A career as a chiropractor combines some of the most rewarding elements of traditional and alternative medicine. Chiropractic medicine emphasizes the role of the spine in overall systemic health through the nervous system, and maintains that manipulating vertebrae can promote healing. Although chiropractic care is usually focused on relieving disorders of the back, neck, and joints, chiropractors also sometimes treat headaches and other conditions. A chiropractor holds the degree of Doctor of Chiropractic, also known as D.C.
- To earn certification and licensure as a chiropractor, you will need to attend an accredited chiropractic school. The requirements that comprise a chiropractic education are comprehensive, multifaceted, and challenging.
- Prior to being admitted to a chiropractic school, you will need to complete some amount of pre-chiropractic undergraduate study.
- The amount of undergraduate education depends on your location; in some states, you will need to attain a four-year degree in order to enter chiropractic school. In order to best plan your career as a chiropractor, you may wish to research the educational and licensing requirements in your particular state prior to pursuing your education.
Undergraduate coursework toward admittance to chiropractic school entails a wide range of study in various scientific disciplines, including biology, chemistry, psychology, and laboratory science. Once enrolled in a chiropractic school, you will then proceed with more focused study, oftentimes in an applied clinical environment. During the four to five years of professional education, you’ll learn not only from textbooks, but also by practicing adjustment techniques in a therapeutic setting. The average chiropractic school education involves a year of “real world” practice focused on patient care.
- In addition to specific knowledge about chiropractic adjustment, you will acquire a broad base of scientific education dealing with anatomy, physiology and physical therapy. Overall, the coursework for chiropractic school entails 4,200 hours of study.
- According to the American Chiropractic Association, the training requirements for chiropractic are, in some curricular areas, more extensive than those of medical doctors or physical therapists.
Once you have graduated from chiropractic school, you will need to pass national board certification exams, which consist of written tests, and also gain licensure in the state where you will practice. Even after you have graduated from chiropractic school and have earned your degree and license, you will likely be required to take courses throughout your practicing lifetime in order to update your knowledge and maintain your license.
- How to Become a Chiropractor
- History of Chiropractic Medicine
- Are Chiropractors Real Doctors?
- What Makes a Good Chiropractic School Student?
- Chiropractic School Admissions
- Chiropractic Degrees
- Licensing Tests
- Cost of Chiropractic School
- Paying for Chiropractic School
- Preparing For the Job Search
- Continuing Education
- Professional Associations and Journals
Choosing a Chiropractic School
If you aspire to become a chiropractor, choosing the right chiropractic school is very important to your success. When selecting a school, you will first need to consider the school’s overall philosophy and educational focus.
Some schools focus more closely on a more traditional approach to chiropractic medicine, emphasizing the philosophic precepts of chiropractic and the healing power of spinal manipulation. Other schools have more of an emphasis on the scientific aspects of chiropractic medicine. Moreover, some chiropractic schools incorporate other types of alternative medicine into their teachings.
Some of these schools teach therapeutic methods such as exercises, nutritional advice, electronic muscle stimulation (EMS), soft tissue treatment, cold laser, and massage. In choosing a school, it is wise to first establish which schools’ philosophies are in line with the type of chiropractor you want to be.
Other important factors to consider are the school’s educational prerequisites, types of degrees offered, areas of specialty, and the length of the degree programs. Each state has different requirements for chiropractic school enrollment, graduation, and licensure. You should also seek out a school that offers training in practice management and business. Once you obtain your chiropractic license, you will need to establish a practice and successfully maintain your business. For this reason, you will also need to learn effective strategies for marketing, building, and growing your chiropractic practice.
You may benefit from visiting prospective schools, reading online reviews and ratings, and talking to other students to learn more about a particular school. You can also go to the website of your state’s chiropractic association to learn more about the educational and licensing requirements in your area.
Types of Chiropractic Schools
There are currently 16 accredited chiropractic schools in the United States, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. These schools offer a wide variety of curricular and philosophical emphases.
In terms of philosophy, chiropractors tend to be categorized based on their level of focus on subluxation treatment, versus an assimilated approach that includes other medical modalities. These categories of chiropractor, known as “straights” and “mixers,” are also sometimes applied to chiropractic schools. Although many chiropractors and schools have begun to incorporate more of a combined approach, there is still some variation among the missions of different schools. Many institutions prefer traditional methods, and adhere more closely to D.D. Palmer’s philosophies regarding the spine’s influence on overall health. It should be noted that the overall science of chiropractic has evolved, and “straight” chiropractors have also progressed in their thinking over the years. However, “mixer” chiropractors and chiropractic schools are regarded as more open to other types of alternative therapies and medical approaches.
The educational requirements of each chiropractic school vary; some schools offer premedical and bachelor’s degrees within the institution. In addition, some schools provide postgraduate training in specific areas of expertise, such as sports medicine, pediatrics, neurology and more. After pursuing and completing training in such a specialty, you can take specialty exams in the subject. Upon passing the exam, you will be awarded a designation of “diplomate” in your area of specialty. If you are particularly interested in an area of chiropractic specialty, you should seek out a chiropractic school that offers a relevant specialty program.
Chiropractic School Accreditation
It is very important, when selecting a chiropractic school, to choose one that it is fully accredited. Only a degree from an accredited chiropractic school will provide you with the training, legitimacy and credentials you need to proceed in your chosen field. Because your education is an investment, it is essential that you ensure that this experience will be of the greatest value to you.
Currently, there is one chiropractic accrediting entity in the United States, the Council on Chiropractic Education, or CCE. This agency, which is authorized by the U.S. Secretary of Education, assesses the value of a chiropractic school on the basis of curriculum, philosophy and mission, academic aims, and successful educational outcomes.
According to the CCE, schools seeking accreditation voluntarily undergo this process, which involves visits to the site by CCE reviewers, as well as evaluation of the school’s curriculum and other documents. After achieving initial accreditation, a school must renew their accreditation every eight years. Schools typically also undergo an interim site visit halfway through the eight-year cycle.
The CCE lists the following subjects as required curriculum for an accredited chiropractic school:
- Public health
- Use of Diagnostic Imaging
- Emergency/First Aid
- Philosophy and Application of Chiropractic Medicine
- Professional Ethics
- Adjustment Techniques
- Research Methods
The chiropractic school must document the inclusion of these subject areas for the CCE.
Rankings of Chiropractic Schools
Unlike liberal arts universities, there is currently no objective ranking system for the 16 chiropractic schools in the United States. However, the Planet Chiropractic website offers subjective reviews provided by students and alumni.
These reviews feature a “five star” rating system, with five stars representing the highest score and one being the lowest. Student and alumni reviewers bestow “star” ratings based on several different criteria. These include overall rating, national board pass rates, quality and reputation of faculty and professors, research department, practice management education, financial aid department, class sizes, leadership quality, chiropractic technique, chiropractic philosophy, location, atmosphere, and cost. Reviewers also provide extended, essay-style entries with headings such as “My Experience,” “Suggestions,” and “Overall Opinion.”
According to the website, this system was developed by Los Angeles-based chiropractor Michael Dorausch, and is designed to act as a “public report card” of the schools. Therefore, when considering these ratings, you should keep in mind that they are not objective, and that not all schools currently have the same number of reviews.