Osteopathic Physician (D.O.)

Average Salary $204k - 443k
Years Higher Education 11 - 17
Job Outlook Excellent

Doctors of osteopathic medicine (DOs) are physicians who were educated at U.S. colleges of osteopathic medicine. Approximately one in four U.S. medical students is studying to become a DO.

A DO’s medical education and practice are shaped by a philosophy that emphasizes preventative medicine, partnership in healthcare between physician and patient, treatment of the whole person–their body, mind and spirit–and the role of a physician’s hands to diagnose and treat, leveraging expert understanding of the reciprocal interrelation of the body’s structure and function.

Osteopathic physicians’ whole person perspective has guided many of the 141,000+ practicing DOs into primary care roles and has proven to be equally valuable for the many thousands of DOs represented in every medical and surgical specialty. DOs take great pride in a tradition of serving the underserved, practicing in rural areas and enjoying an especially close relationship with military medicine.

DOs are licensed to practice in every U.S. state and in more than 65 countries worldwide.

Working Conditions

Many osteopathic physicians practice primary care. DOs have a strong history of serving rural and underserved populations.

DOs play a critical role in addressing the physician workforce shortage. In 2023, 55.9 percent of DO seniors went into primary care. Moreover, 43 percent of graduating 2021-2022 osteopathic medical students plan to practice in a medically underserved or health shortage area; of those, 40 percent plan to practice in a rural community.

Academic Requirements

The minimum educational requirement for entry into osteopathic medical school is three years of college, although most applicants have at least a bachelor’s degree, and many have advanced degrees.

Admission to osteopathic medical schools is competitive so students should keep their GPA (overall, science, math, etc.) as high as possible. Take as many science and math courses in high school and college as possible. Consult with an academic advisor or check the prerequisites for schools of interest for courses they require for admission.

In addition, it’s important to participate in extracurricular activities to build leadership, teamwork and communication skills.

Take advantage of winter and summer breaks as well as the school year to gain clinical experience. Shadowing an osteopathic physician is a good way to learn about the profession and the experience can be placed on your application. Volunteering in a health organization is another way to learn more about being a healthcare professional and the healthcare system.

The American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine (AACOM) created for undergraduates who are planning to apply to osteopathic medical school that is useful for college career preparation.

Personal qualities and soft skills are also important components of admission. Osteopathic medical schools are looking for students who:

  • Are well-rounded
  • Have good communication and interpersonal skills
  • Have a record of community service
  • Have a record of leadership
  • Come from diverse backgrounds
  • Are motivated to pursue a career in osteopathic medicine

Application Information

The AACOM Choose DO Explorer is a valuable resource for anyone considering or applying to osteopathic medical colleges. This interactive directory includes descriptions of all the osteopathic medical colleges, admissions criteria, minimum entrance requirements, supplementary application materials required, class size or enrollment, application deadlines and tuition.

Applicants will need to take the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT). To apply, use the American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine Application Service (AACOMAS) to submit one application to all the schools of interest. Currently, there are 41 accredited colleges of osteopathic medicine in the United States. Find out more about how to apply to osteopathic medical school through AACOMAS.

Osteopathic medical students complete four years of medical school, plus three to nine years of additional medical training through internships and residencies in their chosen specialties. After earning their degree, DOs also must pass state licensing exams and national boards.

Learn More About a Career as an Osteopathic Physician



The American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine reviewed this career profile.
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