Chiropractor Training and Education

Training to be a Chiropractor

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The chiropractor focuses his efforts on bringing healing to the entire body through proper alignment of the musculoskeletal system – the bones, ligaments, muscles, and tendons throughout the body. Through spinal manipulation, massage therapy and other techniques, the chiropractor diagnoses and treats problems in the bones, muscles and joints without drugs or surgery. Some may also use procedures like acupuncture or supports such as straps, tape, shoe inserts, or braces to aid in a patient’s healing and to bring relief from pain.

The Skinny on Chiropractor Training

An aspiring chiropractor will need to earn a Doctor of Chiropractic (D.C.) degree. A Doctor of Chiropractic program typically takes four years to complete, though this must be preceded by three years of undergraduate college level studies. This means that an aspiring chiropractor will spend approximately seven years in all on his education.

After earning his Doctor of Chiropractic degree, a student will need to test for a state license before he can begin his professional practice. In some cases, a practicum or clinical residency is also required for clinical experience before the chiropractor can begin to practice.

While a chiropractor isn’t a typical doctor, the degree of training they receive is certainly comparable to that of a medical doctor. The main difference is that nearly their entire education is based around musculoskeletal diagnosis and treatment.

They do receive training in other topics; however, if you were to approach them about an unrelated medical condition (i.e. a rash or cough), they would be unlikely to diagnose you and would instead point you to the appropriate physician. Yet, while a chiropractor doesn’t possess the broad knowledge base that other medical doctors possess, they are highly-trained specialists in the field of muscles, bones, joints, and nerves.

Undergraduate Studies

Before attending an accredited chiropractic college, the aspiring chiropractor must earn a minimum of 90 credits in undergraduate studies. Certain states actually require a bachelor’s degree before admittance to chiropractic college will be granted, so it’s a good idea to check the requirements in the state where you plan to work.

In fact, if possible, it is generally prudent to opt for a bachelor’s degree even if it’s not required in your state at this time. By earning a bachelor’s degree, you are prepared for unexpected moves or future changes in state law, as a chiropractor with a bachelor’s degree can be licensed in any state.

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Students aren’t required to declare a major while in college; however, it’s a good idea to choose a pre-med course that puts a large emphasis on subjects like biology, anatomy, physics, organic and inorganic chemistry, and psychology as chiropractic colleges will require a certain number of credits in these subjects.

Many chiropractors also find that courses in social science, humanities, communications, and sociology are helpful in their careers. A lot of personal contact is involved in the career of a chiropractor, so taking extra courses that aid interpersonal relations are definitely worthwhile.

Chiropractic College

The aspiring chiropractor continues their education by attending an accredited chiropractic college. There are only a few of these specialized colleges in the United States at this time – a mere 15 accredited by the Council on Chiropractic Education – so competition for acceptance can be fairly intense.

Once a student has been accepted, he will undergo four years of rigorous training both in the classroom and in the clinic. Classroom work will include a course load with a heavy emphasis on anatomy, physiology, biology, and related fields. Students will learn how to examine patients, evaluate overall patient health and diagnose ailments. As doctors, they will also need to understand the ins and outs of medical law, patient rights and strong communication skills. Courses will typically include subjects like:

– Pathology

– Public Health

– Physiology

– Physical Therapy Principles

– Chiropractic Philosophy

– Clinical Practice

As the chiropractic student progresses through the course, they will begin to learn the various practices, procedures and techniques that are core to the job of a chiropractor. They will learn how to perform alignments, adjustments and other techniques through courses like:

– Soft Tissue Techniques

– Pro-Adjuster Techniques

– Activator Methods

– Applied Kinesiology

– Active Release Methods

– Specific Diversified Technique

Students will learn how to work with patients, how to treat illness, as well as the various duties that come with running a medical practice. They may learn about medical billing, insurance claims management and other similar subjects that are part and parcel of working in a medical office.


Licensing is mandatory before a chiropractor can practice in any state. Aspiring chiropractors are required to hold a Doctor of Chiropractic Degree and to pass a state examination before they are licensed to begin practicing. Some states have their own exam; however, the National Board of Chiropractic Examiners offers an exam that is accepted in most states. The NBCE exam is a three-part test (with an optional fourth part) that tests an applicant’s skills and knowledge of the chiropractic practices and philosophy.

Continuing Education

A chiropractor is required to take 24 hours of continuing education to maintain his license each year. They may do this through taking certain classes or attending board approved workshops.

Most chiropractors eventually choose to specialize in a specific field such as pediatrics or sports medicine. In addition, many chiropractors continue to study in fields like alternative medicine, naturopathy or massage which are often helpful additions to their practices. Many of these fields of continuing education can be credited toward license renewal.

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