Curriculum Overview

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Curriculum highlights

  • Hands-on techniques begin in the first trimester
  • Supervised in-class adjusting in trimester three
  • Strong foundation in the basic sciences
  • Exposure to multiple techniques to improve patient care
  • Training in physiologic therapeutics, nutrition, rehabilitation and health promotion
  • Extensive radiology training
  • Business and practice management throughout entire curriculum
  • Early clinical training experiences
  • Electives including sports injuries and specialized techniques

Curriculum detail

Chiropractic Curriculum Guide Outline

Degrees offered

Program length

  • 10 trimesters (seven 15-week and three 17-week trimesters)
  • Completion time for doctor of chiropractic program typically 3 1/2 years

Program schedule, credits and contact hours

  • Full-time day program, classes held Monday through Friday
  • More than 220 trimester credits and 4,300 contact hours 

Program admission

Curriculum organization

The doctor of chiropractic curriculum is comprised of 84 course offerings, organized by eight academic and clinical departments. The sequence provides a strong basic science basis upon which the chiropractic and clinical sciences are built.

Basic sciences

Courses include biochemistry, anatomy, embryology, histology, immunology and microbiology, neuroscience, pathology and physiology. These courses provide a firm foundation for developing the clinical skills and knowledge needed to progress through the chiropractic school curriculum.

Chiropractic studies

Courses in chiropractic principles and philosophy provide students with the history of the chiropractic profession and the nature of the chiropractic healthcare model. You take chiropractic methods courses, including lectures and labs, physiological therapeutics, exercise and rehabilitation.

Diagnostic and clinical sciences

A full six trimesters are devoted to the skills of making a diagnosis. Courses include:

  • Clinical skills which prepare students to obtain a medical history and perform a physical exam
  • Clinical pathology
  • The diagnosis and management of a variety of health and chiropractic problems
  • Lectures, small groups, labs, self-directed study and online learning

Health promotion and wellness

These courses introduce you to the unique needs of pregnant patients, infants and children, women and the elderly. Additional courses cover how chiropractic plays an important role in public health, health promotion and wellness.

Diagnostic imaging

This sequence covers the role of imaging technology in diagnostic decision-making. You’ll begin with courses covering normal radiographic anatomy. Later courses include interpretation of advanced imaging and the diagnosis of chiropractic and medical pathologies.

Business and professional foundations

You learn the business of clinical practice in the most extensive business curriculum in chiropractic school education:

  • Business and practice management: accounting, budgeting, finance and investing
  • Elements of the office visit: history-taking, exam procedures and report-of-findings
  • Diagnosis and treatment coding and third-party reimbursement
  • Marketing your practice
  • Goal setting for personal and professional development
  • Professional communication skills
  • Networking for practice opportunities

Clinical education

You deliver progressive levels of patient care at the direction of professional mentors - preparing you for competent and successful clinical practice following graduation from chiropractic school. You train in Northwestern’s public clinic system and with chiropractors working in community-based private practices.

Read more about clinical experience.

Elective courses

You take four advanced electives in specialized topics and techniques in Trimesters 7-9.

For the list of elective courses, consult the curriculum outline.

Northwestern Health Sciences University reserves the right to change or discontinue academic programs at the University’s discretion.

What is Chiropractic?

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chiropractic methods instructor demonstrating a technique to students

Doctors of chiropractic are healthcare professionals who view health and illness from a holistic perspective. Musculoskeletal structures, body function and the nervous system are closely interrelated - disturbances in one system can impact the others, affecting health and well-being.

They believe the human body possesses an inherent ability to heal itself. By using non-drug, non-surgical treatment methods, body function can be restored or rehabilitated - and further disability can be prevented.

For the benefit of their patients, doctors of chiropractic consult with, co-manage and refer to other healthcare providers.

Doctors of chiropractic are primary contact providers who:

  • Evaluate, treat and prevent neuromusculoskeletal system disorders
  • Adjust and manually manipulate the spine and other joints
  • Treat soft tissue structures with manual therapies
  • May incorporate mechanical methods such as activator, Gonstead and laser therapy
  • Provide health and wellness assessments
  • Care for patients in a variety of settings including group practices, health systems and integrative medicine clinics

History of the profession

In 1895, D. D. Palmer delivered the first chiropractic adjustment and two years later, founded the first chiropractic college. Palmer believed the body has an innate ability to heal itself and that structure and function are directly connected.

Chiropractic practice and education continued to expand along with the development of professional standards. In 1919, chiropractic became a licensed health care profession in Minnesota. Instruction in the basic sciences, combined with developing proficiency is chiropractic technique, became foundational elements in the curricula at chiropractic colleges.

The chiropractic profession continues to grow worldwide in scope and influence through the expansion of patient care and professional advocacy. Advances in education, clinical training and accreditation standards for chiropractic colleges continue to evolve - with Northwestern taking the lead in developing innovative, community-based clinical internship programs. 

Growth of the profession

  • More than 60,000 licensed doctors of chiropractic in all 50 states
  • Aproximately 15,000 in the rest of the world - all 10 Canadian provinces, Mexico and more than 40 other countries
  • Employment expected to jump 15% between 2012 and 2022 - faster than average for all occupations (Occupational Outlook Handbook - U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics)
  • Practice environments and career paths include solo practice, group practice and multidisciplinary settings

Learn more

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