MD & PhD Programs in Neuroscience

Those looking to study neuroscience at the postsecondary level have several degree paths to choose from. Ahead you can find a comparison of MD programs, Ph.D. programs, and hybrid MD/Ph.D. programs including common entrance requirements, courses, and careers associated with these degrees.

MD, Ph.D. and MD/Ph.D. in Neuroscience Comparison

Doctor of Medicine

The Doctor of Medicine (MD) degree's focus on clinical training and first-hand qualifications sets it apart for medical practitioners in comparison to the more research-focused Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) This degree path can prepare students for careers as a physician or surgeon. While these careers require additional residency training, MD programs generally last four years.

Those wishing to apply to an MD program will need to have maintained a GPA higher than the lower threshold that each individual program has, especially in core science courses. For some programs, this minimum threshold can be as high as a 3.3 to 3.7 GPA on a 4.0 scale in core concept area courses including organic chemistry, biology, and biochemistry. Prospective students will also need to submit recent MCAT scores, with some programs preferring students to be in the 75th percentile of test scores.

Common courses in an MD program include anatomy, patient-focused care, and ethics in medicine. Students are also typically required to undergo clinical practice through clerkship studies and might need to complete a thesis or research project. Those wishing to specialize in neuroscience can typically do so in later years of study through the selection of specific courses and clerkships relevant to neuroscience. Courses can include neuroscience, neurobiology, cellular and molecular neuroscience, and neural systems. Graduates can also apply to residencies related to neuroscience.

Ph.D. in Neuroscience

Ph.D. programs in Neuroscience are more focused on training researchers and neuroscience educators than practitioners. Students in these programs are typically exposed to a series of lectures, labs, and research opportunities, culminating in their own original research which they may present at conferences and defend as a dissertation. These programs also typically include required teaching experiences, workshops, comprehensive examinations, and evaluations. These programs can take approximately five years to complete.

Admission into Ph.D. in Neuroscience programs can require transcripts from all previous schools and universities attended, GRE scores, and a resume of previous research experience. Letters of recommendation and a competitive GPA are also commonly required for entrance into a neuroscience Ph.D. program.

Courses in these programs can include developmental neuroscience, behavioral neuroscience, molecular and cellular neuroscience, systems neuroscience, brain organization, neural data, and neuroinformatics. Students are likely to spend a large amount of their time in laboratories undertaking, assisting in, and examining experiments and research.

MD-Ph.D in Neuroscience

Dual-degree paths are available to those who would like to be qualified with both clinical skills and research proficiency in the field of neuroscience. While these dual-track options are capable of accelerating the time it would have taken to earn both degrees, the program can take five to eight years to complete. These programs are typically broken up into medical school years and Ph.D. years, although these degrees can share many of the same academic requirements, so the completion of some course requirements for each degree can overlap.

Entrance into these dual-track programs can require an undergraduate GPA minimum of 3.5 or higher and letters of recommendation. Some programs prefer prospective students to demonstrate their interest in the field by way of documented past research experience. The admission procedure for these dual-degree programs can also include an interview.

Courses you can find in these programs include statistical methods, complex diseases, biostatistics, cell and molecular neurobiology, cognitive neuroscience, and biomedical imaging. As with both the MD and Ph.D. degree programs, much of the work of students in this dual-degree program can also include clinical experience and engaging in research.

Degree Program Program Length Neuroscience Education Related Careers
MD Four Years Fourth-Year Specialization & Post-Grad Residency Physician Surgeon
Ph.D. in Neuroscience Five years Ph.D. in Neuroscience Researcher Teacher
MD-Ph.D. in Neuroscience 5-8 Years Ph.D. in Neuroscience Physician Researcher

In summary, there are several options for those wishing to further their neuroscience studies beyond the undergraduate level, including MD, Ph.D., and dual-degree MD-Ph.D. programs. While the MD programs tend to be more focused toward clinical experience and professionally qualifying students to be medical practitioners, the Ph.D. programs focus on research competency, while the dual-degree programs offer a combination of both clinical and research experience.