More than 121,000 osteopathic physicians are employed in the United States. Osteopaths can be found in virtually all medical specialties, however, according to the American Osteopathic Association, nearly 57 percent of osteopaths practice in the primary care specialties of general practice, family practice, pediatrics, and internal medicine. More than one-third of all osteopaths go into private practice after completing their training. They also work in hospitals, clinics, nursing homes, and other health care settings. Many osteopaths serve the critical need for physicians in rural areas.
Depending on the specialty in which an osteopath is interested, he or she can plan on completing a residency program of two to seven years' duration. One of the difficulties facing the profession today is that medical schools produce more students than there are available residencies at osteopathic hospitals. As a result, gaining admission to selective osteopathic programs may be challenging. Graduates increasingly find residencies in traditional medical facilities. As awareness of and interest in osteopathy continue to grow, this shortage of open residency positions may change. After completing a residency program, an osteopath can choose to go into private practice or explore positions with a variety of health care employers.
Advancement in the medical professions is dependent on the specific field. Osteopaths in private practice will follow a different career path than those working in a purely clinical setting or in a research position at an academic medical center. As noted earlier, a large percentage of osteopaths go into private or small-group practice. Advancement in private practice comes with increased reputation; mainly through word of mouth, a practice grows with positive referrals.
In contrast, osteopaths in employee positions are more limited in their methods of advancement. Those in an academic setting face the challenge of obtaining tenure to advance from instructor to assistant professor to associate professor to professor. Becoming tenured is an arduous process, involving a combination of patient care, research, publication, and administrative responsibilities. Those who love the academic environment, however, and also want to be a practicing physician usually find their niche in academia.
Tips for Entry
Visit the American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine's Web site, https://www.aacom.org/become-a-doctor/u-s-colleges-of-osteopathic-medicine, for a list of schools and for information on tuition and fees for each school.
Use social media to stay up to date on industry developments and learn about job openings. Many professional associations are embracing social media to stay in touch with members and others who are interested in osteopathic medicine. For example, the American Osteopathic Association has a presence on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter.
You will need to take the MCAT to get into medical school. Learn more about the test by going to https://students-residents.aamc.org/applying-medical-school/taking-mcat-exam/prepare-mcat-exam.