7. Career development

The career development project is designed to map how osteopaths currently progress their careers in order to provide recommendations and guidance and to support a more defined career structure within the profession for those who wish to pursue it.

Why is career development relevant to me as an osteopath?

A career structure within osteopathy would encourage osteopaths to continue developing their skills and help to ensure high standards of care for their patients.

How can I get involved?

To assist osteopaths considering where next to take their career, the ODG has developed a Career-development-report_2020 v3. This maps out some of the most common existing osteopathic pathways options available, including the benefits and issues to consider. Case studies of osteopaths who have developed their osteopathic careers are also included.

Looking for career development opportunities? Have you considered volunteering? Volunteering can be an excellent route to help enhance your skills and develop your career.

For a list of organisations with potential volunteering opportunities and to read about first hand experiences visit the iO’s volunteering page

Project background


There is at present no formal career structure for osteopaths and no common framework to acknowledge their development after registration. This has resulted in a lack of clarity around the career development options for osteopaths after they graduate. There are no generally agreed methods by which more senior practitioners can be recognised professionally.

There are some postgraduate diplomas but no common framework for evaluating them. There are a few doctorate programmes but holders of these are rare. There are a number of postgraduate colleges offering membership to practitioners with an interest in particular aspects of practice but the criteria for membership vary widely (see Clinical Practice project).

This may make it difficult for employers and members of the public to evaluate practitioners. Compared to many other professions, the majority of osteopaths are self-employed. As such, there are few employer career structures such as large private practices or the NHS, to offer a recognisable ‘career ladder’. This means that some osteopaths may struggle to understand how best to advance their career.

Initial research phase/s


Original research was conducted by the Osteopathic Development Group between January and December 2014. This included a literature review of published research, unpublished ‘grey’ literature and key reports made available to the research team. In addition, 6 semi-structured interviews were conducted with osteopaths who have successfully progressed their careers in a number of different fields (that include professional practice, advanced clinical skills, the NHS, professional regulation and management, academia and education). This data was analysed and published in the Osteopathy Today magazine in May 2015.

It was this research that suggests that a document that mapped the main career opportunities for osteopaths might be welcomed by the profession. This also highlighted the additional non-osteopathic skill sets that might be seen as desirable when following such a path to allow osteopaths to plan and target their CPD accordingly.

Project team

The project team includes representatives from the Institute of Osteopathy (Matthew Rogers and Maurice Cheng), the Osteopathic Alliance and the Council of Osteopathic Educational Institutions (Charles Hunt).


Matthew Rogers: matthew@iosteopathy.org