s and MD at the same institution, usually MD-MS programs allow you to apply to MS programs across the country. Getting trained at a different institution can not only give you an alternative perspective but can also add some diversity to your resume. These perks can help make you a competitive candidate for residency.


There are many options available for individuals interested in pursuing a degree in parallel to their MD. Dual degrees all have pros and cons, but if you have a genuine interest or career goals in mind they can be a great asset. If you would like help discussing these options or any aspect of your medical school application, consider the Med School Insiders to advise and guide you to a sound decision.


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