What Does it Take to Be a Chiropractor?

What Does it Take to Be a Chiropractor?

For many, the chiropractic field can be somewhat of a mystery or may not seem to hold the same weight as “real” medicine. Perhaps someone thinks, “Well, that’s cool you crack backs and necks, but that doesn’t make you a real doctor.”

On the contrary, licensed chiropractors are full-fledged doctors with the scholastic, practicum, and certification requirements to back their degrees. On that note, you can be confident you’re in good, trained hands when you come into a chiropractic office. But, for good measure, read on to discover what becoming a chiropractor really means and what kind of education is required.

What Is a Chiropractor?

Part of the confusion about chiropractors being real doctors may come from the fact that they practice in a medical field that doesn’t use drugs or surgery (like most other Western medicine disciplines). Instead, chiropractors typically handle neuro-musculo-skeletal issues that most commonly result in back pain, so the discipline largely focuses on the spine’s connections to neurological functions.

The main difference, notes Dr. Rick Gross of Quality Care Chiropractic, is that “when medical doctors were learning about medication and surgery as treatments, we were learning about chiropractic adjustments and nutritional and orthopedic solutions to treat our patients.”

Dr. Gross explains further, “Our textbooks were the same that medical doctors and physical therapists use. When it was a subject specific to chiropractic, such as spinal adjusting, we learned from chiropractic textbooks, but topics like anatomy, physiology, embryology, or neurology were all the same courses a medical doctor would take.”

Entering a Doctor of Chiropractic Program

Licensed chiropractors must hold a Doctor of Chiropractic (DC) to practice. DC programs take 4–5 years to complete, and most require a four-year bachelor’s degree prior to entry. Notably, the entry requirements are similar to medical school; however, desirable chiropractic students have a diverse social science and humanities background with a blend of hard science and historical knowledge.

The Association of Chiropractic Colleges further notes that students entering a DC program need at least 90 undergraduate semester hours at an accredited institution with a minimum 3.0 GPA and coursework with at least 24 credits in life and physical science courses, at least half of which have a substantive laboratory component.

What Is Learned in DC Programs?

Chiropractors regularly use all kinds of skills, so there’s a lot to pack into a DC program. Chiropractic care is about the interconnectedness of the body, so while chiropractors are tasked with learning very specialized knowledge about the spine, they also need general knowledge about how every body system is linked so they can recognize problems throughout the body and know how to address them through spinal adjustments.

In general, DC programs touch on the following subjects:

  • General medical training: Anatomy, biochemistry, physiology, microbiology, pathology, gynecology and obstetrics, pediatrics, geriatrics, dermatology, otolaryngology, biomechanics, orthopedics, and neurology
  • Additional medical training: Psychology, nutrition/dietetics, and first aid and emergency procedures
  • Chiropractic-specific training: Spinal analysis, principles and practice of chiropractic, and adjustive techniques
  • Administration and diagnostics: Public health; physical, clinical, and laboratory diagnosis; diagnostic imaging procedures; research methods and procedures; clinical decision making; and professional practice ethics

Training and Testing Structure: In addition to the coursework, a DC degree is structured with specific benchmarks:

  • Two years of basic sciences are required, followed by the successful completion of National Boards, Part 1.
  • Two years of chiropractic training, including clinical sciences, are required, followed by the successful completion of National Boards, Part 2.
  • Part 3 of the National Boards chiropractic training is necessary if the chiropractor plans to use physiological therapeutics in practice.
  • Part 4 of the National Boards tests three practical skill areas: diagnostic imaging, chiropractic technique, and case management.

Internship/Preceptorship Programs: A year-long internship at a college clinic or a preceptorship program also is required. These are available after completing the boards and prior to chiropractic licensure. In a preceptorship program, chiropractors learn skills in a private practice clinical setting outside a teaching institution.

In summary, Dr. Gross says, “After high school, it takes about eight years of additional education. We had to have a four-year degree before starting the 10-semester (five academic years) chiropractic program. The program itself was intense. We were taking 20–25 credit hours of classes each semester—most college students take 12–18 credit hours.” But, he adds, “Upon graduating from chiropractic school, we had earned a doctorate degree, another bachelor’s degree, and five educational certificates.”

Post-Graduate Programs

But wait, the learning doesn’t just end there. Post-graduate residency programs also are available where chiropractors can work toward board certification, but this can be done while in active practice.

Continuing Education

In this field, the training truly never ends. Dr. Gross explains, “To maintain our Illinois chiropractic license, we are required to have 50 hours of continuing education each year, which is the same as medical doctors and the most of any licensed profession in Illinois. By comparison, physical therapists need 20, architects need 12, nurses need 10, and plumbers need 4 hours each year.”

At Quality Care Chiropractic, “we are licensed by the state, board certified, and covered by malpractice insurance, so you can be confident that we have watchdogs in place to make sure we take care of our patients.”

Reach out at (630) 499-2225 to learn more about what we do and how we can help you get back to health without the typical medical treatments of drugs or surgery.

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    I have found that being a doctor is so rewarding because every single day I see miracles happen in front of my very eyes. If I stick to basic principles, I notice the best results. I focus on effective, research-based therapies. I recommend only the therapies I believe my patients need, and only for as many treatments as I believe they need. I keep up with current research and educational seminars to improve techniques and treatments. I treat each person in my office like I would treat my own family – with respect, compassion, and understanding. When conflicts or problems arise, I expect honest, open communication to resolve any issues, and I promise to do my best to ensure satisfaction. I never take for granted the trust I have earned from my patients.