Chiropractors are healthcare professionals who specialize in issues associated with the musculoskeletal system. The musculoskeletal system comprises bones, muscles, tendons and ligaments. Chiropractors utilize spinal manipulation primarily to treat musculoskeletal problems, though they may also use other noninvasive techniques, such as laser acupuncture, traction and soft tissue therapy. Chiropractors do not perform major surgery or prescribe medication. They may recommend lifestyle or diet modifications, strength training or complementary therapies like massage.
Becoming a chiropractor typically involves a four year Doctor of Chiropractic (DC) program following the completion of a four year undergraduate degree. Some schools offer a combined program that includes an undergraduate and doctorate program lasting seven years. Otherwise, it takes eight years of full-time education after high school to become a chiropractor. Some people may take significantly longer to obtain their degrees if they attend school on a part-time basis.
Students are encouraged to begin training as the demand for chiropractors is increasing, there is decent job security and most graduates obtain employment. Graduates of a DC program gain the freedom to work independently or with an organization. Chiropractors tend to remain in the field until retirement. Chiropractic care is frequently covered by health insurance plans though it is considered alternative healthcare.
Salary Expectations – Median $67,200 per year and $32.31 per hour in 2010
Salaries range depending upon the size of the practice and clientele. Some chiropractors make upwards of $150,000
|Degree Programs||Cost||Timeframe||ACA Accredited||ICA Accredited|
|Cleveland Chiropractic College||$91,500.00 total (either for 10 or 12 trimesters)||3.5 to 4 years||Yes||Yes|
|D’Youville College||$10,965 per semester or $875 per credit||4 years||Yes||No|
|Life Chiropractic College West||$7,550 per quarter or $377.50 per credit||3 to 4 years||Yes||Yes|
|Life University||$287 per credit||3.5 years||Yes||Yes|
|Logan College of Chiropractic/University Programs||8,750 per trimester||3.5 years||Yes||No|
|National University of Health Sciences||$9,329 per trimester or $397 per credit||3.5 years||Yes||No|
|New York Chiropractic College||$19,812 for two trimesters||3.5 years||Yes||No|
|Northwestern Health Sciences University||$9,425 each for trimester 1-9 and $9,225 for trimester 10.||3.5 years||Yes||No|
|Palmer College of Chiropractic Davenport Campus||$9,950 per trimester or $383 per credit||3 to 4 years||Yes||Yes|
|Palmer College of Chiropractice Florida Campus||$7,535 per quarter or $280 per credit||3 to 4 years||Yes||Yes|
|Palmer College of Chiropractice West Campus||$7,430 per quarter or $310 per credit||3 to 4 years||Yes||Yes|
|Parker University College of Chiropractic||$9,308 per trimester or $365 per credit hour||3.5 years||Yes||Yes|
|Sherman College of Chiropractic||$6,703 per quarter||3.5 years||Yes||Yes|
|Southern California University of Health Sciences||$9,386 per trimester||3 to 4 years||Yes||No|
|Texas Chiropractic College||$9,575 per trimester or $798 per credit||3.5 years||Yes||No|
|University of Bridgeport College of Chiropractic||$11,800 per semester or $700 per credit||4 years||Yes||No|
|University of Western States||25,323 per academic year (three quarters)||4 years||Yes||No|
Chiropractors are experts at treating health problems associated with the musculoskeletal system. They frequently treat patients with pain in their necks, back, joints and extremities. Chiropractors use tools and hands-on spinal manipulations to adjust patients’ spines for the purpose of pain relief and improved structure. Misalignments in the spine can compress nerves and interfere with signals between the brain and nervous system, leading to body pain, headaches, stenosis and other health problems. Chiropractors strive to fix alignment issues and perform other functions that assist the body to heal itself.
Chiropractors are generally not allowed to prescribe drugs, participate in surgical procedures or perform many of the functions that medical doctors or other conventional healthcare providers offer. Some states may allow chiropractors to perform minor surgery, such as laceration repair.
Chiropractors work in small towns and large cities. With a Doctor of Chiropractic degree, a person may choose to open their own practice or work with other alternative health practitioners in small or large offices. Chiropractors may be mobile, providing treatment in patients’ homes or offices. Some chiropractors work part-time though most work full-time in offices. Some are self-employed.
People must have a DC to be chiropractors. Someone can become a chiropractic assistant with less education, but only people with a doctorate degree can call themselves chiropractors. Chiropractors must also obtain a license in the state they wish to practice. States have different requirements for licensure and some chiropractic schools may not provide the education required. Schools that are accredited through major professional organizations, including the American Chiropractic Assocation and the International Chiropractic Association, generally provide what students need to become licensed. However, some schools are tailored to meet the requirements for the state in which they reside. Students should check the requirements of their state before applying to a chiropractic school.
Chiropractors must also engage in continuing education to keep and renew their licenses. Many schools offer continuing education opportunities.
Chiropractors make less money than conventional healthcare practitioners, but more than most people who offer alternative healthcare. The median pay in 2010 was $67,200 per year and $32.31 per hour, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Chiropractic is a growing field with good growth and employment opportunities. There were 52,600 chiropractic jobs in 2010. The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates a growth rate of 28 percent through 2020 leading to an additional 14,900 jobs available.
Chiropractic schools cover more than just how to perform spinal manipulations. Programs include instruction in physiology, chemistry, anatomy and business practices.
Most chiropractic schools only consider applicants who meet the standard admission requirements, which include completion of 90 semester credits or 135 quarter hours of postsecondary education. Schools require a minimum cumulative grade point average of 2.5 or higher for admission into a DC program.
There are many schools that teach chiropractic programs but only a few that are accredited by professional organizations including the International Chiropractic Association (ICA) and the American Chiropractic Association (ACA).
Life University is an ACA and ICA accredited chiropractic school located in Marietta, Georgia. Students of Life University frequently obtain scores among the top 10 from the National Board of Chiropractic Examiners. The DC program at Life University covers all aspects of chiropractic training and includes instruction in running a successful business.
The Life University DC program requires a minimum of 3.5 years to complete if attending courses full-time, which is defined at 14 credits per quarter. The cost of tuition is $287 per credit plus a $249 fee per quarter. The college also offers a Master’s of Science (MS) in Health Promotion in addition to a Bachelor’s of Science degree (BS) and an Associates Degree (AA) that prepare students for enrollment in a doctorate program.
Cleveland Chiropractic College
Cleveland Chiropractic College is one of the oldest non-profit chiropractic colleges in the United States. It is an ICA and ACA accredited school. Cleveland Chiropractic College is located near Kansas City, Missouri on a 34-acre campus in Overland Park.
The DC program at Cleveland Chiropractic College includes instruction in spinal and extremity adjusting techniques as well as how to advise patients on lifestyle modifications, such as diet and exercise.
The college offers a 10-trimester and a 12-trimester Doctor of Chiropractic program. The total cost of each program is $91,500.00 for tuition. This does not include cost of living or additional fees. The 10-trimester program generally takes more than three years to complete. However, some students may be able to graduate more quickly.
Some students may qualify for an abbreviated prerequisite coursework if they meet additional requirements. An enrollment specialist at the college determines eligibility.
The college also offers an AA in Biological Sciences, a BS in Human Biology and a MS in Health Promotion. The BS in Human Biology can be earned at the same time as the DC degree.
D’Youville College was established in Buffalo, New York in 1908. It is accredited by the ACA and
the Middle States Association. It was the second college in the US to offer chiropractic training in a traditional college setting.
The D’Youville College offers students two options for pursuing a chiropractic degree. Students can enroll in a four-year DC program after completing an undergraduate program at another school. Alternatively, students can attend a seven-year program at D’Youville College that includes a BS in biology and a DC.
The DC program at D’Youville College gives students the opportunity to get experience working in variety of clinical settings, which includes a multidisciplinary clinic where chiropractors treat patients next to surgeons and physical therapists. The BS and DC combined degree program gives students a strong foundation of chiropractic theory and research in addition to the clinical practice opportunities. It also includes a liberal arts base. Students shorten their overall time in school because 28 credits in biological sciences apply to both the BS and DC degrees.
Admission requirements for the combined program include:
- A GPA of 2.75 or higher in high school
- Ranking in the upper half of graduating class
- Combined math and verbal SAT scores of 1,000
- Composite ACE score of at least 21
D’Youville College costs $10,965 per semester for chiropractic professional level courses and $875 per credit for their DC program.
Life Chiropractic College West
Life Chiropractic College West offers a Doctor of Chiropractic degree program in Hayward, California. The school is accredited by the ACA and ICA. Their DC program emphasizes chiropractic technique and philosophy, offering both an academic foundation and opportunities to work in a clinical environment. The main focus of the program is preparing students to work as primary healthcare providers. Students are taught how to evaluate, consult, refer and treat patients.
The DC program is set up for students to complete within either 12 or 14 quarters. Some students may take longer but are encouraged to complete the program in either the regular or extended time frame.
The tuition for the DC program is $7,550 per quarter or $377.50 per credit hour. Students who are enrolled in fewer than 20 units must pay by the credit hour.
Logan College of Chiropractic/University Programs
Logan College of Chiropractic/University Programs has a DC program accredited by the ACA. The campus is located in Chesterfield, Missouri. Their DC program teaches two core chiropractic techniques: the Logan basic technique and the specific diversified technique. The college also teaches 10 elective chiropractic techniques, including:
- Activator Methods
- Active Release Technique
- Applied Kinesiology
- Flexion-Distraction Technique
- Gonstead System
- Graston and Soft Tissue Techniques
- Sacro Occipital Technic
- Soft Tissue Technique
- Thompson Technique
- Upper Cervical Specific
The DC program requires a minimum of 10 trimesters. The full-time cost for tuition is $8,750 per 15-week trimester.
Logan has two master’s degrees programs. Students can obtain an MS in Sports Science and Rehabilitation and an MS in Nutrition and Human Performance. The college also offers two undergraduate programs: a BS in Human Biology and a BS in Life Science.
National University of Health Sciences
National University of Health Sciences was founded in 1906 and currently has two campuses in the US, including the Illinois campus and the Florida campus. The Illinois campus is located in Lombard and the Florida campus is based out of St. Petersburg but has multiple locations. The school is accredited by the ACA. National University offers a DC degree at both campuses.
The National University program prepares students for a career as a primary care physician. Their program emphasizes conservation healthcare.
The DC program teaches a variety of chiropractic techniques in their diversified technique curriculum. Students learn more than 100 physical manipulations as part of the diversified curriculum, including the flexion-distraction technique. The flexion-distraction technique involves use of a unique precision table that moves vertically and circularly for the purpose of releasing pressure from the spinal discs and restoring range of motion. National University has six Zenith Coz tables and 12 manual flexion tables for student use.
The DC degree program at National University is taught in three phases:
- Phase I – Students learn basic sciences, which includes a year of human dissection
- Phase II – Students learn how to diagnose and treat patients, including how to perform joint manipulations and other holistic healing techniques
- Phase III – Students learn through working at an internship
National University requires a baccalaureate degree for admission into their DC. It is the only chiropractic institution with that requirement. The tuition is $9,329 per trimester or $397 per credit hour at both campuses. The DC program is 10 trimesters long.
New York Chiropractic College
New York Chiropractic College is an ACA accredited school in Seneca Falls, New York. Students at this school are trained to become primary care physicians though a 10 trimester DC program. Each trimester is 15 weeks long. Students must complete all 10 trimesters, including an internship, to earn a DC from New York Chiropractic College. The program takes a minimum of three years and four months. Some students may not be able to complete the program by attending 10 consecutive trimesters with a full course load. The program must be completed within seven years from matriculation.
The New York Chiropractic College emphasizes treatment of neuromusculoskeletal conditions. Training is given on the art, science and philosophy of chiropractic care.
The academic program at this school offers a dual degree combining chiropractic with either:
- Applied Clinical Nutrition
- Human Anatomy and Physiology Instruction
- Oriental Medicine
The cost of the program is $19,812 per two trimesters with the complete cost of the DC program, including tuition and fees, priced at $102,460.
Northwestern Health Sciences University
Students can obtain a DC degree from Northwestern Health Sciences University in 3.5 years. The school is located in Bloomington, Minnesota and is accredited by the ACA. Students can also earn a BS in Human Biology while pursuing their DC degree. The program is 10 semesters long, which includes seven 15-week long trimesters and three 17-week trimesters. Coursework for the BS degree is taken during the sixth, seventh, eighth and ninth trimesters.
The Northwestern Health Sciences University DC includes training on imaging technology, business and diagnosing patients in addition to chiropractic treatment. Diagnostic skills are taught during six trimesters. Information on treating special populations, such as children, older adults and pregnant women, is given in the program. The business courses include everything students need to run their own practice, such as training in finance and marketing. Students learn how to run office visits, set goals, improve communication skills and network.
The cost of the program is $9,425 each for the first nine trimesters and $9,225 for the tenth trimester.
Palmer College of Chiropractic
Palmer College of Chiropractic is an ACA and ICA accredited school with three campuses in the US. Palmer college has a main campus, the Davenport campus, plus campuses in Florida and California. All three campuses award DC degrees.
Students are prepared for careers as primary contact health care providers. The DC program includes hand-on learning in a classroom setting as well as instruction in clinical settings. Students can also learn about chiropractic research at the Palmer Center for Chiropractic Research. The DC program emphasizes the relationship between the spinal column and nervous system as well as how people’s health is affected by the degree to which the two systems function well together.
The Davenport campus is located in Davenport, Iowa. The DC program costs $9,950 per trimester for full-time students. A full course load is between 26 and 32 credit hours. It takes 10 trimesters to complete the program for full-time students. Students who take fewer credit hours pay $383 per credit hour. Students may take more than 32 credit hours at a cost of $383 per credit hour.
In addition to the DC program, the Davenport campus of Palmer College of Chiropractic offers an Associate of Science in Chiropractic Technology degree program. The campus also has a BS in General Science program, an MS in Clinical Research program, and post graduate programs, which include:
- Certified Chiropractic Sports Physicians
- Certified Chiropractic Wellness Specialist
- Diplomate American Chiropractic Board of Sports Physicians
- Diplomate in Clinical Chiropractic Pediatrics
- Electrodiagnostics Certificate Program
The Florida campus is located in Port Orange, Florida. The DC program is taught in quarters. The tuition cost per quarter is $7,535 for students enrolled in 27 to 35 credit hours. Full-time students complete the DC program in 13 quarters. Students who take fewer than 27 credit hours, or more than 35 credit hours, must pay $280 per credit hour.
The West campus is located in San Jose, California. The DC program is taught in quarters. Full-time students enrolled in 24 to 31 credit hours can obtain their degree in 13 quarters. The price for full-time students is $7,430 per quarter. Students taking fewer than 24 credit hours, or more than 31 hours, pay $310 per credit hour
Parker University College of Chiropractic
Parker University has a College of Chiropractic and School of Massage Therapy in Dallas, Texas. Their DC program is ACA and ICA accredited. In addition to their DC and massage therapy programs, Parker University offers a BS in Anatomy and a BS in Health and Wellness.
Students at Parker University are required to learn five chiropractic techniques. These include:
- Diversified Technique – The diversified technique is the most common chiropractic technique. It is also known as a high velocity low amplitude technique. Students learn through lab work and lectures, though the time spent on this technique is mainly hands-on in a lab.
- Activator Technique – The Activator technique addresses the whole spine and utilizes a system to analyze body mechanics to make diagnoses. The technique employs a hand-held instrument called an Activator to make adjustments for the correction of subluxations. The Activator technique is known for its beliefs on when to adjust and when not to adjust patients. • Gonstead Technique – The Gonstead technique addresses the entire spine. The technique uses a specific protocol and Gonstead tables. Students learn diagnostic procedures in addition to treatment applications.
- Thompson Technique – The Thompson technique uses the assistance of the Thompson table to adjust the full spine. Students learn the specific adjustments and diagnostic protocols, including leg length checks and patient position.
- Extra Spinal Analysis and Technique – Students learn the basics of detecting and correcting extra-spinal subluxations.
Parker University also offers a number of elective techniques, including:
- Activator II
- Applied Kinesiology Technique
- Diversified II
- Flexion-Distraction Technique
- Gonstead II
- Sacro Occipital Technique
- Upper Cervical Technique
The school also gives students the chance to learn three selective techniques that are not used in wellness clinics, including:
- Chiropractic Biophysics
- Neuro Emotional Technique
The cost of the DC program is $9,308 per trimester for students taking at least 16 credit hours. People who are enrolled in fewer credits pay $365 per credit hour. The program is 10 trimesters long. Prerequisites for entrance into the DC program include an official transcript and a 2.75 minimum grade point average. Starting in January 2013, students must have a 3.0 GPA for acceptance into the DC program.
Sherman College of Chiropractic
Sherman College of Chiropractic is an ACA and ICA accredited school in Spartanburg, South Carolina. An education at Sherman College prepares students for careers as chiropractors who are able to provide safe, affordable and effective family-oriented chiropractic care. The program prepares students for careers as primary care givers with a specialization in vertebral subluxation.
The DC program is longer than most. It requires more than 14 quarters of coursework, which takes a minimum of 3.5 years to complete. The first six quarters are devoted to basic sciences and philosophy, with coursework in the body systems, anatomy, diagnostic procedures and adjustment techniques. The remainder of the program includes clinical practice. The cost of the program is $6,703 per quarter, which results in an annual tuition of $26,812.
Students must have a minimum GPA of 2.7 to apply to Sherman College. Transfer students from other chiropractic schools must have a minimum 2.25 GPA. The average GPA of prospective students at Sherman College is 3.0.
Southern California University of Health Sciences
Southern California University of Health Sciences in Whittier, California is home to the ACA accredited Los Angeles College of Chiropractic. The university also has a School of Professional Studies and College of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine.
The chiropractic program focuses on teaching students to become self-directed learners. Students attend lectures and labs as well as learning activities like standardized patient experiences.
Students may pursue a DC degree as well as take classes in the Massage program, Ayurveda program, Acupuncture program and Integrated Science program.
The university offers continuing education and specialty training to chiropractic students as well. Students can become eligible for specialty board certification in areas, such as:
- Diagnostic Imaging
- Family Practice
- Sports Medicine
The cost of full-time enrollment in the DC program is $9,386 per trimester. The program is 10 trimesters long with a total of 239 units. Students who pursue a dual degree in the DC program plus a Master of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine pay $11,723 per trimester.
Texas Chiropractic College
Texas Chiropractic College is an ACA accredited school in Pasadena, Texas. The school offers a DC degree program in 10 trimesters. The program prepares students to diagnose, evaluate, treat and communicate with patients. The college reports that according to a recent survey, around 90 percent of graduates either obtained employment at existing practices or opened their own practices within one year of graduation.
The cost of attending the DC program full-time, defined as 12 or more credit hours, is $9,575 per trimester. The fee for part-time enrollment of fewer than 12 credit hours is $798 per credit hour.
DC also have the option of enrolling in a joint-degree program with the University of Houston-Clear Lake to obtain both a DC degree and a MS in Fitness and Human Performance.
The minimum GPA for admittance is 2.5 but will increase to 2.6 in 2012, 2.7 in 2013 and 3.0 in 2014.
University of Bridgeport College of Chiropractic
The University of Bridgeport College of Chiropractic was founded in 1990 in Bridgeport, Connecticut. The school was the first in the US to offer a university-based chiropractic program. The DC program is accredited by the ACA and is offered only to full-time students. Part-time students are not allowed in the DC program.
The University of Bridgeport College of Chiropractic operates based on the philosophies that the body is an integrated unit and that the neuromusculoskeletal systems is able to affect how the body functions, and vice versa. The DC promises to turn students into competent chiropractors who can provide humanistic care, diagnostic services and conservative therapeutic methods to promote health and wellness.
Students can finish the program, which includes a clinical internship at medical centers in four years. The program comprises eight semesters, each 18-weeks long. Students receive summers off after the first and second years.
The tuition for students taking 14 or more credits is $11,800 per semester. Per credit hour, tuition costs $700. As part of the DC program, students receive certifications, including:
- Graston Technique Module 1 Certification
- Optogate Certification
- Better, Faster Stronger Certification
- Sole Support Orthotics Certification
The University of Bridgeport has many additional programs for various undergraduate and graduate degrees.
University of Western State
The University of Western States is based in Portland, Oregon. The ACA accredited DC program prepares students for careers as chiropractic physicians and primary care physicians. Graduates are able to provide hands-on physical manipulations, mobilization procedures and advice on nutrition, exercise and rehabilitation.
The DC program at the University of Western States comprises 12 quarters and takes four years to complete. Students can take longer but must complete their program within six years of matriculation. The cost of the program is $25,323 per academic year, which is defined as three quarters.
The university also offers training in massage therapy as well as a BS in Human Biology, an MS in Exercise and Sports Science, and an MS in Nutrition and Functional Medicine. Students in the DC program can earn a BS in Human Biology in the first five quarters of the program.
Different Types of Chiropractors
Obtaining a Doctor of Chiropractic degree allows people to perform many different chiropractic functions. Some people use their degree to teach at chiropractic schools. Other people primarily focus on chiropractic research. Not all chiropractors treat patients, though most open their own practices.
Within the chiropractic field there are several different types of practitioners. Some chiropractors prescribe to a treatment protocol and philosophy that involves only the cervical spine in the neck. Other chiropractors address the entire length of the spine while some look at the body as a whole. Some people use their hands to perform joint manipulations. Other practitioners prefer to use an instrument called an Activator to make adjustments on their patients.
Even the services that chiropractors offer in their offices varies. Some clinics stick to mainly chiropractic adjustments but others utilize massage, electrical stimulation, cold therapy, heat therapy and other techniques to treat patients.
When searching for a chiropractic school people should consider what techniques they want to learn and what type of chiropractor they wish to be. Many chiropractors specialize in particular areas of treatment and use specific titles, such as:
- Acupuncturist and Chiropractor
- Animal Chiropractor
- Chiropractic Radiologist
- Chiropractic Researcher
- Pediatric Chiropractor
- Primary Care Chiropractor
- Sports Chiropractor
- Wellness Chiropractor
Experts say that this is an opportune time to enter the chiropractic field. Chiropractic care is in demand and interest is growing. In 2010, CNN & “Money” magazine ranked chiropractor as the fourteenth best profession and the Department of Labor states that demand for chiropractors is growing more quickly than the average occupation.
Elderly people are seeking chiropractic care for increased stability and mobility. Younger people are turning more to chiropractic care as well for noninvasive, drug-free treatment. The significant time investment and cost associated with obtaining a DC degree is offset by the opportunities and freedom offered by a profession in the field of chiropractic care.