How to Become a Chiropractor
In this comprehensive overview, we’ll share what it takes to become a chiropractor.
- The degree and courses you’ll need
- An estimate of how long the process will take
- The benefits of being a chiropractor
- Tips on how to choose a chiropractic school
Since our founding in 1941, more than 5,000 chiropractors have graduated from the Northwestern Health Sciences University (NWHSU) chiropractic program.
What does it take to become a chiropractor?
Becoming a chiropractor requires attending chiropractic school, earning a Doctor of Chiropractic degree, passing a series of exams administered by the National Board of Chiropractic Examiners, and securing licensure in the state (or relevant jurisdiction) where you plan to practice.
The steps to earning a Doctor of Chiropractic degree and becoming a chiropractor involve:
- Rigorous classroom instruction
- Hands-on clinical training
- Internship experience over the course of several years
Once you’ve gained these chiropractor credentials, continuing education courses are required to maintain your licensure.
What degree do you need to become a chiropractor?
You will need to earn a Doctor of Chiropractic degree to become a chiropractor.
Coursework and degree prerequisites for attending chiropractic school vary from program to program, depending on which school you choose.
You may not need a bachelor’s degree to be accepted into many Doctor of Chiropractic programs. However, according to the Association of Chiropractic Colleges, the majority of chiropractic schools “require that applicants have at least 3 years of undergraduate education.”
Additionally, you should be aware that a bachelor’s degree, preferably in the biological sciences, is a useful credential. In fact, a growing number of chiropractic schools are making a bachelor’s degree a requirement.
Note that some programs may provide a path to complete your bachelor’s degree while you pursue your chiropractic education. Many states, such as Wisconsin, require you to have a bachelor’s degree in order to practice chiropractic care.
How long is chiropractic school?
The program length to earn a Doctor of Chiropractic degree typically takes between three and four years.
At NWHSU, you can complete your degree in 3½ years.
What courses do you take in chiropractic school?
A chiropractic school curriculum generally follows three major phases.
- Basic sciences. This involves studying the complexities of the human body and its systems. You will take discipline-specific courses like biochemistry, anatomy, and physiology. Additionally, some programs incorporate hands-on chiropractic techniques early on.
- Clinical and chiropractic sciences. In this phase, you will study physician-patient interaction, physical examinations, etiology (cause) of disease, diagnosis, and treatment. This phase may also include business-focused coursework to prepare you for a professional chiropractic practice.
- Clinical internships. This last major phase moves you fully from theory to practice. As a chiropractic intern, you will be in real-world clinical settings and take on cases alongside an experienced chiropractor.
Note that some chiropractic schools have their own clinics in which students can intern and experience working with various patient populations.
Watch NWHSU graduate Dr. Brittany Schmidt discuss her clinical internship experience.
What are the benefits of being a chiropractor?
Why should I become a chiropractor? A perfectly understandable question, especially if you’re considering other options like a medical doctor or a physical therapist. The following are just a few of the many reasons to be a chiropractor.
Help fill the need for primary care health professionals
The need for primary healthcare professionals is growing. Chiropractic doctors may often serve in this capacity, customizing treatment around all aspects of health while emphasizing natural methods of care.
Enjoy the freedom to create your own career path
The chiropractic profession offers a high degree of autonomy, especially compared to other healthcare professions. Self-employment is a viable and highly popular option for chiropractic graduates.
A chiropractic doctor can also choose from a variety of work settings and treat a wide range of patient types: underserved populations, pregnant women, children, the elderly, hospital patients, amateur athletes, professional athletes and sports teams, and many more.
Watch Dr. Timothy Stark discuss the sports emphasis track for chiropractic students at NWHSU.
Join a profession with a bright future
Along with those encouraging statistics, it’s becoming increasingly common for healthcare professionals like medical doctors, physical therapists, and massage therapists to refer their patients and clients to chiropractic doctors.
Be part of the whole-person integrative healthcare movement
Chiropractors take the whole body into consideration when they diagnose and treat patients. And that’s especially important today.
As the average population age continues to rise and more people seek a non-pharmacological approach to healthcare, the demand for chiropractic services continues to grow.
In fact, more and more people are realizing the benefits of a natural, whole-person approach to healthcare, which is also creating a growing need for chiropractors.
For example, with painkiller/opioid abuse now considered an epidemic, a chiropractic doctor’s non-invasive services are becoming a primary care approach for pain management.
Closely related, integrative healthcare is an emerging patient-centered model that draws from both natural and conventional forms of medicine to help people achieve optimal health.
Some chiropractic schools incorporate this approach into their programs.
Acquire a deep understanding of how the body works
Are you really into understanding the human body? Compared to medical or physical therapy students, chiropractic students receive more training in anatomy, physiology, diagnosis, x-ray, and orthopedics.
What’s the next step if you’re thinking about chiropractic school?
Review chiropractic schools and their programs
As you consider schools, you’ll want to weigh a number of factors. Here are some of the most important.
Is the school accredited?
What’s the school like?
The best way to find out what a chiropractic school is like is by visiting. Schools may put on multiple admissions events a year for prospective students.
Similarly, to get a feel for the campus and the life of a student, you can schedule an individual tour.
Where is it located?
Chiropractic school typically requires extensive lab work and hands-on practice. And that means a lot of time on campus. Relocating may not be a big concern for some. Others may be much more limited in their geographic choices for various reasons.
In any case, think through the implications of the school’s location. Also, don’t forget to research the place in terms of overall lifestyle. Remember, you’ll be spending several years in the area.
What’s the school’s philosophy and educational approach?
Chiropractic schools have obvious similarities with one another. After all, their goal is to ultimately produce people fully prepared for the chiropractic profession. On the other hand, they can also differ in profound ways.
As you familiarize yourself with a prospective school, try to understand the school’s philosophy on chiropractic care. For example, how does it view the role of a chiropractor in a person’s overall healthcare?
Also, what is the school’s educational approach? How grounded in the sciences is it? How important are evidence-based methods in the school’s program?
Does the school’s approach resonate with how you want to learn?
You can understand more about these things from a school’s website and program literature, as well as directly from faculty, students, and alumni.
How much will it cost?
This question should encompass not only tuition and fees but also all the other expenses that will be involved in attending school. For example, if you’ll be relocating, what is the cost of rent?
A chiropractic school should be as transparent as possible as it clearly lays out just how much it will cost to attend.
Make sure you incorporate financial concerns into your search early on. The best place to start is with a school’s financial aid specialists.