Osteopathic Medical Education and Accreditation

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Osteopathic medical school accreditation standards require training in internal medicine, obstetrics/gynecology, pediatrics, family practice, surgery, psychiatry, radiology, preventive medicine, and public health. Osteopathic medical schools emphasize early clinical contact. While the first two years focus on the biomedical and clinical sciences, the second two years delve deeper into patient-oriented clinical training. Most schools include time for elective courses as well.

DO clinical education follows a distributive model, wherein students are exposed to practicing in diverse healthcare settings. Although in-hospital experiences are an important aspect of clinical education, osteopathic medical students also receive significant training in community hospitals as well as out-of-hospital ambulatory settings. In many schools, a community-based primary care rotation in a rural or underserved area is a required aspect of fourth-year training. For information on each school’s curriculum, see the individual college pages in the Choose DO Explorer.

For more information on osteopathic medicine, see  What is Osteopathic Medicine?


Osteopathic medical schools are accredited by the American Osteopathic Association Commission on Osteopathic College Accreditation (COCA), recognized to accredit osteopathic medical education by the U.S. Department of Education.  Visit COCA.

Many osteopathic medical schools are also accredited by a regional educational accrediting organization.

New colleges of osteopathic medicine (COMs) hold provisional accreditation status during their first four years of student enrollment. A college holding provisional accreditation status may admit students and offer medical instruction. During the year preceding the graduation of its first class, a provisionally accredited COM will conduct various activities that will allow it to attain fully-accredited status. 

Osteopathic Medicine Four-Year Curriculum

Each osteopathic medical school has its own curriculum. Some are discipline-based, focusing on each science separately. Others allow students to learn through patient-based, or problem-based, learning. Many use a mix of methods. Osteopathic medical school starts with a foundation in the basic sciences of medicine. In addition, students learn a core set of clinical and palpatory examination skills and gain an understanding of the various systems of the body. Lectures, laboratories, and other learning experiences are designed to prepare students for the clinical portion of medical school—the clinical clerkship years.

Integration of the basic and clinical sciences through early clinical exposure is an important part of the curriculum. While specific learning methods and curricular offerings vary from college to college, the chart below provides a general guide to the material covered in the osteopathic medical school curriculum. Please check the college to which you are applying for further information.

Sample Year 1 Curriculum

  • Anatomy
  • Physiology
  • Clinical Skills
  • Imaging
  • Osteopathic Principles & Practices
  • Microbiology and Immunology
  • Neuroscience
  • Histology
  • Biochemistry
  • Pathology
  • Doctor/Patient Communication

Sample Year 2 Curriculum

  • Gerontology
  • Cardiology
  • Gastrointestinal System
  • Hematopoietic System
  • Osteopathic Principles & Practices
  • Pharmacology
  • Endocrinology
  • Psychiatry
  • Respiratory
  • Ethics & Jurisprudence
  • Family Medicine
  • Genitourinary System
  • Reproductive System
  • Pediatrics/Growth & Development

Core Clinical Clerkships
(Years 3 and 4)

  • Emergency Medicine
  • Family Medicine
  • Internal Medicine
  • Obstetrics & Gynecology
  • Osteopathic Principles and Practices
  • Pediatrics
  • Psychiatry and Behavioral Science
  • Surgery

Other Clinical Clerkships
(Years 3 and 4)

  • Anesthesiology
  • Cardiology
  • Dermatology
  • Gastroenterology
  • Laboratory Medicine
  • Nephrology
  • Neurology
  • Oncology and Hematology
  • Orthopedics
  • Otorhinolaryngology
  • Pediatric Subspecialties
  • Public Health
  • Pulmonary Medicine
  • Radiology
  • Rural Medicine
  • Surgical Subspecialties
  • Urology