MBBS vs. MD: What is the Difference?

doctor and patient

The path towards becoming a doctor with an MBBS degree is a long and challenging one. It is a selfless and dedicated service, personally one of the most fulfilling careers. To enroll in the MBBS and subsequent MD, a good grade is required, as well as complete commitment to the course.

When we mentioned the degrees in medicine, we brought up two degrees. One is the Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery, commonly referred to as MBBS. The other one is the Doctor of Medicine, more commonly referred to as an MD.

With the term “Doctor” in Doctor of Medicine, we can assume that in most universities, it would be the second step after completion of MBBS. However, there are some universities that would award the Doctor of Medicine, MD, as the first step, and the next would be the PhD.

As a PhD qualification by research, we would need an MBBS and a master’s degree or specialist qualification to qualify for the programme.

In Malaysia, both the MBBS and MD are bachelor’s degrees and are of the same level of qualification. To pursue this programme, one needs a pre-university or foundation qualification (e.g. A Level, STPM, Foundation in Science).


Length of the Course

The standard course length of the MBBS/MD course in Malaysia is 5 years. For the universities that offer MBBS in Malaysia as a graduate entry level medicine program, the course length is 4 years.


doctors in hospital room


Course Matters

Both the MBBS in Malaysia and the MD in Malaysia courses, include two phases—pre-clinical training and clinical training. During the first two years of the degree, the studies would focus on pre-clinical training, where the theoretical aspects of basic medicine science are covered.

Thereafter, under clinical training, one gets hands-on training at hospitals and clinics.

During the initial training days, students may experience the following common themes:

  • Basic medical sciences
  • Patient and population
  • Life Cycle
  • Life Support
  • Population Health
  • Professionalism and Ethics
  • Professional Skills
  • Communication principles for effective health care

Medical specialties with MBBS in Malaysia

  • Allergy and Immunology
  • Cardiology
  • Emergency Medicine
  • Internal Medicine
  • Neurology
  • Obstetrics and Gynaecology
  • Paediatrics
  • Pulmonology


Can one become a doctor with either an MBBS or MD degree in Malaysia?

In Malaysia, both the MBBS and MD (undergraduate) degrees are recognized as doctoral degrees by the Malaysian Medical Council. In addition to the degree, one needs to complete housemanship and the necessary training before completing the full registration as a medical officer and using the abbreviation “Dr.” in front of their name.

Earning an MBBS means that students are certified to care for patients. Junior physicians do not have any specialized training. Graduates are expected to complete two years of additional training, which rotates them through different specialties.

Once they identify a specialty they like, they can apply for additional training, which can take anywhere between three and eight years.



MBBS graduates are considered qualified doctors who can treat basic health matters while they continue acquiring additional training.

In that regard, they are similar to MD graduates in the US, who are expected to complete a three-year residency after finishing medical school.

An MD is a post-graduate degree onto which the MBBS students enrol to enhance their knowledge and skills.


Indian doctor working on laptop


Scope of MBBS vs. MD

The medical field is highly dynamic, and a graduate with a medical degree can get jobs in public or private hospitals.

An MBBS graduate who is licensed and registered under the medical council of the residing country has all the rights to practise their area of expertise. MD is a post-graduate program that helps MBBS graduates prosper in a particular field of specialization.

For instance, Clinical Haematology, Oncology, Paediatrics, Cardiology are some of the specializations in the medical field. Indeed, earning an MD degree would enhance the career prospects of a doctor in the long run.

If earning a MBBS or MD medical degree does not sound interesting, there are other fields in the healthcare sector that can be explored:

  • Nursing
  • Public Health
  • Social Work
  • Health Care Administration


Conclusion: Which course should one choose, MBBS or MD?

Both MBBS and MD programs in Malaysia comply with the standards set by the Malaysian Medical Council and the Malaysian Qualifications Agency to provide the right knowledge and skills to become qualified doctors.

People consult both specialists and general physicians for a differential diagnosis. Hence, both MBBS and MD doctors are essential in the healthcare sector.

For further information, please feel free to get in touch with our friendly course and career counsellors.