Health Career Center

Osteopathic Doctors and Physicians

Osteopathic doctors (DOs) diagnose and treat disease, discuss health management with patients, and teach patients about proper nutrition. Similar to medical doctors (MDs), they're permitted to prescribe medication and administer surgery anywhere in the United States. Currently, 20 percent of medical students are enrolled at medical schools offering training in osteopathic medicine.

When providing patient care, DOs administer holistic medicine and medical procedures, while focusing on improving the musculoskeletal system.

The basic philosophy of osteopathic doctors includes:
  • Problems in one system of the body affect functions throughout the entire body.
  • The body is capable of healing itself. To do so, impediments to proper function must be eliminated, and patients must improve nutrition and reduce stress.
One half of Dos specialize in general pediatrics, internal medicine, and family medicine. The remainder typically specialize in surgery, psychiatry, obstetrics, anesthesiology, and emergency medicine. Every DO is trained in primary care.

About 60,000 osteopathic doctors practice throughout the United States. There are currently 26 medical schools that offer training in osteopathic medicine. More will be open in the near future.

Working Conditions
More osteopathic than medical doctors specialize in primary care. They usually spend a lot of time treating patients in poor and rural areas.

Osteopathic doctors usually setup private practices or work in small clinics with few staff members. Osteopathic doctors usually collaborate with other DOs while diagnosing and treating patients.

Career Training and Education
To be admitted to osteopathic medical school, you must hold a bachelor's degree, but some schools admit students with 3 years of undergraduate education. Information about applying for osteopathic medical school can be obtained from the American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine (AACOM). Before applying to any osteopathic medical school, you must take the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT).

It takes 4 years to complete osteopathic medical school, followed by a 3-6 year residency. Following a residency, osteopathic doctors are required to pass national and state licensing tests.

In addition to the AACOM, details about careers in osteopathic medicine can be obtained from the following organizations:
  • Student National Medical Association
  • Student Doctor Network
  • Student Osteopathic Medical Association
  • Council of Osteopathic Student Government Presidents
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