Allopathic vs. Osteopathic Degrees

As you probably already know, med school comes with a number of decisions you have to make before ever even being accepted with plenty more along the way. One of the biggest ones will be whether or not to pursue an allopathic or osteopathic degree. Neither is better than the other, however, they have enough differences that some students will definitely see one as the right fit for them.

Their Similarities

We’ll begin with what the two share in common. As you’ll see, their overlap is considerable. It includes:

• Four years of med school
• Same standards in terms of being a doctor
• Same residency programs
• Board certification tests (which are only slightly different)

Their Differences

An osteopathic physician (D.O.) is required to go through additional training that an allopathic physician (M.D.) doesn’t do. This training is geared toward learning about the muscoskeletal system and hands-on medicine that is done manually.

This extra training is necessary because an osteopathic physician will look at any ailment as a function of the person as a whole. An allopathic physician, on the other hand, tends to focus on a certain organ or specific area of the body that’s fighting a disease.

For example, if you went to an M.D. complaining about a headache, they’d probably give you some medication appropriate for your symptoms. However, a D.O. would be more likely to look at other parts of your body that could be causing the symptoms in the first place. They may borrow from the chiropractor’s handbag to adjust your neck or back as well.

Much of the D.O. philosophy can be reflected in their OMT (Osteopathic Manipulative Treatment). This is a method they use to assess the body, by seeing if it is able to move freely and if body fluids within are able to flow normally. Leveraging OMT is how D.O. physicians often make their overall diagnosis.

Relative Histories

Another difference that you may want to think about is the relative histories of the two branches. There are, by far. more M.D. physicians in this country than D.O.s. It comes down to roughly 650,000 of the former and 50,000 of the latter.

That might be due, in large part, to the fact that allopathic physicians have essentially been around since the profession was first recognized in the 1600s, depending on how you look at it. By the mid-1700s, the profession was being regulated and in 1845, the American Medical Association was founded and started creating standards for Doctor of Medicine.

Osteopathic medicine was founded in 1874 by Dr. Andrew Taylor who believed that all bodily systems were intertwined and dependent on one another. To a large extent, this was a fairly new idea.

Due to their vastly different approaches, another key difference is where they end up. 60% of osteopathic physicians work in internal medicine, family medicine, obstetrics, pediatrics, and gynecology.

Again, it’s important to stress that neither is better than the other, but they clearly have some differences worth considering. While you may already have your mind made up, med school will provide you with some more time to think about it too.