How to Become an Osteopathic Physician

How to Become an Osteopathic Physician: Career Path Guide

If you want to become an osteopathic physician, you first need to determine if this career path is a good fit for you. If the following description sounds like you, then you’re probably well suited for a career as an osteopathic physician:


Those that become osteopathic physicians are intrigued by the ways that medicine can be used to improve our lives, and have a genuine interest in people’s health. Osteopathic physicians are strong in academics and are emotionally stable, as this is required to complete short and long-term tasks.


They must be interested in biology, physiology and medicine, and have the intellectual ability to complete the necessary licensing requirements.


Below we've outlined what you'll need to begin a career as an osteopathic physician. We've also included helpful information for this career, such as job description, job duties, salary expectations, a list of possible employers and much more!



Education Needed to Become an Osteopathic Physician

To become an Osteopathic Physician, you must complete the same medical education as an M.D., as well as training in biomechanical assessment of the musculoskeletal system and treatment, which includes osteopathic manipulative therapy. 


Please Note: Currently, there are no colleges of osteopathic medicine in Canada. Only graduates of U.S. Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine are eligible for licensure to practice Osteopathic Medicine in Canada.


Although educational requirements may vary by region, the educational requirements to become an osteopathic physician are as follows:


• Complete pre-medicine study at the bachelor’s level

• Complete a 4-year degree program from an accredited college of osteopathic medicine (only available in the United States)

• Complete 3-6 years of post-graduate internships and residencies in chosen specialty

• Pass provincial/state licensing exam





Osteopathic Physician Job Description

Osteopathic physicians (Doctors of Osteopathic Medicine or D.O.s) are responsible for diagnosing illness and injury, prescribing and administering treatment for illness and injury, and providing patients with advice about how to prevent and manage disease and other health conditions. Similar to M.D.’s, osteopathic physicians are fully licensed to diagnose, treat, prescribe medications, and perform surgery.


So what makes an osteopathic physician different from an M.D.? In addition to using all of the tools and technology of modern medicine, they also have a strongly holistic philosophy towards medicine, and they practice osteopathic manipulative medicine, which is a system of hands-on diagnosis and treatment that focuses on the musculoskeletal system.



Osteopathic Physician Job Duties

• Rely on accepted medical and surgical modalities to assess, diagnose and treat diseases and injuries

• Participate in health care teams and coordinate work with other physicians, nurses, pharmacists and other health care providers

• Obtain the medical history of the patient, either by referring to their records or by speaking with them

• Maintain current knowledge of developments in the field of osteopathic medicine

• Examine patients to identify symptoms, which can attribute to impairments in their musculoskeletal system

• Use medicinal and surgical procedures to correct disorders and afflictions of bones, muscles, nerves, and other body systems

• May utilize diagnostic images, drugs, and other aids to diagnose and treat bodily impairments



Where Do Osteopathic Physicians Work?

Osteopathic physicians are employed by organizations that provide healthcare services in both urban centres and rural areas. They may also be employed as teachers of osteopathic medicine. Organizations that hire osteopathic physicians typically include:


• Private medical practice

• Public medical practice

• Regional health authorities

• Medical research organizations

• Public health agencies

• Occupational medicine organizations

• Municipal, regional and federal health administration

• International aid agencies

• Colleges and universities



Osteopathic Physician Salary

The salary level of osteopathic physicians can vary greatly depending on many factors, such as their level of experience, their level of education, the facility or organization they work for, whether or not they work within a private or public healthcare system, and many others.


Osteopathic Physician Salary Alberta: According to the 2011 Alberta Wage and Salary Survey, Albertans in the General Practitioners and Family Physicians occupational group earn an average wage of between $80.41 and $91.29 per hour.


Osteopathic Physician Salary Canada: According to Service Canada, workers in the General Practitioners and Family Physicians occupational group earn an average annual salary of $139,681 per year.


Osteopathic Physician Salary United States: According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, salaries of workers in the Physicians and Surgeons occupational group are among the highest amounts of all occupations. The median salary of physicians that practice primary care is $202,392, and physicians that practice in medical specialties have a median annual salary of $356,885 (2010 figures).





Traits of Successful Osteopathic Physicians

Having the following personality traits will help you succeed in a career as an osteopathic physician:


• A strong intellect, necessary to successfully complete the rigorous requirements of medical school and continued lifelong learning

• Should be confident, as a physician’s confidence can instill confidence in their patients

• The physical, intellectual and emotional stamina needed to work long hours

• Must be able to work effectively with other healthcare practitioners, such as nurses

• Should enjoy finding solutions to problems

• Should be empathetic to a patient’s emotional and physical pain

• Must be caring, compassionate and kind

• Should be conscientious and persistent

• Must be able to communicate in clear and plain language to patients



Is a Career as an Osteopathic Physician a Good Fit for You?

A career as an osteopathic physician can be very rewarding, as these physicians provide their patients with essential health services. However, a career as an osteopathic physician can be quite demanding and stressful as well. Below are some positive and negative aspects of a career as an osteopathic physician. Before you apply for medical school, ensure this career path is right for you!


• On average, medical graduates earn more than any other graduates in the United States

• Physicians that work for their own practice have the freedom to set their own hours

• Successfully treating patients can be an extremely rewarding experience

• Some patients can be extremely difficult to treat, as they may not be very cooperative

• Physicians are typically very highly respected members of the community

• Depending on where a physician works, they may have to work very long and irregular hours

• Becoming a physician takes an average of 11 years of post-secondary study



Careers Similar to Osteopathic Physician

Listed below are careers in our database that are similar in nature to Osteopathic Physician, as they may involve many of the same skills, competencies and responsibilities.



Cardiac Rehabilitation Specialist


Medical Scientist

Sports Medicine Physician



References: How to Become an Osteopathic Physician

Please use the references below to find more information on the various aspects of a career as an Osteopathic Physician in Canada as well as in the United States.


Occupations in Alberta:Specialist Physician.” (March 24, 2015). ALIS website - Alberta Learning Information Service. Retrieved January 6, 2020.

Healthcare:Physicians and Surgeons.” (September 10, 2019). Occupational Outlook Handbook - United States Bureau of Labor Statistics website. Retrieved January 6, 2020.

Become a Doctor:Become an Osteopathic Physician.” (n.d.). American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine website. Retrieved January 6, 2020.

What is Osteopathic Medicine?:What is a DO?” (n.d.). American Osteopathic Organization website. Retrieved January 6, 2020.



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Scholarships for Becoming an Osteopathic Physician

Scholarships listed for majors that apply to becoming an Osteopathic Physician can be found on the following pages:


Biology Scholarships

Exercise Science Scholarships

Kinesiology Scholarships


Success Tip: Be sure to apply for any scholarships that you even barely qualify for, as there are millions of dollars of scholarships that go unused every year due to a lack of applicants!



Becoming an Osteopathic Physician: Applicable Majors

Studying one of the university majors listed below is an excellent starting point to becoming an osteopathic physician. Click on the links to find out what else you can do with these majors!


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