Education and Training Requirements

High School

To become a doctor of chiropractic (DC), you will have to study a minimum of six to seven years after high school. Preparing for this profession is just as demanding as preparing to be a medical doctor, and the types of courses you will need are also similar. Science classes, such as biology, chemistry, physics, and psychology, will prepare you for medical courses in college. Figure drawing may give you a better sense of the human anatomy. English, speech, drama, and debate can sharpen the communication skills that are essential for this profession. Math, business, and computer classes can help you get ready to run a private practice.

Postsecondary Training

Most chiropractic colleges require at least two years of undergraduate study before you can enroll. Some require a bachelor's degree. Currently, 21 institutions in the United States, Canada, and New Zealand have chiropractic programs that are accredited by the Council on Chiropractic Education (CCE). Visit for a list of schools. Find out which chiropractic colleges interest you and learn about their requirements. Selecting chiropractic schools well in advance will allow you to structure your undergraduate study to meet the requirements of the schools of your choice. Some chiropractic colleges provide opportunities for prechiropractic study and bachelor's degree programs. In general, you need course work in biology, communications, English, chemistry, physics, psychology, and social sciences or humanities. Contact the national professional associations listed at the end of this article for information about schools and their requirements.

Upon completing the required undergraduate work and enrolling in a chiropractic college, you can expect to take an array of science and medical courses, such as anatomy, pathology, and microbiology. The postgraduate degree program usually takes about four years to complete. The typical curriculum includes a minimum of 4,200 hours of classroom, laboratory, and clinical internship instruction. The American Chiropractic Association says that the average DC program provides the equivalent in classroom hours to those required by allopathic and osteopathic medical schools. During the first two years of most chiropractic programs you will spend a majority of your time in the classroom or the laboratory. The last two years generally focus on courses in spinal adjustments. During this time, potential chiropractors also train in outpatient clinics affiliated with the college. Upon successful completion of the professional degree program, you will receive the DC degree.

Certification, Licensing, and Special Requirements

Certification or Licensing

All 50 states and the District of Columbia require that chiropractors have graduated from an accredited Doctor of Chiropractic program and pass an examination to obtain a license to practice. The exams may be specific to the state or one administered by the National Board of Chiropractic Examiners or both. Educational requirements and types of practice for which a chiropractor may be licensed vary from state to state. Some states will accept all or part of the National Board of Chiropractic Examiners' test given to fourth-year chiropractic students in place of a state exam. Most states require that chiropractors take continuing education courses each year to keep their licenses.

Other countries that recognize and regulate chiropractic include Canada, Mexico, Great Britain, Australia, Japan, and Switzerland.

Experience, Skills, and Personality Traits

While the career requires three to four years of undergraduate education followed by a four-year Doctor of Chiropractic (D.C.) degree program, no on-the-job training or work experience is required to start, although experience in massage or working with patients in a hospital, doctor's office, or old age home can help.

Perhaps the most important personal requirement for any health care professional is the desire to help people and to promote wholeness and health. To be a successful chiropractor, you need good listening skills, empathy, and understanding. As a doctor of chiropractic, you will also need a good business sense and the ability to work independently. Especially sharp observational skills are essential in order for you to recognize physical abnormalities. Good hand dexterity and stability and multilimb coordination is necessary to perform the spinal adjustments and other manipulations. While you do not need unusual overall strength, you do need adequate trunk strength, which includes the ability to use your abdominal and lower back muscles to support part of the body repeatedly or continuously over time without fatiguing to perform these spinal adjustments and other manipulations.