What Are the Different Types of Medical Degrees?

Here we discuss some of the different types of medical degree programs available, from an undergraduate medical degree to the highest medical degree. We also explore some of the careers for which these degree programs prepare you. Schools offering Health Science degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Types of Medical Degree

When you consider the medical field as a whole and the various areas and careers in the field, medical degrees can most easily be sorted by degree level and specialization. Degree programs related to different areas of the medical field are available at the undergraduate and graduate levels.

Different medical-related careers require different levels and types of degrees. For example, becoming a medical records technician or medical assistant requires undergraduate education in different subjects than becoming a sports medicine doctor or psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner, which requires graduate-level education.

While a complete list of medical degrees would be extensive, here we note some of the available areas of specialization within the medical field that offer degree and/or training programs and then explore the different levels of medical degrees. Some medical degree specialization areas include:

  • Nursing
  • Anesthesiology
  • Radiology
  • Emergency medicine
  • Pathology
  • Psychiatry
  • Surgery
  • Medical science

Undergraduate Medical Degree

Some medical fields may be entered through diploma or certificate programs, and medical undergraduate degrees are offered at the associate's and bachelor's levels. Typically, careers that have the word 'assistant' , 'technologist', or 'technician' in them require one of these lower-level medical degrees.

Several medical certificate programs may take less than 1 year to complete. Some of these certificate programs may result in careers like:

  • Surgical technologist
  • Pharmacy technician
  • Medical assistant
  • Medical billing and coding specialist

There are some careers, such as nursing, that may allow students to choose from a range of degree options. Nurses can typically become a Registered Nurse (RN) with a diploma, associate's, or bachelor's degree. At the bachelor's level students can also begin preparing for advanced medical education by entering a pre-med or other introductory program for a health-related field.

Highest Medical Degree

While there are some medical degrees available at the master's level, such as a Master of Science (MS) in Medical Science or a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN), doctoral degree programs are the highest medical degree available. These advanced degrees typically require at least 4 years of medical/professional school and are available in different specialty areas, such as a Doctor of Optometry (OD) or Doctor of Dental Surgery (DDS).

Most people may think of a general physician when first thinking of medical degrees and there are actually 2 different types of medical degrees available for physicians and surgeons. These doctors can pursue a Medical Doctor (MD) or Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (DO) degree. DOs are more likely to be primary care physicians and generally provide a more holistic approach to patient care.

Medical Careers Overview

As discussed, there are diverse medical degree programs that lead students to a wide range of medical careers. In the table below you can explore a small sample of the different medical-related careers available, their required education, and median salaries.

Job TitleDegree RequiredAnnual Median Salary (2018)*
Medical AssistantsPostsecondary Nondegree Award$33,610
EMTs and ParamedicsPostsecondary Nondegree Award$34,320
Respiratory TherapistsAssociate's$60,280
Radiation TherapistsAssociate's$82,330
Registered NursesPostsecondary Nondegree Award, Associate's, or Bachelor's$71,730
Medical and Health Services ManagersBachelor's$99,730
Physician AssistantsMaster's$108,610
DentistsDoctoral or Professional Degree$156,240
Physicians and SurgeonsDoctoral or Professional DegreeEqual to or Greater than $208,000

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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