1. Not finding help here? Sign up for a free 30min tutor trial with Chegg Tutors
    Dismiss Notice
Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

Better qualified than your doctor?

  1. Mar 4, 2007 #1
    I recently heard a statistic that in the UK 5% of people hold higher academic qualifications than their doctor (a similar statistic probably holds in the US). This made me think. How exactly do people decide which qualifications rank higher than others? It seems obvious that a PhD for example is higher than a BSc or BA and that something starting with an M is probably in between, but how do you rank them in less obvious cases. Is a medical doctor's degree actually called a doctorate, since it appears that of the different degrees that allow one to practice medicine, a lot of them don't have any D's in the lettering.
  2. jcsd
  3. Mar 4, 2007 #2
    Well, the PhD requires a thesis on an original piece of work, whereas the MD does not. Traditionally, the doctorate was defined as a degree granted to someone who made an original contribution to his or her field of study. So, in this sense, a person with a PhD is 'more of a doctor' than an MD. And generally, the PhD takes longer to complete than an MD.

    But surely an MD is far more qualified to practice medicine than any PhD out there, I would hope. :P

    The MD gives a person the qualifications to practice medicine, whereas the PhD gives the qualifications to perform research. Some MDs also have PhDs and work on research on the side of practicing medicine.

    Bottom line: I wouldn't say the PhDs are better qualified than the MDs. Who is better qualified depends on the job description. However, I have heard people say that the PhD is technically a 'higher' degree than the MD.
    Last edited: Mar 4, 2007
  4. Mar 4, 2007 #3
    Here's something funny. The other day I checked out an MCAT review book for my med school-bound younger brother, and I noticed that it was written by PhDs! There's little doubt in my mind that academically, PhDs are "smarter" than MDs in such subjects as biology and chemistry. But I wouldn't want a PhD to perform brain surgery on me anymore than I'd want a professor of physics to repair my car.
  5. Mar 4, 2007 #4
    It does not surprise me that PhDs wrote the MCAT as opposed to MDs. The MCAT is not a medical exam, but it is a general academic knowledge exam pertaining to fields relavent to the medical field, such as chemistry.

    MDs are not chemists, biologists or mathematicians. That is the realm of a person with a PhD, who tend to work in those areas.

    It has nothing to do with PhDs being smarter than MDs.
  6. Mar 13, 2007 #5
    i tend to think the majority of doctors are idiots, my mother grew me up with staying away from them. though sometimes I have had to go to them to get Medication, and I can honestly say I knew more about the heart than a cardiologist. He examined me and I asked my questions, ones he could not answer, Now this is cardiologist who graduated from yeshiva university. t is upsetting and I dont hold doctors in high regard.
  7. Mar 13, 2007 #6
    Really? All the doctors I've met are smart people. Back in high school and early in my college career, I was on the medicine track (before I got into physics), and so I used to do mentorships and various other research projects under doctors. Those guys really seemed to know their stuff. Then again, the doctors I worked with were academics, such as med school professors and biology researchers. Still, from what I know of the med school curriculum, it seems next to impossible for an idiot to get through it.
  8. Mar 13, 2007 #7


    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor

    You start by explaining that you have met very few doctors and then tell us you "don't hold doctors in high regard" because of ONE? That doesn't say a lot for YOUR intelligence.
  9. Mar 13, 2007 #8


    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor

    Hmm.. I'm not inclined to believe this. How can you possibly know more about the heart than your doctor whose job it is to study the heart?! (Unless, of course, your doctor is a cold man, and you mean emotional matters of the heart, and not medical matters :rofl: )
  10. Mar 13, 2007 #9


    User Avatar
    Homework Helper

    Well, some MDs are idiots alright.. but some PhD's are too... :smile:
    iT is very hard to say in an absolute sense whether it requires more "intelligent" to do a PhD than a MD... however one thing is CLEAR, society seems to see MD (even those we claim "idiots") much more highly than PhDs ....
  11. Mar 13, 2007 #10
    Doctors study what is common sense if ya ask me.
  12. Mar 13, 2007 #11


    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Homework Helper
    Gold Member
    Dearly Missed

    What a silly question!
    I would much rather have as my doctor a perceptive, personable and knowlegeable MD than a neurotic PhD who is studying obscure metabolic pathways of Melanesian rodents.
  13. Mar 13, 2007 #12


    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    Okay, since I teach medical students, I suppose I'm the one who can answer this question.

    First, in terms of number of years of work and depth of material studied, and the overall "rank" of degrees, a Ph.D. is the highest degree conferred by universities. So, in terms of degree/rank, a Ph.D. is a higher degree than an M.D.

    And, yes, in the first 2 years of medical school, the students are taught by Ph.D.s These are the years when they receive their basic science training...physiology, anatomy, biochemistry, histology, etc. These subjects are of course those in which Ph.D.s have the greatest expertise to teach them (we teach them what they need to know to a depth appropriate for the practice of medicine, but that is a long way off from what we know of the subject). Then, in their second 2 years, they are taught by the clinical faculty (M.D.s) who teach them about patient care, conducting physical exams, taking patient histories, clinical signs, symptoms, diagnosis and treatments (this all requires those basic science years to understand why certain symptoms indicate certain disorders and to understand why certain drugs treat certain diseases but not others, and why you would want to avoid some drugs in some patients).

    So, while I can teach med students, you sure don't want to come to me when you've got a complex disease that needs to be diagnosed and treated.
  14. Mar 13, 2007 #13


    User Avatar
    Homework Helper
    Gold Member

    Good points.

    Also, we have lots of hard working doctors out there. The last thing I would ever think of doing is tell my doctor how much smarter I am (if I had a Ph.D) than him or her while they're giving me a needle or anything of the sort.
Know someone interested in this topic? Share this thread via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook

Have something to add?