Osteopathic Doctor: Salary and Career Facts

Research what it takes to become a doctor of osteopathic medicine. Learn about education, job duties, job outlook and salary to find out if this is the career for you. Schools offering Allied Health degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Does an Osteopathic Doctor Do?

Doctors of Osteopathic Medicine (D.O.) perform the same work as Doctors of Medicine (M.D.), except they use holistic treatment methods accompanied by physical exercises and manipulation of the bones and muscles. They work with patients to promote health via education, nutritional information and getting ahead of disease before it happens. Osteopathic doctors are found in a variety of specialties, including geriatrics, pediatrics, surgery and others. Like any doctor they prescribe medicine or follow other treatments as the disease or trauma requires.

The following chart provides an overview about becoming a doctor of osteopathic medicine.

Degree Required Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (D.O.)
Training Required 3 to 8 years of residency, depending on specialty
Licensure or Certification All states require doctors to be licensed; board certification is available
Key Responsibilities Examine patients and diagnose medical conditions; provide manipulation therapy, prescribe medication and treatment; order diagnostic tests and evaluate results; counsel patients on their healthcare
Job Growth (2014-2024) 17% for all health diagnosing and treating practitioners*
Median Salary (2016) $146,931 for osteopathic doctors**

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), **PayScale

What Is Osteopathic Medicine?

Osteopathic medicine is a form of medical practice that focuses on manipulation of the body in order to treat and prevent illnesses and injuries. Osteopathic doctors have the same background training as medical or allopathic doctors, but they have an additional focus on holistic healing. This work often includes physical therapy and rehabilitation.

What Requirements are Needed?

In order to work in osteopathic medicine you must obtain a Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine degree (D.O.). Some universities offer combined programs that provide a bachelor's degree and the doctor of osteopathic medicine degree. If you choose the D.O. path, you will focus on the same skills that an M.D. program teaches, including pathology, phlebotomy, neurology, diagnostics, invasive procedures, reporting, radiology, psychology and emergency medicine.

Clinical training and residencies are required for graduation or licensure. All fifty states require licensure of osteopathic doctors. Each state has its own licensure requirements, so you should visit your state's board of certification to learn the details. The National Board of Osteopathic Medical Examiners (NBOME) provides nationally recognized COMLEX-USA exams that assess your osteopathic knowledge and clinical experience.

What Kinds of Work Will I Do?

You can work as a common medical doctor in family and internal medicine. However, your options are by no means limited to those. D.O.s commonly work in pediatrics, surgery or just about any medical specialty. You also work with people through nutrition, exercise and manipulation to promote healthy well being. Being a licensed doctor, you can also prescribe drugs and diagnose afflictions and injuries.

What Can I Earn?

Since many osteopathic doctors work in their own practices, you will need to supply your own medical insurance, retirement and other benefits. According to PayScale, osteopathic doctors earned a median annual salary of $146,931 in 2016.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Career alternatives include many of the medical specialties such as family or general practice. The descriptions of these careers are similar to osteopathic work. Others might be interested in work as a podiatrist, chiropractor, or veterinarian. All of these will require a doctorate in the medical field as well as several years interning. To work as a nurse anesthetist, nurse practitioner or midwife you will need a master's degree. These jobs will require you to work closely with patients under the supervision of a medical doctor.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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  • Regent University

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  • Western University of Health Sciences

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    • California: Pomona
  • West Virginia School of Osteopathic Medicine

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    • West Virginia: Lewisburg
  • University of Pikeville

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    • Kentucky: Pikeville
  • University of North Texas Health Science Center

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    • Texas: Fort Worth
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    • New Jersey: Newark
  • Touro University Nevada

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    • Nevada: Henderson
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    • California: Vallejo
  • William Carey University

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    • Mississippi: Hattiesburg
  • Oklahoma State University Center for Health Sciences

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    • Oklahoma: Tulsa