How to become a Osteopath. Read through our comprehensive job guide to learn more about Osteopath careers.
What does an Osteopath do?
Osteopaths use their highly developed sense of touch (known as palpation) to reduce swelling, ease pain, locate strains and increase mobility. They work with clients to achieve a sense of wellbeing by helping them develop muscles, bones, ligaments, nerves and joints that work efficiently together.
As an osteopath, you would work with a variety of clients experiencing a range of problems including:
- older people with arthritis
- babies with colic
- adults with lower back pain
- people recovering from a sports injury
- women going through posture changes caused by pregnancy.
Before starting treatment, you would discuss with clients their health problems and medical history. You would examine their posture and gait, paying particular attention to their muscles, ligaments and vertebrae. You may also use X-rays and other traditional methods to help with your diagnosis.
With a diagnosis, you may plan a course of treatment, which would involve using gentle, hands-on techniques such as:
- joint mobilisation
- deep pressure.
You could also advise your clients about issues such as diet, exercise and lifestyle. If you were unable to fully address your clients issues, you would refer them to a doctor or another complementary therapist. You may also receive client referrals from GPs.
You are likely to be self-employed, so flexible hours may be possible. However, you may need to cover some evenings and weekends to fit in with clients.
You will carry out your work in a consulting room, although you may treat patients in their own homes. For this reason, the ability to drive would be an advantage.
This work can be physically demanding.
How much does an Osteopath earn?
Salary and pay information:
- Starting salaries for osteopaths can be between £18,000 and £23,000 a year.
- With experience this can rise to around £24,000 to £43,000.
- In private practice, salaries can reach around £55,000 a year.
Most osteopaths are self-employed and can charge a sessional rate (often 30 minutes) of between £45 and £55.
Figures are intended as a guideline only.
To work as an osteopath, you need to complete an approved degree or Masters degree, and gain registration with the General Osteopathic Council (GOsC). If you are already medically qualified, you may be able to take a shortened programme (see course providers for details).
To get on to a degree in osteopathy or osteopathic medicine, you will usually need:
- five GCSEs (A-C) including English, maths and science subjects
- two or three A levels, preferably including biology, human biology, physics or chemistry.
Check with universities for exact entry details because alternative qualifications, such as an Access to Higher Education course, may also be accepted. See the GOsC website for a list of approved courses.
Before you can register with the GOsC you will need to provide both health and character references. You will also need liability insurance and a Criminal Records Bureau check.
- Criminal Records Bureau
Training and Development
Once you are on an approved degree, you will combine academic study with practical training and clinical work placements (including a large amount of client contact).
You will study areas such as:
- medical sciences (anatomy and physiology)
- patient skills (psychology and communication skills)
- clinical medicine, pathology, diagnosis and treatment planning
- osteopathic techniques, concepts and philosophy (this element is integrated into all subject areas).
As a qualified osteopath, you will need to complete 30 hours of relevant learning each year as part of the GOsC’s compulsory scheme of continuing professional development (CPD); see the GOsC website for details.
You could go on to take further courses in accounts, business or marketing or a specialised area of osteopathy, such as paediatrics or sports care.
Skills and Knowledge
- a genuine desire to help people
- the ability to gain trust and reassure your clients
- good co-ordination and practical skills
- good listening skills
- an interest in science, particularly human biology and chemistry
- a good level of physical fitness
- an understanding of when to refer clients to a qualified medical doctor
- good problem solving skills
- strong powers of observation
- the ability to run your own business, including marketing and accounts.
There is an increasing interest in posture-related problems (for example, with car drivers and computer users) and the demand for qualified osteopaths has grown 25% since the 1990s according to the GOsC. Currently, over 3,500 osteopaths are registered with the GOsC in the UK.
You are likely to find most work as a self-employed osteopath in the private sector, running your own practice or working in a private health care centre or sports clinic. You may also find some opportunities in the NHS (for example in an integrated, community-based clinic, working alongside chiropodists and physiotherapists) or within occupational health teams or consultancy firms.
With experience you could go into research or training. You could also work overseas.
You may find the following useful for job vacancies and general reading:
- NHS Jobs
- British Osteopathic Association