Ask-A-Doc, October

Posted 10/07/19 (Mon)

Medical Student Versus Resident Physician: What’s the Difference?

Answer from Dr. Rhonda Schafer-McLean and Dr. Shannon Sauter.

Q: What’s the difference between a medical student and a resident physician?

A: A Doctor of Medicine degree.

That’s the big difference separating a resident physician from a medical student. Resident physicians are postdoctoral graduates who hold Doctor of Medicine degrees while medical students are upcoming physicians who are still training within a medical school program. Medical students must complete a four-year course of study to earn their Doctor of Medicine degree.  

Resident physicians, or residents, are licensed to practice medicine and write prescriptions with the guidance of an attending physicians. These attending physicians closely supervise and review the treatment delivered by residents and ensure that residents are properly trained. 

Residency programs specialize residents in a certain discipline of medicine and can last anywhere from 3 to 5 years, depending on the specialty. Once their residency is completed, the physicians can apply for unrestricted licenses to practice their specialty without an attending physician.

The UND Center for Family Medicine (CFM) is a training facility for residents seeking to specialize in family practice. The CFM was established by the UND School of Medicine to offer residents an opportunity to build relationships with patients while contributing to the health of the local community. 

UND’s residency programs train many of the state’s family practice residents, many of whom stay following training. CFM is a family medical clinic and is open to the community.  


The Ask-A-Doc posts from UND Center for Family Medicine brings knowledge from our experts direct to you. Our team is committed to improving your family’s overall health and answering the questions you have about wellness. Make an appointment today.