Interested in Becoming a Chiropractor? Here’s What You’ll Need
Man getting his back adjusted

How to Become a Chiropractor

The practice of chiropractic care is one that helps patients with health problems related to the neuromusculoskeletal system including nerves, bones, ligaments, muscles, and tendons. Chiropractors use spinal adjustments and manipulate the muscles in the affected area.

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The education and licensure for a chiropractor is one of the toughest in medicine. According to the American Chiropractic Association, “educational  and licensing requirements for doctors of chiropractic (DCs) are among the most stringent of any of the health care professions.”

Let’s look at how to become a chiropractor, and what the job outlook is for the near future.


As a candidate for a chiropractic college, you must have almost four years of pre-med undergraduate university education. This includes coursework in biology, chemistry, psychology, physics, and associated lab work. Just like with nursing or medical school, chiropractic colleges are quite selective in the candidates they choose for the program.

Once you have been accepted to a chiropractic college, you must be prepared to complete four to five academic years of study. Because of the intricate adjusting techniques associated with chiropractic care, most course time is spent in clinical training.

Chiropractors undertake a rigorous education in the medical sciences, like that of medical students. Because of the nature of their practice, most chiropractors receive a more intensive education in anatomy, physiology, nutrition, rehabilitation, and public health than medical students. Chiropractic students also spend a lot of time studying clinical subjects and the evaluation and care of patients.

Chiropractic students must complete at least one-year of clinical-based programs, including actual patient care. The full curriculum consists of a minimum of 4,200 hours of laboratory, clinical and classroom experience. The extensive education helps chiropractors diagnose health care problems, treat the problems as relevant to their practice, and refer patients to other providers as needed.

At the National University of Health Sciences, the curriculum includes 3 to 4 years of classroom, laboratory, and clinical work:

Phase I

Basic Sciences: One year of anatomy and physiology study in the lab, performing complete human dissection.

Some coursework includes the following:

  • Spine and Extremities Anatomy Lab
  • Human Biochemistry
  • Fundamentals of Natural Medicine and Historical Perspectives
  • Introduction to Palpation Skills & Landmark Identification
  • Cellular Physiology & Hematology
  • Head and Neck Anatomy Lab
  • Neuroanatomy
  • Introduction to Business Principles
  • Evaluation & Management of the Chest & Thoracic Spine
  • Fundamentals of Public Health
  • Manipulation of the Thoracic Spine
  • Fundamentals of Pathology
  • Neurophysiology
  • Normal Radiographic Anatomy & Variants
  • Thorax, Abdomen and Pelvis Anatomy Lab
  • Nutritional Biochemistry
  • Evaluation & Management of the Abdomen, Pelvis and Lumbar Spine
  • Whole Health Concepts and Philosophical Perspectives
  • Medical Microbiology
  • Manipulation of the Lumbo-Sacral Spine, T/L Junction and Pelvis
  • Systems Pathology
  • Neuroendocrinology, GI and Reproductive Physiology
  • Evaluation & Management of the Head, Neck and Cervical Spine
  • Manipulation of the Cervical Spine, CT Junction and First Rib
  • Science of Diet and Nutrition
  • Cardiovascular, Respiratory and Renal Physiology
  • Radiation Physics and Technology

Phase II

Clinical Sciences: Learn to diagnose, treat, and manage a wide range of illnesses and injuries. Practice evaluation and diagnostic techniques. Gain business knowledge on how run a successful practice.

Some coursework includes the following:

  • Evaluation & Management of the Gi/GU & Reproductive Systems
  • Evaluation & Management of the Cardiovascular & Respiratory Systems
  • Evaluation & Management of the EENT
  • Evaluation & Management of the Neurological System
  • Evaluation & Management of the Musculoskeletal System
  • Evaluation & Management of the Extremities
  • Soft Tissue Management
  • Pharmacology
  • Botanical Medicine
  • Fundamentals of Imaging: Arthritides & Trauma
  • Principles of Marketing and Communication
  • Physical Diagnosis
  • Clinical Laboratory Diagnosis
  • Pediatrics, Geriatrics & Female Health Issues
  • The Clinical Encounter
  • Phlebotomy & Specimen Collection
  • Orthopedic Musculoskeletal Imaging
  • Advanced Manual Therapy Techniques
  • Diversified Technique
  • Fundamentals of Imaging: Skeletal Dysplasia, Tumors, Endocrine & Hematopoietic Disorders
  • Ambulatory Trauma Care
  • Advanced Diagnosis & Problem Solving
  • Psychopathology & Health Psychology
  • Physiological Therapeutics: Modalities
  • End Range Loading & Flexion/Distraction Technique
  • Fundamentals of Imaging: Chest & Abdomen
  • Clinical Natural Medicine
  • Doctor-Patient Relationship
  • Comparative Techniques & Listing Systems
  • Report Writing & Advanced Imaging
  • Radiographic Positioning & Radiology
  • Management

Phase III

Clinical Practice: Internship through a variety of clinical opportunities. This phase is done strictly in clinical settings.

Licensure and Occupational Outlook

Each state has its own licensing and/or medical licensing board. Each state also has exams that must be passed in order for the chiropractor to be licensed to practice.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the prospects for chiropractors is growing faster than average. Chiropractors average $68,000 annually, whether in private practice or as part of a medical group.


While medical school seems daunting to most, chiropractic school is far more detailed and has very strict guidelines and methodologies that must be adhered to. Working with a patient’s spine can be a dangerous undertaking. Accidents and injuries around the spinal area can lead to paralysis or death.

Because of the nature of this practice, it is clear that practitioners must be more than prepared to deal with the injuries and diseases associated with the spine.

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