While there are many types of doctors, one of the major divisions is between allopathic or medical doctors (M.D.) and osteopathic doctors (D.O.). The D.O. has all the same privileges as the M.D. Both types of doctors may enter general practice or specialize in a field of practice, depending on the residency programs they choose, according to U.S. News and World Reports.
As of 2015, all states require applicants for a license as an M.D. graduate from an approved medical school and successfully complete the United States Medical Licensing Exam, according to MedlinePlus. In order to gain board certification in a specialty, the doctor completes another three to nine years of postgraduate work in their area. Most hospitals require board certification for doctors who serve on their staff.
A D.O. is also a fully certified physician who can prescribe medicine and perform surgery, according to the American Osteopathic Association. The D.O. must pass a comparable to the M.D. in order to obtain his license. While the two types of doctors have many things in common, osteopathic medicine has a distinct approach and philosophy concerning patient care. Approximately 60 percent of osteopathic doctors specialize in primary care services, including in rural areas.