Allopathic vs Osteopathic Medical Schools


There are actually two pathways to medicine: allopathic and osteopathic. When we think of a physician, we think of an MD, but in the United States, many physicians have trained as osteopathic physicians (DO). Osteopathic medicine began in the 19th century as a new approach to medicine that emphasizes preventative care and a more holistic approach to the treatment of disease. While in many ways the training for an MD and a DO are very similar, there are some elements of training that are unique to osteopathic medicine. In particular, osteopathic medicine focuses on a system of hands-on diagnosis and treatment known as “osteopathic manipulative medicine,” which involves physical manipulation of the body.

DOs also receive a medical license and have all of the same privileges to treat patients as do MDs. In many areas, DOs and MDs work together. However, DOs are more likely to train in primary care, and therefore, it is more common to see DOs in rural areas, or working with under-served populations.

The Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine generally have the same prerequisites and use the MCAT exam, but the application service used is AACOMAS rather than the AMCAS. According to the 2015 edition of the AACOM (American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine), in 2015 there were more than 73,000 practicing osteopathic physicians in the US, and more than 20% of the students studying medicine today are enrolled in schools of osteopathic medicine. In 2015, there were 107 Colleges of Allopathic Medicine vs 34 Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine.

Reasons to consider attending a school of osteopathic medicine: many of the new medical schools that are opening are Schools of Osteopathic medicine, and although all medical schools are highly competitive, admission to schools of osteopathic medicine is slightly less competitive. According to US News and World Report’s Education blog, students accepted to osteopathic medical schools have lower average MCAT scores and GPAs.

If you are considering applying to a school of osteopathic medicine, you should shadow one or more osteopathic physicians to obtain a good understanding of the differences.

For more information on schools of osteopathic medicine, please visit At the latter site you can download the free and very useful Osteopathic Medicine Handbook.

You also might want to check out this article in the NY Times: