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PhD and MD perceived prestige here in the US and abroad

Discussion in 'Pre-Medical - MD' started by menelaus84, May 28, 2008.

  1. menelaus84

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    I'm sure this has been discussed in the past, but I can't seem to find the thread. I just thought it to be an interesting discussion.

    So the background. From my understanding, here in the US, an MD degree is often seen as more prestigious (I'm not saying this is a fact, but a view) than a PhD. However, in Europe, a PhD is deemed to be more prestigious. In Europe, a medical doctor is simply someone who has had undergraduate training in the area and does not actually get a doctorate degree in medicine.

    What reasons make this so? I'm just curious as to what people know about this topic and why there is such a big disparity between here in the US and the rest of the world. Is it possible that doctors are simply paid more in the US than PhDs leading to a prestige in medicine rather than say a PhD in a science field? I'm not sure just conjecturing. Again, I have no intention whatsoever of offending anyone. I just thought this was an interesting issue to talk about.

    Please share your views!
     
  2. TheRealMD

    TheRealMD "The Mac Guy"
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    Because in order to get an MD in the US, you need to spend more time in school. Duh!
     
  3. BluePhoenix

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    I will never understand the premed fascination with ranking PhDs and MDs. No one else cares. Honestly, to the general public...I doubt there's much of a difference...they're both a higher level degree that not very many people get and thy're probably both looked at like "ooh, a doctor." Growing up, most people kinda put doctor, lawyer, scientist as somewhat equivalent fancy or smarty type jobs.

    Now most of my friends are PhDs or MDs or on their way to being one, no one cares, no one thinks one is better than the other. They're just degrees, they don't make you fancy or smart or good looking.

    If you want to look at it from a historical viewpoint, the PhD is higher. The JD and the MD are professional degrees. Both of these are given when you've learned the standard practices and procedures of the field. When you graduate with your MD, you're still pretty incompetent in the field of medicine and if they just threw you in a hospital by yourself, it probably wouldn't be pretty. The PhD is a doctorate that comes from producing novel ideas and says that you have contributed something unique and at least somewhat significant to your field. You typically have to have a solid background in the area of your PhD before being accepted to the program and are expected to become somewhat of an expert BEFORE you're allowed to graduate.

    But...from the average american's point of view...they're both just doctors.
     
  4. SirTony76

    SirTony76 Senior Member
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    Look up the latin translations:

    Doctor
    Philosophy

    Look up who was called doctor first.
     
  5. scarletgirl777

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    This is not true...

    But I think the reason is because MDs make more money. I think it's as simple as that. It's a job that pays well with great job security. PhDs' job security/salary stability is not so great.
     
  6. bodonid

    bodonid Dr. Spaceman
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    The comparative difficulty in getting into a medical program may be part of the perceived prestige as well, but this stems from differences in pay too.
     
  7. taponthecloud

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    You just answered your own question...
     
  8. BluePhoenix

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    Doubtful. Most people think you just have to be "really smart" to get into med school, when in reality, acceptance into med school seems to actually be based on your ability to jump through the right hoops and be an above average student.
     
  9. bodonid

    bodonid Dr. Spaceman
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    I agree, but we are talking about perception, after all ;)
     
  10. 135892

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    Just curious... In Europe, how do the earnings of PhD's (in the medical sciences) and medical doctors compare to each other?
     
  11. 172858

    172858 America = The New Texas
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    Not necessarily. My PI went to Cal Tech for 7 years to get his PhD, and had to have published over 25 papers during that time (O chem).

    This discrepancy of prestige is the result of many factors, most notably the fact that MD school is MUCH harder to get into (as far as competitiveness, application standards, etc) when compared to graduate school. Doesn't make since at the end of the day since graduated school (the sciences) has a MUCH lower graduation rate than MD school.

    My PI used to always say - "They make med school impossible to get into, yet impossible to fail out off. Yet, grad school is easy to get into, and easy to get weeded out of."

    The pay thing really isn't that much of a factor. In fact, even though the average PhD makes about as much as a primary care physician, the ceiling for MD's is much lower than it is for PhDs.

    Now, the MudPhuds (MDPhD's) - those guys have it made. My PI used to tell me that I needed to do that instead of clinical medicine, because being an MDPhD, you fall a$$ backwards into grant money without even batting an eye. :D
     
  12. WarriorsFan

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    I think the comparison is non-sense, its like comparing apples to oranges.
     
  13. BluePhoenix

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    Yes but the general public has no idea if it's harder to get into med school or grad school. It's hard to believe when you're going through the whole application process and many of your friends are as well. But most people don't know ANYTHING about what you have to do to get into these programs and thus don't really perceive one as being any more difficult than the other. People think "ooh you're a doctor...you must be really smart or you must have gone to school for a long time"...same thing for PhDs.
     
  14. GreenShirt

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    Uh....the median salary for a PhD in Bio or Physics is $100K after 20yrs on the job, up to $140K for a chemist...that's if they work in industry not academia (where they won't break 6 figures).

    Physicians start at about $125K for psychiatrists and go up to $300-600K for other specialists (potential millions for surgeons). So I'd say the ceiling for MDs is leagues higher than that for PhDs.

    I think salary and selectiveness are big prestige factors for medicine in the US (along with the "saving lives" aspect dramatized on TV). In Europe, medicine is easier to get into (easier to get weeded out of, though) and the salary is generally less then 6 figures since they work mostly in socialized systems and don't have to pay for education or malpractice.
     
  15. Character

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    i prefer oranges. they are nice and soft.
     
  16. GreenShirt

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    I agree. I'd have to add that a lot of the general public doesn't really understand what a PhD is and exactly what they do beyond teaching in colleges. Most people aren't going to ever step foot in a lab or see a drama about lab scientists on TV. On the other hand people have more exposure to doctors and understand what they do.
     
  17. Tutmos

    Tutmos MS0
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    What about Bruce Banner?!! :D
     
  18. DocSoMa

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    Seriously, I get SOOO frustrated when people ask me if I want to go to the top medical schools in the country! :smuggrin: I'm like, dude, first of all: VERY LITTLE CHANCE THAT IT'S GOING TO HAPPEN. Second of all, getting into ANY U.S. allopathic school is good enough for me!

    Why is our society so rank-driven? I mean, don't get me wrong, you make wonderful connections and blah blah blah. Trust me, I go to a top 5 liberal arts college and I'm grateful for some of the connections I've made while I've been here. But honestly, education is what you make out of it. If you feel that getting an M.D. from Harvard will help stroke your ego and purge you of your insecurities, good for you. I just don't think it's right, is all.


    That's my piece of mind. Peace. Out.
     
  19. TheRealMD

    TheRealMD "The Mac Guy"
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    Are people forgetting that the minimum amount of time you're going to spend before practicing *legally* is 7 years?

    Besides, often, but not always, amount of time spent in training will be reflected in your salary. Maybe I shouldn't have said "school" in my previous post, but there's no doubt you're learning a TON in your residency.

    See, I didn't outright say "money" because MD/PhDs have an even more special "aura" around them, but that doesn't mean they get paid the big bucks if they go into research for the rest of their life. That's why they get med school paid for, right?
     
  20. GreenShirt

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    Right. A science PhD can take anywhere from 4-8 yrs to earn, with the average being about 5-6yrs...so close to the time a physician spends in training. Although, as you pointed out, they'll earn a lot less, so that's why their schooling is paid for.
     
  21. unsung

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    ITA with this. I would also like to know where the American high esteem toward MDs comes from. If you think about it, the PhD degree comes from original research and in many ways, is more demanding than a professional degree such as the MD or JD. I mean, yeah, it's hard to get into medical school, and all, but once you're in one, all you need to do is pass your courses. You aren't really being called upon to come up with innovative ideas or spend time researching anything. And even if you do choose to do research, it's doubtful that you achieve any kind of actual expertise in that field... or any other, for that matter. Really, expectations seem to run pretty low once you get IN to medical school. It's just like, take these classes, pass them. My feeling is that it's almost like a factory... all doctors come out (varying levels of prestige from their alma mater attached) with ~ the same level of knowledge, the same toolkit, the same approach to diagnosis/treatment. It hardly compares to achieving a PhD through conducting original research culminating in a thesis, and defending that research in front of real *experts* in that field who try to tear your work apart. Now... there's no way to fly under the radar and "pass" that kind of test without some serious work...

    Not that I'm trashing medical school/pre-meds, being one myself ;)... it's just interesting that people react with such awe toward the whole medical school thing. Whereas in other countries, being a doctor doesn't confer nearly as much "prestige", or what have you.
     
  22. Bradstein

    Bradstein Friendly R3
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    I think that's awfully low. I'm from California though, so the ceilings might be higher. Definitely can get 150k or 200k in industry out here if you've been working a while, and even higher if you go into management.

    Also, academics pays pretty good. Med school professors (PhDs) make up to 200k and start at around 100k, I think.
     
  23. Character

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    they are both amazing
     
  24. Aynsl156

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    Yeah, but think of the hoops you jump through to a full professorship. Assistant, four or five years, and then associate professor for an unspecified amount of time, and then you get promoted to full professorship if you network right and have the papers to back it up.
     
  25. QofQuimica

    QofQuimica Seriously, dude, I think you're overreacting....
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    I'm sure there is a large element of lack of exposure and lack of personal experience at work here. Many people are not personally familiar with PhDs, while just about everyone has fairly good knowledge about the jobs of MDs in this country. Besides people's personal experiences with going to physicians, think of all the TV shows that glamorize and popularize medicine and physicians. There aren't any shows like ER, House, or Scrubs about PhDs!

    I got my PhD before going to medical school. While I was in graduate school, I went to my sister's college graduation. At her school, the PhDs graduated first, then the MSes, then the BSes, so we had quite a while to wait for her to get her diploma. While the PhDs were being called, one of my relatives leaned over and said to me, "A doctor in philosophy? Why on earth would anyone do a degree like that? How will they get jobs in philosophy?" Of course, I explained that you get a doctor of philosophy *in* something, which almost always is *not* philosophy--it was chemistry in my case. But it definitely drove home to me that plenty of people outside of academia do not understand what a PhD even is!
     
  26. menelaus84

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    Interesting discussion so far. I just want to reiterate that the purpose of the thread is to talk about the perceived prestige between the two. I never at any one time asked people to choose which degree was in fact better. Frankly, I don't care.

    Another thing to look at is for American students, it seems that medicine is one of those professions that someone HAS to have. If not, it's the end of the world. It's just I hear all our American students saying, "OMG I NEED to get into medical school. If I don't, I can't imagine what else I would do." For our counterparts in the other parts world, medicine is just another major. I'm just interested in seeing why is this so?

    Please no unnecessary snide remarks since people always seem to find one to say no matter what the thread post.
     
  27. Frank Hardy

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    This is true. But the medical degree/ mbbs is also prestigious in other parts of the world, perhaps respected is a better word. Albeit it doesn't covey the same sense of "power" of an American doc because most foreign docs are paid much less.
     
  28. Quix

    Quix Herr Professor
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    But it definitely drove home to me that plenty of people outside of academia do not understand what a PhD even is!

    And it's better that way. We're just light reflected off of a weather balloon into swamp gas.

    [​IMG]
     
  29. parto123

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    In the U.S. prestige comes mainly from $$$ (granted there are other factors, but its mainly money). Historically, physicians on average were the most well off of any profession. This is beginning to change slightly, but there is a huge lag time for people to realize this, and it will be a long time before there is any dent in their prestige, if it happens at all.

    Its only relatively recent that the world of finance has started to become prestigious, and this is because people are hearing more and more about huge bonuses and lavish lifestyles.

    As for selectivity, decent phd programs are just as hard, if not harder to get into than MD programs. If you think Harvard med school is selective, check out the stats for a Harvard phd in politics- they accept something like 1 in 900 applicants. But nobody really is familiar with selectivity of MD or PHD programs, so I doubt that factors in prestige.
     
  30. QofQuimica

    QofQuimica Seriously, dude, I think you're overreacting....
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    You, my friend, would definitely fall victim to the incredulous relatives of the world. At least being a chemist seems like a *real* job, even to people who don't understand it. ;) I mean, it even allowed this particular relative to brag to various other people (namely, anyone who was too sick or lame to escape) about how I was curing cancer. Or something like that. :p
     
  31. franniemeow07

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    Agreed. 150-200k salaries for biomedical sciences phDs are just not realistic for your garden variety graduate. The system for graduate education nowadays is that the market is already saturated with existing PhD's, and with more that keep graduating every year and looking for jobs, there just isn't enough out there. The graduate student that I've worked with for years is defending her thesis next month, and she still hasn't found a good postdoc/industry position in our city (not small by any stretch of the imagination). She is an awesome scientist, as well--published 2 high-quality manuscripts in her last few years here.

    Bottom line is, yes PhD's generally are trained to be intellectuals/thinkers, and I agree with whoever said that the public has no freaking idea what that means. I've had people at the hospital that I volunteer at (employees, not patients) ask me what science PhDs do--which just about floored me!
     
  32. OneFish TwoFish

    OneFish TwoFish Small fish, big pond
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    Both routes are viable and well regarded. Consider what you love doing (knowing everything about nothing = phd, or knowing nothing about everything = md). Prestige should be the LAST reason to consider one career path versus another. It hurts my eyes to read threads like this.
     

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