How To Prepare For A Career As A Chiropractor

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A chiropractor is a doctor who specializes in musculoskeletal and nervous system problems. It is the belief of the chiropractic community that problems in these areas can cause adverse health issues for the individual including lowered resistance to disease, illness and injury. Chiropractors manipulate the spine to realign spinal joints in their patients. By doing so, patients are expected to experience increased health without the assistance of drugs or surgery. Instead, chiropractors expect the boy will heal itself once the spine and spinal joints are in proper alignment. Additionally, chiropractors consider and address other lifestyle factors which are commonly recognized as significantly affecting health such as diet, rest, exercise, heredity and environmental factors; offering recommendations for changes which are expected to improve the patients overall health.

Chiropractors perform many of the same tasks as other general and specialty doctors. Patient health histories are gathered, physical, neurological and orthopedic examinations are performed and various laboratory tests, x-rays and diagnostic imaging tools are used to diagnose and analyze the patient’s condition. Other forms of treatment may be used or recommended by the chiropractor including ultrasound, massage, heat, water, acupuncture or electric currents. Prescription drugs and surgery are not part of the services provided by chiropractors. Chiropractors may recommend patients to see other doctors or specialists to address health issues or concerns outside of their area of expertise. Some chiropractors choose to specialize in a certain type of practice. Areas of practice may include orthopedics, neurology, sports injuries, internal disorders, diagnostic imaging or pediatrics.

The Department of Labor predicts an expected job growth increase of 20 percent in the chiropractic field over the next 8 years. Though there appears to be some naysayers who are in disagreement; individuals who claim the chiropractic profession may be experiencing a substantial decline in patients, the information provided by the Department of Labor and trends in public opinion support the statistics. The increasing public interest in alternative health care methods is beneficial to the chiropractic field. The public is seeking healthy living options which do not include prescription medicines or surgery; instead a substantial number of people are searching for solutions which emphasize healthy lifestyles. The non-invasive procedures provided by chiropractors in answer to their patients health issues and concerns appeals to the segment of the public looking for these types of answers.

High School

High school students interested in pursuing a career as a chiropractor will need to attend college. Students should prepare for the vigorous college curriculum by completing the college preparatory curriculum. The curriculum for this program ensures students complete the courses the colleges require of their admission applicants and that students will be equipped with the skills and knowledge for successful completion of college course. Students will be expected to complete three to four years of courses in English, mathematics, sciences and social studies. Additionally, two years of a language must be completed. Electives in computers will provide instruction in the basic principles of computer use to ensure students are proficient with the utilization of the most prevalent and commonly used software programs. Business courses offer students essential information concerning employment in the business world. These types of courses are useful for future professionals in nearly every industry. An understanding of the underlying principles of business prepares students to respond and work within the accepted guidelines of the business world.

There are a range of activities offered at schools and in the communities for the benefit of high school students. Participation in extra curricular school activities unrelated to the student’s future profession are still beneficial. Students learn time management skills, responsibility, collaborative and leadership skills when participating in school clubs and organizations. Colleges are also more apt to accept a student who demonstrates a strong commitment to the school community through active participation as opposed to an individual whose only contribution is attendance and good academic performance. Community organizations offer unique and varied experiences and the opportunity to interact with professionals and develop networking skills. After school and summer employment at a chiropractic office, a medical office or any other office environment will provide exposure to the type of setting in which chiropractic professionals will spend their working hours.


Select a college which offers a strong science degree or pre-medical degree program. Some colleges may have an affiliation with the chiropractic colleges which all future chiropractors must attend and successfully complete. Research the chiropractic schools to determine which one you are most interested in attending. Then you will be able to determine if the school is linked to any of the colleges you are considering. Courses in biology, chemistry and physics will be important to individuals intending to work in a medical field. Electives can be concentrated in health, fitness and nutrition. Students can, and even should, study topics and courses related to kinesiology and sports medicine. Courses in psychology and sociology will help students to attain a more comprehensive understanding of people and society, better equipping them to serve the public. Business courses ensure future professionals understand how to successfully manage a business in the complex health field. Medical professionals will need to understand finances, the intricacies of medical insurance processing, business laws, business practices, business ethics and the importance of maintaining records.

Chiropractic School

Students must attend chiropractic college in order to enter the profession. Upon completion of the program, students will have earned a Doctorate in Chiropractic Medicine. The Council on Chiropractic Education, or CCE, is the nationally recognized accrediting agency by the United States Secretary of Education which regulates the quality of the curriculum offered at chiropractic colleges. Currently there are 15 CCE accredited chiropractic institutions in the United States with 18 locations. These include, as listed on the CCE website:

  • Cleveland Chiropractic College
         1.  Cleveland Chiropractic College – Kansas City – Overland Park, KS
         2.  Cleveland Chiropractic College – Los Angeles – Los Angeles, CA
  • D’Youville College Doctor of Chiropractic – Buffalo, NY
  • Life University College of Chiropractic – Marietta, GA
  • Life Chiropractic College West – Hayward, CA
  • Logan College of Chiropractic – Chesterfield, MO
  • Southern California University of Health Sciences
  • Los Angeles College of Chiropractic  – Whittier, CA
  • Doctor of Chiropractic Degree Program in the College of
    Professional Studies of the National  University of Health
    Sciences – Lombard, IL
  • New York Chiropractic College – Seneca Falls, NY
  • Northwestern Health Sciences University
    Northwestern College of Chiropractic – Bloomington, MN
  • Palmer College of Chiropractic
         1. Palmer College of Chiropractic – Davenport, IA
         2. Palmer College of Chiropractic West – San Jose, CA
         3. Palmer College of Chiropractic Florida – Port Orange, FL
  • Parker College Of Chiropractic – Dallas, TX
  • Sherman College Of Chiropractic – Spartanburg, SC
  • Texas Chiropractic College – Pasadena, TX
  • University Of Bridgeport College Of Chiropractic – Bridgeport, CT
  • University of Western States College of Chiropractic – Portland, OR

Students attend chiropractic college for four years. The students are taught the scientific and academic skills and knowledge required to become experts in the field of chiropractic medicine. The final year is spent in practice; performing the functions of a chiropractic doctor under the supervision of an experienced professional. The curriculum includes intensive study of the neuromusculoskeletal conditions, nutritional and holistic health, and specialized and focused curriculum in areas of acupuncture and oriental medicine, applied nutrition, and various other disciplines. Students will complete substantial course hours in diagnosis, biochemistry, anatomy, chiropractic technique and philosophy and ancillary therapeutic procedures.

National Board Exam

The National Board Exam for chiropractors is administered by the NBCE. The test is given twice each year. The exam is three parts. Part 1 is 110 multiple choice questions relating to general anatomy, spinal anatomy, physiology, chemistry, pathology, microbiology and public health. The second part consists also of 110 multiple choice questions; but in the areas of general diagnosis, neuromusculoskeletal diagnosis, diagnostic imaging, principles of chiropractic, chiropractic practice and associated clinical sciences. Part three of the test consists of 110 multiple choice questions and ten case vignettes covering the ares of diagnosis or clinical impression, clinical laboratory and special studies examination, chiropractic techniques, case management, physical examination, case history and roentgenologic examination. Each part is timed. Additional specialized testing is offered for applicants who want to pursue an area of specialization.


After successful completion of an accredited chiropractic program, graduates will need to obtain a license to practice in their resident state or the state in which they intend to practice. State licensure regulations may vary from state to state. It is important to research the state regulations prior to completion of the Doctor of Chiropractic program to ensure all conditions are met. The Federation of Chiropractic Licensing Boards is a nonprofit organization which provides a link to the licensure information in all states. Locate the link and the information for each state at this directory.

The information provided includes the licensing fees, the renewal requirement, national board testing requirements, the security and criminal check requirements, additional certification requirements, continuing education and malpractice insurance requirements. The link to the state licensing board is also provided.

Continuing Education

The chiropractic field will experience advancements in technology and knowledge through research and academic exploration. Changing regulations will also be an area in which chiropractic doctors will need to remain current. Each state will have their own continuing education requirements upon which licensing will be contingent. Twenty four credit hours of continuing education every two years is a common requirement. The programs must be board approved and conducted by approved colleges or chiropractic association or organizations. Check with your state licensing board to determine if the program has been approved prior to enrollment.

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