Although the Doctor of Chiropractic, or D.C., designation is ultimately the academic standard for licensure in the U.S., there are several degree programs and educational routes available toward this end. In addition, there are degrees available for chiropractic assistant positions and for post-D.C. specialization.
Depending on your level of interest and ambition in this field, you can seek an associate’s degree, a bachelor degree in chiropractic science, or earn a master’s degree. After achieving your D.C. degree and licensure, you can also pursue specialist or diplomate status in any number of areas.
Some chiropractic schools provide a streamlined bachelor’s/D.C. degree program, permitting you to integrate these two courses of study into a streamlined program. At other chiropractic schools, a two-year associate’s degree program qualifies as the necessary pre-medical education that leads to chiropractic school.
Many schools now promote the idea of acquiring a bachelor’s degree prior to undertaking the D.C. degree, and some chiropractic schools require it. According to Natural Healers.com, the states that currently require a bachelor’s degree prior to pursuing a D.C. degree include Florida, Kansas, Montana, Wisconsin, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
In all cases, the extent of your educational pursuit depends upon the requirements of your state and the level at which you wish to practice chiropractic medicine. It’s a good idea to investigate your state’s requirements and consider the specific role you want to play in your future chiropractic career.
Chiropractic Associate’s Degree
An associate’s degree in chiropractic medicine can open up several opportunities for a student interested in this field of healthcare. For some, it may be the beginning of the pursuit of a Doctor of Chiropractic, or D.C., degree, and for others, an associate’s degree itself may be a direct path to your career of choice.
Some chiropractic schools permit potential students of a D.C. degree program to proceed from an associate’s degree toward an integrated bachelor/D.C. degree program. However, more and more chiropractic schools require that the bachelor degree be completed before undertaking a D.C. degree program. Some schools call this degree an Associate of Science in Pre-Chiropractic.
Holding an associate’s degree in chiropractic does, however, confer qualifications and opportunities of its own. According to Education-Portal.com, an Associate of Science in Chiropractic Technology degree will qualify you to work as a chiropractic assistant. This position involves many of the same administrative and managerial roles performed by other types of physician assistants. The day-to-day operations and organization of the office environment is an important aspect of the chiropractic assistant’s job. Often, the chiropractic assistant is the “face” of the practice, and is the first point of contact for patients. For this reason, you will need to be friendly, accessible, and able to answer patients’ questions. A chiropractic assistant also plays an important part in assisting the doctor with treatments. You may help the doctor perform X-rays or exams as needed.
At this time, there is no previous college education required prior to enrolling in an associate degree program for chiropractic. A high school diploma or GED is usually sufficient in order to begin this course of study.
There are many advantages to attaining an associate’s degree in chiropractic. It is often the introduction to an exciting, rewarding new career, regardless of what level you opt to aspire to. For those seeking to become a chiropractic assistant, an associate’s degree will provide you with a complete education that will qualify you to begin working in this field. In some cases, you may find that you enjoy this field of study so much that you would like to proceed toward a bachelor’s and a D.C. degree. By continuing with your education, you will broaden your options for working in the chiropractic field.
If you have already decided that you ultimately wish to earn a Doctor of Chiropractic degree, it may be more efficient to pursue a Bachelor of Science degree or a combined bachelor/D.C. degree. Because many chiropractic schools require a bachelor’s degree as a prerequisite, you might be best served by acquiring this degree first. Another potential disadvantage to an associate’s degree is that the careers it trains for offer lower salaries than careers that require further education. Education-portal.com cited the salary of a chiropractic assistant in 2010 to be between $20,530 and $28,284 per year.
Chiropractic Bachelor’s Degree
A four-year bachelor’s degree in some branch of science is among the most common routes to achieving a Doctor of Chiropractic, or D.C., degree. An increasing number of chiropractic schools in the United States have begun to require that applicants possess a bachelor’s degree prior to enrollment. Alternately, some chiropractic schools offer a combined, five-year bachelor’s degree program that also incorporates chiropractic education. This degree is called a B.Sc. Chiro degree. Although a B.Sc. Chiro degree will qualify you to work toward a master’s degree and eventually a D.C. degree, it doesn’t qualify you to become licensed or to work as a chiropractor. This degree also equips you to work in the healthcare industry at a vocational level, which includes jobs such as chiropractic or other physician assistants.
However, most often, students who pursue a bachelor’s degree in science or pre-chiropractic do so with an aim of progressing toward their D.C. degree. A bachelor’s degree entails four years of study, and a pre-chiropractic undergraduate program typically focuses heavily on the sciences. Your coursework will most likely involve a significant amount of classes in anatomy, physiology, chemistry, psychology, and more. Your courses will combine classroom work with laboratory work. A B.Sc. Chiro program will also integrate courses in chiropractic medicine, and will give you a foundation for employment or further education in this field
Currently, a high school diploma is the only educational prerequisite to begin study toward a bachelor’s degree in science or chiropractic medicine. A GED certificate is also acceptable. If your goal is to earn a D.C. degree, you should focus your undergraduate degree toward that end by majoring in a scientific field.
Because there is an increased emphasis on earning a bachelor’s degree prior to enrolling in chiropractic school, a bachelor’s degree is likely to provide many advantages. If you would prefer to seek out an integrated bachelor’s degree offered at a chiropractic school, keep in mind that you will still have to earn your D.C. degree. Different schools offer different lengths of D.C. degree programs, and some are accelerated or condensed. You should seek out the program that is best for your needs and timeline.
However, there are few disadvantages to a bachelor’s degree in the sciences; you should keep in mind that holding a bachelor’s degree in chiropractic does not qualify you to work as a chiropractor. It is crucial to understand the requirements and make your plan prior to beginning your academic career.
Chiropractic Master’s Degree
There are many types of master’s degrees in the field of chiropractic medicine. According to the World Health Organization, a student of chiropractic can earn a basic M.Sc. Chiro degree, which is usually a two- to three-year graduate degree. This course of study’s only prerequisite is a bachelor’s degree, but in the United States, this degree is not sufficient to attain licensure.
In addition, there has been a shift in recent years toward earning master’s degrees in specialization in the field of chiropractic. According to the American Chiropractic Association, chiropractic colleges have increasingly begun to offer master’s degree courses with a focus in specific areas, such as chiropractic research, clinical anatomy, and more. Some licensing boards are also investigating the possibility of switching the “diplomate” designations to master’s degree programs, since the public appears to be uninformed about the diplomate designation.
Currently, Palmer Chiropractic College offers a master’s degree program in clinical anatomy. Similarly, the National University of Health Sciences and New York Chiropractic College offer master’s degree programs in various subjects, such as acupuncture and diagnostic imaging.
These master’s degree programs are often undertaken as post-doctoral education, sometimes directly after graduating from chiropractic school. To achieve such specialty certification, you will most likely need to have completed your D.C. degree.
Depending upon your goals, achieving a master’s degree in a chiropractic specialty can be very useful, as it qualifies you for more specialized areas of practice. If, for example, your aim is to find placement in a clinical research or academic setting, a master’s degree in research may give you an advantage. In addition, specialized degrees in areas of homeopathy or acupuncture can add dimension or specialization to your existing practice. In some cases, chiropractors may embark upon a master’s degree after spending some years in practice. In addition to increasing your opportunities, these specialized degrees are also likely to enhance your knowledge.
For a busy, practicing chiropractor, taking master’s degree courses may be time-consuming. Some schools offer distance learning courses in these areas, which may be preferable to taking time off to attend school full time. In addition, any course of chiropractic study will require hard work and concentration, and also involve some financial expenditure. However, if you have significant interest in a particular area of chiropractic specialty, it may be worthwhile for you to pursue a master’s degree. The American Chiropractic Association indicates that in future years, there may be an expanding list of chiropractic master’s degree programs available. It is always wise to remain current on the latest academic trends and options.
Doctor of Chiropractic Degree
The Doctor of Chiropractic degree, or D.C., is the most widely-recognized chiropractic degree. In addition to national certification and state licensure, this degree confers status as a chiropractor upon the holder.
Most D.C. degree programs encompass four years of study, and a minimum of 4,200 hours of coursework in academic, laboratory, and patient-care settings. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the first two years of study usually focus on scientific and lab work, as well as basic anatomy and biology. The second two years of a D.C. program are actively centered on applied medicine, and most often involve “real world” patient care. It is during this time that you will get a true sense of what daily life as a chiropractic practitioner will be like.
Increasingly, many modern chiropractic schools have begun to require a four-year bachelor’s degree in the sciences as a prerequisite for undertaking a D.C. degree program. However, this prerequisite still varies from state to state. Some schools include the bachelor’s degree into an integrated, five-year bachelor’s/D.C. degree program. In addition, some colleges offer four-year, pre-chiropractic bachelor’s degrees. In almost all cases, you will need to achieve at least two years of undergraduate education prior to beginning a D.C. degree program.
Upon graduating with a D.C. degree from an accredited chiropractic school, you will need to take the national board exams administered by the National Board of Chiropractic Examiners. You will then need to apply for a license to practice in your individual state.
Once you have become licensed as a Doctor of Chiropractic Medicine, you will be able to set up or join a chiropractic practice. You can choose to set up an independent chiropractic office, or work in conjunction with other practitioners. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics notes that “multidisciplinary” practices, in which a Doctor of Chiropractic partners with practitioners such as physical therapists or medical doctors, tend to be especially successful. In 2009, the average salary for a Doctor of Chiropractic was reported to be $94,454 per year.
If you plan to pursue a career in the growing field of chiropractic medicine, achieving a D.C. degree is the most established and time-honored route to success. This degree enables you to work at the forefront of your profession, and confers all clinical and practical privileges that go with this title. For those who intend to become a licensed chiropractor, this degree offers countless advantages.
Earning a D.C. degree does, however, entail years of extensive study and hard work. Attending one of the 16 accredited chiropractic schools in the United States also involves financial expense, and often requires relocation. However, if becoming a chiropractor is truly your goal, these efforts and inconveniences are easily offset by the outcome and its rewards.