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Kaiwhakamaimoa Kōiwi

Osteopaths help relieve pain and improve the function of the body by gently moving muscles, bones and joints. 


Osteopaths with less than five years' experience usually earn

$40K-$60K per year

Osteopaths with more than six years' experience usually earn

$60K-$100K per year

Job opportunities

Chances of getting a job as an osteopath are good as there is a high demand and few people graduating in osteopathy.


Pay for osteopaths varies depending on experience, client numbers, hours worked and whether or not they are self-employed.

  • Osteopaths with less than five years' experience or who work part time usually earn between $40,000 and $60,000 a year.
  • Osteopaths that work full time and have more than six years' experience can earn up to $100,000.

(This information is a guide only. Find out more about the sources of our pay information)

What you will do

Osteopaths may do some or all of the following:

  • analyse health problems by questioning and examining the patient
  • discuss methods of care with the patient
  • use movement to treat muscles, bones and joints
  • change and correct the movement of the spine to restore movement and health
  • advise patients on exercise, posture, diet and lifestyle
  • carry out workplace assessments for patients who have Occupational Overuse Syndrome (OOS) or any other workplace injuries.

Skills and knowledge

Osteopaths need to have:

  • knowledge of anatomy, physiology and pharmacology (how drugs affect the human body)
  • the ability to observe people's body movements to make clear diagnoses of musculoskeletal conditions
  • knowledge of manual treatments and methods to alter body functions
  • the ability to keep up to date with new developments in muscular and skeletal medicine
  • knowledge of diseases.

Working conditions


  • usually work regular business hours but may also work evenings and weekends
  • work in osteopathic consulting rooms.

What's the job really like?

Will Aitken

Will Aitken


Osteopath Will Aitken takes a broad approach to health. "I'm not just treating pain, I'm treating the health of the whole body. If someone comes to me with lower back pain, I might stretch and manipulate their joints and muscles, but I'll also say, 'You might also be having a problem with your kidneys and you need to drink more water'."

Will makes this type of diagnosis because he combines osteopathic principles with a discipline called kinesiology. "According to kinesiology every muscle relates to an organ. If a muscle is weak, there could be a problem with the corresponding organ, which also has an emotional component."

Will says using a combination of disciplines means the transformation back to good health can be immediate.

"You get a better picture of the body and you treat people better. You give better service to your patients and you get more work satisfaction because you know you're doing a good job. I get immense satisfaction from seeing people get better."

Entry requirements

To become an osteopath you need to have:

  • a Bachelor of Applied Science (Human Biology) with a B grade average
  • a Master's degree in Osteopathy from Unitec.

The Vulnerable Children Act 2014 means that if you have certain serious convictions, you can’t be employed in a role where you are responsible for, or work alone with, children. 

Secondary education

NCEA Level 3 is required to enter tertiary training. Useful subjects include biology, chemistry, English, health, maths, physics.

Additional requirements for specialist roles:

To specialise in the following areas or scopes of practice, you need to have a specific qualification approved by the Osteopathic Council in:

  • acupuncture
  • gerontology (health of older people)
  • pain management. 

Personal requirements

Osteopaths need to be:

  • patient and understanding
  • dedicated and motivated
  • good listeners and communicators
  • good at problem solving
  • able to make good judgements.

You’ve got to be personable and able to communicate with people because every patient that comes in the door has to be convinced that the treatment works.

Will Aitken


Useful experience

Useful experience for osteopaths includes:

  • any work that involves knowledge of the human body and physiology
  • work in other areas of health services.

Physical requirements

Osteopaths need to be reasonably fit and healthy with strong hands and forearms, as their job is hands-on.


Osteopaths need to be registered with the Osteopathic Council of New Zealand and have a current Annual Practising Certificate.

Find out more about training

Osteopathic Council of New Zealand

(04) 474 0747 - registrar@osteopathiccouncil.org.nz - www.osteopathiccouncil.org.nz


Check out related courses

What are the chances of getting a job?

About 20-30 people graduate each year and become registered as osteopaths. The Osteopathic Council of New Zealand says most graduates have little difficulty finding work on graduating. 

Future demand for osteopaths expected to remain strong

Demand for osteopaths is expected to remain strong in coming years due to:

  • the increasing popularity of alternative health therapies
  • ACC are funding osteopathic treatments
  • using digital technology is leading to posture problems
  • the aging population means more people are using osteopathic services.

According to the Census, 444 osteopaths worked in New Zealand in 2018.

Most osteopaths self-employed

Most (80%) of osteopaths are self-employed. New graduates usually start out working alongside other osteopaths as an associate in an osteopathic clinic or in an integrated practice alongside other health professionals such as acupuncturists, podiatrists and dietitians. 


  • Clayton, R, 'ACC Paid Out $163 Million on Alternative Therapies and Physiotherapy in 2015', 29 April 2016, (www.stuff.co.nz).
  • Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, 'Chiropractors and Osteopaths Occupational Outlook 2017', 2017.
  • Osteopathic Council New Zealand website, accessed February 2017, (www.osteopathiccouncil.org.nz).
  • Osteopaths New Zealand website, accessed February 2017, (www.osnz.org).
  • Schroeter, M, 'Day at the Office: Osteopaths - They've Got Your Back', 31 March 2016, (www.stuff.co.nz).
  • Stats NZ, '2018 Census Data', 2019.

(This information is a guide only. Find out more about the sources of our job opportunities information)

Progression and specialisations

Osteopaths may progress to starting up their own practice.

Osteopaths may specialise in:

  • acupuncture
  • gerontology (ageing)
  • pain management.





Will Aitken holding a patient's head who is lying down

Osteopath Will Aitken treating a patient in his clinic

Last updated 17 September 2020