There is no doubt that medical professionals are among the most valuable and highly-regarded in society, and that a career in medicine can be incredibly rewarding. But with medical degrees being among the most lengthy and expensive in the UK, intense competition for university places, and with poor morale among junior doctors repeatedly hitting the headlines, is it time to consider osteopathy as an alternative career path?
Here are 12 reasons why we think osteopathy could offer a rewarding alternative to a medical qualification.
- Qualify sooner. Medical degrees take a minimum of five years to complete and are usually followed by several years of on-the-job training, while osteopaths can be fully-qualified, earning and in practice within just four years.
- Less debt. A side-effect of the length of medical degrees is the overall costs associated with study. Osteopaths have fewer years of tuition fees to pay, and can start earning sooner.
- Highly-skilled. Osteopaths are often described as treating the individual rather than the condition, and consider the symptom or injury alongside other biological, physiological and social factors which may be contributing to it. In order to be able to safely diagnose and treat patients, all osteopathic students complete several years of intensive study including anatomy, physiology, pathology, pharmacology, nutrition and biomechanics, as well as a minimum of 1,000 hours of clinical practice.
- An allied health profession. Osteopathy is an allied health profession recognised and respected by the NHS. It is also gaining an increasing profile around the world, and the Osteopathic International Alliance (OIA) has official relations status with the World Health Organisation.
- A regulated form of healthcare. Like medical professionals, in the UK osteopaths must be registered with the profession's regulatory body, the General Osteopathic Council (GOsC). Osteopaths must undertake regular professional development and comply with professional standards, so the general public can have confidence in the treatment they provide.
- Making a difference to people’s lives. For the majority of medical students, one of their key motivations is their desire to help others. Osteopaths do this every day, working with their patients to aid recovery from injury, help them manage long-term conditions, and to improve their overall wellbeing and quality of life.
- Time to care. Osteopaths are fortunate to have the luxury of time with their patients. Most will see patients one-to-one, with standard appointments lasting around 30-45 minutes. And as most patients self-refer, patients can access osteopathy as, when and for as long as it is beneficial to them.
- Opportunities to specialise. While lots of osteopaths work with a wide variety of patients, some choose to specialise. Specialists may focus on work with young patients, professional sports people, patients with specific chronic conditions or even animals. Your career can evolve with time and change direction with your interests.
- Career freedom. The majority of osteopaths are self-employed, offering the ultimate freedom to dictate their own hours and to shape their career around other commitments and interests. Whether you’re employed by a practice or your own boss, as an osteopath you can create a pattern of working to suit you, and you’ll never have to be ‘on call’ or work weird shift patterns (unless you really want to).
- Earning power. Osteopaths have great earning potential and what you earn is largely up to you, based on where and how often you want to work, how much work you put in, what patients you want to see and what rates you decide to charge.
The average income for an osteopath in the UK is £46,500, with 10% earning in excess of £100K (Institute of Osteopathy 2014 census)
- Great employability rates. Once qualified and registered with the General Osteopathic Council graduate osteopaths can begin their professional careers straight away. Many receive multiple job offers before they even graduate, while others choose to set up in business on their own or with fellow graduates, and some choose to take their skills to begin careers in other parts of the world.
97% of recent graduate osteopaths are in employment, with an average starting income of £24,500 per year (Institute of Osteopathy 2017 census)
- An opportunity to travel the world. With the exception of the US, UK qualified osteopaths can practice in countries all over the world, subject to local regulations, including most of Europe, Australia and South America.