What is a Chiropractic Degree?

Do you have an affinity for wellness and a healthy lifestyle? Would you love to provide healing care for people without the use of drugs and surgery? Then the chiropractic field may be something you’d like to consider.

The main aspect of treatment in chiropractic care is physical manipulation of the joints and the spine to bring them back into alignment. The knowledge gained during school regarding lifestyle and the ways to eat, move and think is invaluable not only to the patients that are treated but on a personal level for the chiropractor as well.

Chiropractic education is extensive, consisting of university based training in the field of chiropractic as well as various certificates, certifications, licenses, and diplomas. Chiropractic education trains students in various academic areas, such as: neurology, radiology, microbiology, psychology, ethics, biology, gross anatomy, chemistry/biochemistry, spinal anatomy, phlebotomy, clinical nutrition, scopes of practice, public health, pediatrics and other areas that are health or wellness related.

Graduates of chiropractic schools receive the Doctor of Chiropractic (DC) degree, and can be licensed in all jurisdictions. In addition to operating a general chiropractic practice, some chiropractors specialize in areas such as sports, neurology, orthopedics, pediatrics, or nutrition, among others.

Chiropractic is governed internationally by the Councils on Chiropractic Education International (CCEI)— officially recognized by the World Federation of Chiropractic and the World Health Organization as the accrediting agency for schools of chiropractic around the world.

Program Options

In order to become a chiropractor, students must earn a degree from an accredited school, pass an exam and become licensed by the state. The following provides more detail on the options available for aspiring chiropractors:

Associate of Science in Chiropractic Technology - Two Year Duration
The Associate of Science in Chiropractic Technology degree is a great way to dip your toe into the world of chiropractic before committing to years of schooling. Students learn how to assist a chiropractor with patient care and perform x-ray examinations. Graduates are able to become chiropractic assistants or technicians, and are also able to manage the day-to-day administrative duties of a chiropractic office, such as record-keeping and appointment-making.

Examples of courses include: radiology, fundamentals of x-ray, medical ethics, computer technology, office and bookkeeping skills, and interpersonal communication.

Bachelor’s Degree in Science - Three to Four Year Duration
The educational path to becoming a chiropractor is similar to becoming a doctor. While requirements to attend colleges of chiropractic medicine vary between schools, most colleges prefer that applicants to the Doctor of Chiropractic program possess a Bachelor of Science degree in biology, chemistry, or physics (at least 90 credits of undergraduate coursework). However, there are a few states that don’t require a bachelor’s degree, so it is advisable to check with the state board you wish to practice in.

Note: There are specific chiropractic college prerequisites that applicants need to meet, such as a certain number of chemistry, physics, and biology courses. It is also recommended to take courses in sociology, interpersonal relations, and communication since patient interaction plays such a big part in this career. Chiropractic schools also look for cumulative GPA or GRE test scores, volunteer work in the field, and letters of recommendation.

Doctor of Chiropractic Degree (DC) - Four Year Duration
According to the American Chiropractic Association, 18 chiropractic programs are accepted by the Council on Chiropractic Education (an agency certified by the Department of Education). Most of these programs include an internship where students are able to practice their skills under the supervision of a licensed chiropractor.

Interestingly, there are more classroom and clinical hours required to earn a Doctor of Chiropractic degree than for a medical degree. Similar to medical school, the first two years consist of core science courses and lab work in: anatomy, physiology, biology, biochemistry, microbiology, pathology and other science-related courses. The second two years consist of clinical work where students are able to learn first-hand how to use diagnostic equipment and evaluate, diagnose, and manipulate patients.

Successful completion of national board examinations is required before being able to practice as a chiropractor. In the United States, a state licensing exam must also be passed (each state has different requirements).

Chiropractors must obtain a license in the state in which they wish to practice—all states mandate licensing. Certification and licensure of chiropractors is governed by the National Board of Chiropractic Examiners (NBCE).

Many state licensing boards require continuing education on a yearly basis to keep licensure—such as workshops and classes about new developments in chiropractic medicine. Many chiropractors may also study nutrition, naturopathy, pediatrics, orthopedics, massage, or other fields to enrich their practice.

Degrees Similar to Chiropractic

Kinesiology is the scientific study of body movement, and is used to identify imbalances within the body’s structural, chemical, and emotional energy. A degree in kinesiology provides a deep understanding of anatomy, physiology, and motor function. Subjects like biomechanics, pathology and nutrition are studied. Kinesiologists look for ways to improve the efficiency and performance of the human body.

Physical Therapy
Attaining a physical therapy degree requires years of education and training in areas such as kinesiology, anatomy, biology, psychology, and physical fitness. Physical therapists help people who have suffered injuries or illnesses with their movement and pain management. In order to work as a physical therapist, it is necessary to complete a Doctor of Physical Therapy degree program.

Osteopathic Medicine
Osteopathy is a drug-free manual therapy that focuses on the joints, muscles, and spine. U.S. osteopathic physicians (DOs) are fully licensed medical doctors that treat the body’s nervous, circulatory, and lymphatic systems. Those wanting to become osteopathic doctors need to pass the MCAT (medical college admissions test), attend a four-year osteopathic medical program, and obtain licensure.

Similar to a chiropractor, an osteopath has similar techniques for spine manipulation, but will also use other techniques like stretching, pressure, mobilization, and craniosacral therapy.

Skills You’ll Learn

A chiropractic degree teaches students many transferrable skills that can be used in all aspects of life, both professional and personal. Some of these skills are:

  • Interpersonal skills
  • Empathy (sensitivity and understanding)
  • Listening skills
  • Dexterity
  • Attention to detail
  • Analytical skills
  • Administrative skills
  • Decision-making skills
  • Organizational skills
  • Patience
  • Ability to remain calm
  • Customer service skills
  • Leadership skills
  • Ability to work well with others
  • Thinking and reasoning skills
  • Problem-solving skills
  • Management skills

What Can You Do with a Chiropractic Degree?

Many chiropractic graduates choose to work in private practice. However, there are many other fields and places of employment that graduates can choose to work in, including:

  • Hospitals
  • The military
  • Sports industry
  • Medical research
  • Education
  • Health
  • Lecturing
  • Diet and nutrition
  • Pediatric
  • Diagnostics
  • Athletics
  • Rehabilitation
  • Electrodiagnostics
  • Neurology
  • Private practice

Career Paths

Learn about your career prospects after graduation.

Read about Career Paths