When approaching a career as a health practitioner two options that are available to you are to become a chiropractor or an osteopath. While both occupation help people in the treatment of different injuries and illnesses the requirements to qualify and the scope of treatment provided vary greatly. This article will highlight those differences and assist in choosing between the chiropractor vs. osteopath career path.


A chiropractor's professional focus revolves around spinal and musculoskeletal issues and the diagnosis and treatment of those issues. This lends to the common belief that if you have a back problem you need to see a chiropractor.

The educational requirements for becoming a chiropractor are substantial, with 5 years of chiropractic school and a 1 year residency required after already completing an undergraduate degree. This means that at a minimum it will take 10 years to qualify as a chiropractor. The final result of this program is to become a Doctor of Chiropractic.

Work Focus and Treatment
Most chiropractic treatment revolves around soft tissue manipulation and joint adjustments, with few little surgical procedures being performed (and in some states none being permitted). Chiropractors are generally also not allowed to issue prescriptions, though they will make recommendations to a medical doctor if necessary.

Most chiropractor's work in small private clinics, though there are some working on hospital staff's and for health networks.


An osteopath is a medical school graduate with a focus on osteopathic medicine and treatment. While they treat many of the same musculoskeletal issues as chiropractors their treatments tend to be gentler and address a broader variety of issues.

An osteopath follows the same educational requirements as any other medical doctor so after completing a bachelor's degree they will attend medical school for 4 years. Following this they will complete a 3 year residency in osteopathy, with most then completing a further 1-2 years of specialty training in an osteopathy sub-field. The final result is an 11 year program, with an optional 1-2 years after that, and becoming a Medical Physician.
Work Focus and Treatment
The work focus of Osteopathy can vary greatly as there are numerous specializations that one can choose after qualifying as a physician. Regardless of the specialization osteopaths tend to use manual therapy and treatments to address many physical issues, ranging from pain, to headaches, to respiratory issues.

As osteopaths are medical doctors they can perform any form of surgery and prescribe medication as any other doctor can.

Chiropractor vs. Osteopath

When choosing a career path becoming a chiropractor or an osteopath are both significant commitments, with 10 to 11 years of education involved for both. An important consideration for many is that as osteopaths are relatively less known than chiropractors they tend to make less money when in private practice or working with hospitals. As the costs and time commitment are comparable this can be a major consideration for both.

One item that can outweigh this is that choosing an osteopath route gives you more flexibility due to the fact that you are also a medical doctor. If a career change were to come up later in life far more physician based options would be available with relatively less training required.