If you can’t imagine a medical career without helping patients and participating in research, you’ve probably considered the MD-PhD track. Learn all about applying to MD-PhD programs and get our expert tips for strengthening your application.

Is an MD-PhD right for you?

The MD-PhD is a dual doctorate degree program for students who are interested in careers as “physician-scientists." By graduation, you’ll have fulfilled requirements for both the MD and PhD degrees. The MD-PhD takes about 8 years to complete during which you receive medical training AND become an expert in a specific research field. The program also requires dissertation research in your field of graduate study, which can range from biomedical laboratory disciplines like biochemistry or genetics to fields like economics, sociology, or anthropology. After graduation, MD-PhD students usually work as researchers or as faculty members at medical schools and universities.

Learn more about MD combined degree programs .

md phd programs

What are Medical Scientist Training Programs?

Medical Scientist Training Programs (MSTP) are MD-PhD programs that are funded by the National Institute of Health. Students who are admitted to these highly-competitive programs receive full tuition coverage, living expenses, and a stipend. There are currently 45  NIH-funded MSTP programs .

Are all MD-PhD programs free?

Over 60 medical and osteopathic medical schools  maintain their own MD-PhD or DO-PhD programs that are not funded by the NIH. Depending on the school, these programs offer full or partial financial support for their students.

Applying to MD-PhD Programs

Nearly all MD-PhD programs use the same application process as MD admissions—via the American Medical College Application Service (AMCAS) application . One key difference? MD-PhD applicants submit two additional essays: the MD-PhD Essay and the Significant Research Experience Essay:

  • The MD-PhD Essay asks you to explain your reasons for pursuing the combined degree program.
  • The  Significant Research Experience Essay asks you to describe your key research experiences, including your research supervisor's name and affiliation, the duration of the experience, the nature of the problem studied, and your contributions to the project.

Do you need to take the GRE Test to apply for the Md-Phd?

Programs have different policies, so some schools may require both the MCAT and the GRE for combined degree applicants. For example, an MD-Phd in Anthropology at one school may require the GRE, while the MD-PhD in Immunology may not. Check with your prospective med schools to make sure you’re covered.

Timeline for MD-PhD Admissions

The MD-PHD application timeline is virtually the same as for MD admissions. (Remember you are using the same application service!) Here are the important dates for MD-PHD admissions:

  • Early May: AMCAS opens and begins accepting transcripts
  • Early June:  AMCAS begins accepting application submissions
  • October–March: MD-PhD applicant interviews
  • December–March: Admissions decisions sent to applicants
  • March–April: Md-PhD applicants make their final decisions
  • June–August: MD-PHD programs begin!

Tips for Boosting Your Md-Phd Application

Competition for MD-PhD applicants is fierce. After all, you have to convince medical schools to invest significant time and financial resources in you. Of the total 1,936 MD-PhD applicants in 2016–17, only 649 matriculated in a U.S. med school. Here’s what you can do to strengthen your overall application.

1. You need strong MCAT scores and a high GPA

If your grades and scores aren’t where they need to be, address it before you apply!  Check out these admissions stats for MD-PhD matriculants to U.S. medical schools from 2016-2017:

Average MCAT Scores and GPAs for MD-PhDs
MCAT CPBS 128.6
MCAT CARS 128.1
MCAT BBLS 128.7
MCAT PSBB 128.5
Total MCAT 513.9
GPA Science 3.75
GPA Non-Science 3.82
GPA Total 3.78

SOURCE:  Association of American Medical Colleges

Make a smart MCAT prep plan and retake the exam if necessary. Consider completing additional grad school work to raise your GPA and take advantage of our online tutors for pre-med requirements!

2. You need sustained research background + a clear picture of your future in research

A background in research is essential. You will write about your research experiences in your essays and talk about the research you conducted (at length!) in your med school interview . Be prepared to speak to why you want an MD-PhD, what career you hope to pursue, and the types of research you hope to conduct in addition to patient care.

3. You need the right recommenders

Most letters of recommendation should come for your research mentors, professors who run the labs you work in, and the postdoctoral fellows you work with. Make sure your recommenders know that you are applying to MD-PhD programs as this will affect the letters they write.


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