Due to the challenging tasks faced by an osteopathic medical student, it is impossible to obtain a DO degree entirely online. The amount of academic and clinical training required to finish medical school demands full time and attention. Online learning for this context is not practical. However, DO is a popular degree offered by many hospital schools and there is a great chance you have a campus nearby.

Do you want to cure the sick with love and affection? Consider enrolling in a medical school. The childhood cliche dream of “I want to be a doctor!” might become a reality if you have a D.O. degree.

What does an osteopath do?

An osteopath is a physician who specializes in treating patients through specialized musculoskeletal manipulation techniques. Mainly, they are doctors and assume the same responsibilities, privileges, and rights of those with a “Medical Doctor (MD)” degree. However, there are slight variations in training particularly in osteopathic manipulative medicine (OMM).

Expounding the differences between MD and DO further, MDs are “allopathic physicians” which means they treat specific symptoms through drugs, surgeries, and other remedies. Whereas, DOs are “osteopathic physicians” who treat diseases or illness as a whole, wherein the DO has a basic understanding that ailments interact with the person’s body.

Aside from their distinct perspectives, MDs and DOs have a slight variation in terms of diagnostic methods. DOs tend to unravel the patient’s lifestyle – asking them questions like “What did you eat lately? Who prepared the food?”. Thus, DOs place more emphasis on people and how their behavior may prevent diseases.

What sort of accreditation should I look for in a school?

Currently, the Commission on Osteopathic College Accreditation (COCA) organized by the American Osteopathic Association’s (AOA) accredits medical schools in the United States to grant the Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (DO).

However, starting in 2020, the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME) will administer all accreditation of residency programs for both MDs and DOs in the US. This change in the accreditation committee is the result of the 2014 agreement of AOA and ACGME to unite all allopathic and osteopathic graduate medical education.

How do I earn my D.O. degree?

Several medical schools in the US offers DO programs. Standardized roadmaps to earn a DO degree involves a lot of prerequisites, examinations, and years of clinical training.

First of all, you do need to have a four-year college degree before enrolling to a medical school. There is no specific undergraduate major required, but, medical schools prefer students with competent backgrounds in biology, physics, chemistry, and English. A year before your application to a medical school, you need to pass the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT).

An osteopathic medical program typically takes four years to complete. The first two years are designed to hone your clinical skills and to learn basic science courses. During the third and fourth years, the DO student will have the opportunity to explore medical specialties in a clinical environment.

Students are trained on the following medical fields: surgery, anesthesiology, radiology, preventive medicine, obstetrics/gynecology, psychiatry, internal medicine, family medicine, pediatrics, emergency medicine, and public health. They are required to specialize in at one or two of these fields before graduation and residency.

The COMLEX-USA is a series of four osteopathic medical licensing examinations. The first two steps of the COMLEX-USA are taken during medical school and are prerequisites for osteopathic residency programs, which are available in almost every specialty of medicine and surgery. The third step exam consists of a written portion and a physical exam evaluation. The physical exam evaluation (COMLEX- PE), is only available in select regions in the country and graded as a PASS/FAIL exam. Finally, the step 4 portion of the COMLEX is taken during residency.

Based on the fields mentioned above, the graduate program for MDs and DOs appear to be virtually indistinguishable. However, osteopathic medical schools instruct 300–500 hours of training in hands-on manual medicine and study of the musculoskeletal system.

After 4 years in medical school, DO graduates proceed to internship programs, followed by a residency program with a specialty area. The length of residency programs varies by specialty ranging from 3 to 8 years. After the residency program, DOs may opt to enroll in fellowship programs to advance their specialties.

What type of degree do I need to pursue research or educate others in osteopathic medicine?

Academic physicians teach in medical school and consult patients sometimes. They either have an MD, DO, or Ph.D. degree in Medicine. Some medical professors engage in research work and write publications in scholarly journals and medical books. They are called “physician-scientists,” and they produce new knowledge by working with other professionals in different disciplines.

What kind of career and salary can I expect with my DO degree?

Saving lives may make a doctor’s life stressful and fulfilling at the same time. As expected, DOs work in hospitals and clinics. Sometimes, they go to remote places during medical missions and disaster relief operations. They work with doctors, nurses, therapists, and other medical practitioners. They may also work in research and work in the classroom. Long experienced doctors may also assume managerial positions in hospitals.

Depending on the specialty and location, the salaries of osteopathic physicians varies. Nevertheless, they are paid handsomely overall. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics in the US, DOs (like MDs) earn a median annual wage of $208,000. Anesthesiologists receive the highest pay of $260,990 per year while Pediatricians earn the lowest at $187,540 annually.

Do I need a license to be an osteopathic physician?

The National Board of Osteopathic Medical Examiners (NBOME) require D.O. medical students are required to take the Comprehensive Osteopathic Medical Licensure Examination (COMLEX-USA). This exam is taken in three levels. Level 1 is taken during the second year of the osteopathic school. Level 2 is taken at the end of the 3rd year. Lastly, level 3 is taken during post-graduate training.

Continuing education is required to renew a license. The number of years required for license renewal varies per state. A D.O. physician may take Board Certifications after getting a license and passing the exams to advance his/her career. An osteopathic physician may also take the United States Medical Licensing Examination(USMLE) to obtain the MD license along with DO.

What schools offer Doctor of Anesthesia Practice (Dr.AP) degrees?

Touro University College of Osteopathic Medicine–California (TUCOM-CA) in San Francisco offers on-campus education in the West Coast and well as in other branches in New York (TouroCOM-NY) and Nevada (TUNCOM). Other on-campus programs include: Nova Southeastern University Dr. Kiran C. Patel College of Osteopathic Medicine (NSU-KPCOM) in Fort Lauderdale, Florida; Chicago College of Osteopathic Medicine of Midwestern University (CCOM) in Downers Grove, Illinois; Arkansas College of Osteopathic Medicine (ARCOM) in Fort Smith, Arkansas; and West Virginia School of Osteopathic Medicine (WVSOM) in Lewisburg, West Virginia.

Apples do not make your childhood dreams of becoming a doctor away. Pursue a D.O. degree today and make your life and other’s lives happy!