Educational and licensing requirements for doctors of chiropractic (DCs) are among the most stringent of any of the health care professions.
DCs are educated in nationally accredited, four-year doctoral graduate school programs through a curriculum that includes a minimum of 4,200 hours of classroom, laboratory and clinical internship, with the average DC program equivalent in classroom hours to allopathic (MD) and osteopathic (DO) medical schools.
Chiropractors are designated as physician-level providers in the vast majority of states and federal Medicare program. The essential services provided by DCs are also available in federal health delivery systems, including those administered by Medicaid, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, the U.S. Department of Defense, the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program, Federal Workers' Compensation, and all state workers' compensation programs.
The typical applicant at a chiropractic college has already acquired nearly four years of pre-medical undergraduate college education, including courses in biology, inorganic and organic chemistry, physics, psychology and related lab work. Once accepted into an accredited chiropractic college, the requirements become even more demanding — four to five academic years of professional study are the standard. Because of the hands-on nature of chiropractic, and the intricate adjusting techniques, a significant portion of time is spent in clinical training.
Chiropractors undergo a rigorous education in the healing sciences, similar to that of medical doctors. In some areas, such as anatomy, physiology, rehabilitation, nutrition and public health, they receive more intensive education than their MD counterparts. Like other primary health care doctors, chiropractic students spend a significant portion of their curriculum studying clinical subjects related to evaluating and caring for patients. Typically, as part of their professional training, they must complete a minimum of a one-year clinical-based program dealing with actual patient care. In total, the curriculum includes a minimum of 4,200 hours of classroom, laboratory and clinical experience. The course of study is approved by an accrediting agency, the Council on Chiropractic Education, that is recognized by the U.S. Department of Education.
This extensive education prepares doctors of chiropractic to diagnose health care conditions, treat those that are within their scope of practice and refer patients to other healthcare practitioners when appropriate.
Certification and Licensure
Certification is managed by the National Board of Chiropractic Examiners (NBCE), which administers national board exams that graduates of accredited chiropractic colleges must pass before applying for a state license to practice. Licensure is managed by individual states, which have varying requirements. Most states require chirorpactors to meet yearly continuing education requirements to maintain their license.