Osteopaths, also known as Osteopathic Doctors (D.O.), perform medicine using the principle that patients should be treated as a whole, not merely from the symptoms they display.
Osteopathy takes a holistic approach to medicine and for the most part, has been labeled as an alternative medicine.
Although D.O.s and Medical Doctors (M.D.s) practice using differing medical principles, their educational paths are very similar.
Education Requirements to Become an Osteopath
The path to become an Osteopath is very similar to that of a Medical Doctor (M.D.).
The differences being the philosophy used when approaching medicine, the medical program required and the licensure needed to practice medicine.
While in medical school, students also learn osteopathic manipulative medicine to learn the basic medical practices frequently used by Osteopathic Doctors.
As an undergraduate, individuals who want to become an Osteopath may focus on a scientific related major such as Biology, Chemistry or pre-med to attain their Bachelor’s degree.
In order to get into medical school, an individual must have a strong background in science and completing any of these programs is a common track for many students.
After completing a four year degree in a science related major, individuals must then take the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) entrance exam in order to apply for a medical school.
Individuals can visit the MCAT website to learn more information about the entrance exam and how to prepare for this test.
Once an individual passes the MCAT exam, they must apply to an Osteopathic medicine program, a different medical program than those pursuing a career as a Medical Doctor.
Both programs take at least 4 years to complete.
The Osteopathic program includes basic medical courses such as: microbiology, physiology, anatomy, neuroanatomy and the musculoskeletal system.
Osteopathic programs will also include a strong focus in primary care which also emphasizes a preventative and holistic approach to health.
In addition, students who want to become an Osteopathic Doctor will learn about Osteopathic Manipulative Treatment (OMT), a treatment that uses the hands to diagnose and treat illnesses.
Just like Medical Doctors, Osteopathic Doctors also gain on the job experience by completing clinical rotations, an internship or a residency while still in medical school.
Clinical rotations, internships and residencies are focused in general practice or in a specialty area such as pediatrics or oncology.
Individuals will gain on the job experience by practicing in a variety of health care facilities including clinics and hospitals.
Once an individual completes an Osteopathic medicine program, they must take the Comprehensive Osteopathic Medical Licensing Exam (COMLEX) which is used to test their knowledge in osteopathic medicine and clinical skills.
Visit the website for the National Board of Osteopathic Medical Examiners for more information on this comprehensive exam and specific dates available to take the test.
Osteopath Job Description
The majority of Osteopaths choose to practice in general or family medicine.
Their main job duties are to see patients to diagnose illness or injuries and prescribe the necessary treatments to improve their health.
They will also counsel patients on how to prevent illness and injuries.
When diagnosing and treating patients, Osteopathic Doctors use Osteopathic Manipulative Medicine to provide treatment.
This can involve the hands on treatment using an individual’s musculoskeletal system.
The musculoskeletal system includes the nerves, muscles, joints and bones.
Just like Medical Doctors, Osteopathic Doctors also have the capability to diagnose illnesses and injuries, perform surgeries (if specialized in that area) and prescribe medicine and treatments geared to improving their patients’ health.
Osteopath Salary and Career Path
The health care profession as a whole can expect a steady and strong growth through 2022.
Job openings for Physicians and Surgeons are projected to increase by 18 percent through 2022.
This growth is considered faster than average and will be impacted by the increase of individuals who have access to health care as well as the aging baby boomer population.
The median income for Physicians and Surgeons, which includes Osteopathic Doctors was approximately $220,942 per year for professionals in primary care or $396,233 per year for professionals who worked in a medical specialty.
Exact income will depend on the level of experience, specialization and sector.
Individuals who pursue a specialization in Osteopathic Medicine tend to earn more income because of their specialization.
Individuals who are interested in providing care from a holistic standpoint may find it worthwhile to seek a career as an Osteopath.
Some of their practices may be considered alternative care, but with an increase in individuals seeking this type of program and more and more patients seeking this type of care, this field can experience an increase in job opportunities.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is an osteopath?
An osteopath also knows as a Doctor of Osteopathy is a professional who practices alternative medicine.
Osteopaths use a variety of techniques in order to help improve their patients’ overall health, including traditional methods but also massage and other hands-on manual treatments.
They are trained to treat the body as a whole instead of focusing on particular symptoms or organs.
Many osteopaths also rely on conventional treatments and use alternative medicine as a complementary method of treatment.
If they pass a national exam, doctors of osteopathic medicine are licensed to diagnose and perform treatments just like medical doctors.
They can prescribe medications and treat patients using both traditional and osteopathic methods.
Many osteopaths practice primary care medicine but some also specialize in a field such as pediatric or internal medicine.
Osteopaths, like all physicians, need many skills, including compassion, communication skills, patience, organizational skills, and physical stamina.
If you want to become an osteopath you should be ready to work long, irregular hours in order to accommodate your patients’ schedules.
How much does an osteopath make?
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median annual pay for physicians, in general, was $208,000 per year, as of May 2018.
Salaries in this field vary widely based on many factors, including the physician’s level of experience, education, expertise, the region, and the employer.
How much does it cost to become an osteopath?
A Doctor of Osteopathic medicine needs a bachelor’s degree followed by four years of medical training at an accredited college of osteopathic medicine.
Earning your bachelor’s degree will cost you anywhere between $15,000-$60,000 a year depending on the school you choose.
Tuition fees at colleges of osteopathic medicine are around $50,000 a year.
After earning a Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine degree the next step is to get your state license and to complete your residency.
What is the demand for osteopaths?
According to BLS, the overall employment of physicians and surgeons, in general, is projected to grow 7 percent from 2018 to 2028, faster than the average for all occupations.
However, employment opportunities vary depending on the specialty and the region.
If you’re willing to relocate to rural or underserved areas, you should have better job prospects.
How long does it take to become an osteopath?
To become an osteopath, you will need at least 9 years of training beyond high school.
You will first need a bachelor’s degree and a Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (DOM) degree, which can be obtained after 8 years of training.
After earning your DOM degree, you will need to take a national licensing exam.
The next step is to complete your residency, which could last between 1 and 7 years, depending on the region and the specialty.