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What Do the Letters Behind a Doctor's Name Mean?


When you visit a doctor, you may notice that they have letters after their name. These letters can be confusing and difficult to understand, but they actually provide important information about the doctor's medical education and training. In this article, we will explain the various letters that can appear behind a doctor's name and what they mean.

Medical Degree

The first set of letters that you may see behind a doctor's name are related to their medical degree. In the United States, doctors typically earn either a Doctor of Medicine (MD) or a Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (DO) degree. These degrees are equivalent in terms of medical education and training, but they have different philosophies and approaches to healthcare.

Medical Education

After earning their medical degree, doctors must complete a residency program in their chosen specialty. This is where they receive hands-on training and experience in their field. The length of a residency program varies depending on the specialty, but it typically lasts between three and seven years. During this time, doctors are known as residents and are supervised by attending physicians.

Medical Specialization

Once a doctor completes their residency program, they may choose to pursue additional training in a specific area of medicine. This is known as a fellowship and can last anywhere from one to three years. After completing a fellowship, doctors are considered experts in their field and may earn additional letters behind their name to reflect their specialization.

Common Letters Behind a Doctor's Name

Here are some of the most common letters that you may see behind a doctor's name and what they mean: - MD: Doctor of Medicine - DO: Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine - PhD: Doctor of Philosophy (in a medical field) - MPH: Master of Public Health - MS: Master of Science (in a medical field) - RN: Registered Nurse - NP: Nurse Practitioner - PA: Physician Assistant - DDS: Doctor of Dental Surgery - DMD: Doctor of Dental Medicine - PsyD: Doctor of Psychology - EdD: Doctor of Education


In conclusion, the letters behind a doctor's name provide important information about their medical education and training. By understanding what these letters mean, you can have a better understanding of your doctor's qualifications and expertise. If you have any questions about your doctor's credentials, don't hesitate to ask them directly.