How to become a Osteopath

Osteopaths diagnose, treat and provide preventative advice about disorders that affect the body's musculoskeletal system, using manual techniques to alleviate stresses and dysfunction to improve the body's function.

Personal requirements of a Osteopath

  • Independent and highly motivated
  • Interested in health science and human anatomy
  • Good hand–eye coordination
  • Good communication skills
  • Interested in people and their health

Education & Training for a Osteopath

To become an osteopath you usually have to complete a degree in clinical sciences at university with a major in osteopathic studies, followed by a postgraduate qualification in osteopathy. Alternatively, you can complete a double degree in health science and applied science (osteopathy). To get into the degree courses you usually need to gain your Senior Secondary Certificate of Education. Prerequisite subjects, or assumed knowledge, in one or more of English, mathematics, chemistry, biology and physics are normally required. Entry to postgraduate courses usually requires completion of an appropriate bachelor degree. Entry can be highly competitive, and applicants may be required to attend an interview. A number of universities in Australia offer degrees in these areas. Universities have different prerequisites and some have flexible entry requirements. Contact the institutions you are interested in for more information. For full details, refer to the entries on the website at www.goodcareersguide.com.au or university handbooks.

Duties & Tasks of a Osteopath

Osteopaths may perform the following tasks:

  • diagnose patients’ complaints using information from case histories, physical examinations, observation of patients’ body structure and mobility, and medical imaging and laboratory tests
  • treat biomechanical complaints (including backache, general joint problems, sports injuries, arthritis, stress and repetitive strain injuries), some breathing problems (such as asthma) and a wide range of general medical complaints (headaches, for example)
  • treat patients using a variety of manual techniques, such as soft tissue stretching, muscle relaxation, gentle mobilisation or manipulation
  • treat children for the after-effects of birth trauma and childhood accidents
  • devise exercise and nutritional programs.

Working conditions for a Osteopath

Osteopaths work in association with medical practitioners, surgeons, midwives, physiotherapists, podiatrists and a range of complementary and alternative medical practitioners. They have a high level of contact with the public.

Employment Opportunities for a Osteopath

The majority of osteopaths are self-employed, but newly qualified osteopaths often work with an established clinic before starting their own practice. A small but growing number are based in private medical practices and specialist services such as pain management and aged-care facilities. Job prospects depend on the location in which you wish to practise and the level of community awareness of osteopaths as allied health workers.

Additional Information
It is a legal requirement for graduates to be registered with the Osteopathy Board of Australia before practising as an osteopath in any state or territory in Australia. For full details, see the board’s website. Before undertaking clinical placements required by courses, students will need to obtain a National Police Certificate, a Provide First Aid Certificate and immunisations, and undergo a Working with Children Check. Contact the institutions you are interested in for more information.
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