I currently have a bachelor's degree in biomedical engineering and soon I will get a Medical Doctor's degree (which technically is a Master's degree). I want to start a PhD after finishing medical studies but I'm more interested in the field of engineering, machine learning and statistics (applied in medicine) than in a purely medical PhD.

My question is can I enroll in PhD program with a main field of engineering/computer science without getting a getting a Master's in engineering, that is, having only the Master's in medicine?

I'm curious both about the formal requirements (how much the fields of Master's and PhD have to match) and the actual chance of succeeding (maybe it's formally possible but usually universities do not allow it). Also, does it depend on the country? I'm especially interested in EU and USA.

I found this question quite relevant although I believe there is a difference. Said question focuses on changing a discipline from field of engineering to another while I'm planning to switch from medicine to an engineering field.

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    "soon I will get a Medical Doctor's degree (which technically is a Master's degree)" - I wonder what country this is based on? Certainly in the United States I would not consider a MD to be anything "technically" like a master's degree. It's a professional degree, on an entirely separate track.
    – Bryan Krause
    Dec 4, 2022 at 17:32
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    As an aside, if you're interested in the engineering side but want to stay adjacent to medicine, you could look at biomedical engineering programs to be closer to engineering, or bioinformatics or computational biology if you want to be closer to computer science.
    – David
    Dec 5, 2022 at 2:37
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    @BryanKrause In this case Poland but generally almost anywhere in Europe and as far as I know in any country in the Bologna Process zone. Actually it was a little surprising to me while reading the Wikipedia article on MD title it wasn't the case for every country. Dec 5, 2022 at 8:11
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    @BryanKrause Europe is similar to this. You get a "Master" in medicine and then either get a fast track PhD (Most do) or go work as a doctor immediately. I only know one person who did the latter
    – SirHawrk
    Dec 5, 2022 at 10:07
  • @JantekMikulski The UK is in the Bologna zone, but medicine is a bachelors degree.
    – MJeffryes
    Dec 5, 2022 at 10:50

1 Answer 1


This is a US only answer. There is nothing, in principle, that would prevent you from applying for an engineering doctorate with your degrees. In practice, however, you would be considered along with others according to the appropriateness of the preparation you have for starting the degree. So, the issue might be whether you have the proper math and science (beyond biology) background.

In the US, most doctoral applicants only hold a bachelors and a masters is very seldom required. But some relationship between past and future studies is expected. There is an opportunity for advanced coursework at the start of a doctoral program and it is normally needed by most students to prepare them for comprehensive exams.

You will need an attractive application, including letters of recommendation, that will speak to your likely success in engineering studies. That may be easy for you or not.

For Biomedical Engineering the path might be smooth, though there are fewer such programs.

The situation in some EU countries will be very different. Germany, for example, tends to be more strict about prior preparation.

Also see: How does the admissions process work for Ph.D. programs in Country X?

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