careertrend article image
human image by Byron Moore from

The Education Required to Become a Chiropractor

Growth Trends for Related Jobs

Chiropractors are primary care physicians who specialize in diagnosing and treating health problems of the human musculoskeletal system in association with the nervous system. Chiropractors do not perform surgery or prescribe drugs, but use non-invasive techniques, such as manual adjustment, hot and cold therapies, ultrasound, massage, acupuncture and supports, such as braces and straps. The educational and training path to becoming a chiropractor is rigorous and demanding. You must first earn a certain amount of undergraduate credits, attend a four-year doctor of chiropractic program, pass national board exams and become state licensed.

Undergraduate Education

Before attending an accredited doctor of chiropractic program (DCP), you must meet the application qualifications of the specific program you want to attend. According to the Council on Chiropractic Education (CCE) you must complete at least 90 semester hour credits and maintain a GPA of at least 2.50 out of 4.00. Of the 90 hours, at least 48 hours need to be of the following six distribution areas; English, psychology, social sciences or humanities, biological sciences, chemistry and physics. Most students obtain a bachelor’s degree before they enter a chiropractic school.

Council on Chiropractic Education (CCE)

According to the American Chiropractic Association, as of early 2010, the CCE has accredited 18 chiropractic institutions in the United States. The CCE is recognized by the U.S. Secretary of Education for setting guidelines and standards to ensure students receive quality chiropractic education. Before applying to a chiropractic school, you need to make sure it is accredited by the CCE. Because the CCE does not rank or rate chiropractic programs, you must choose what school meets your personal requirements.

Doctor of Chiropractic Program

According to the CCE, all students of chiropractic programs must complete at least 4,200 hours of credits involving work in the classroom, laboratory and clinical setting. Most programs take four to five years to complete. The first two years of study involve laboratory and classroom work in broad science-related classes such as anatomy, pathology and physiology. The next two to three years involve taking more advanced courses in a clinical and laboratory setting, such as spinal manipulation, neurology, orthopedics and nutrition. Also, your overall education involves at least a one-year internship at a college clinic.


After graduation from an accredited chiropractic school, you must the pass the four-part national board examination administered by the National Board of Chiropractic Examiners and become licensed in your state. State licensure requirements vary by state, thus, it is important to research your state’s rules. Further, some states only recognize part of the national exam and may require you to take their chiropractic exam in addition to the National Board’s test. Also, it is important to know the number of hours of continual education you must obtain annually to maintain your license.

Post-Graduate Education

After you receive your degree for Doctor of Chiropractic (DC), you may want to continue your education. You will take exams to receive a “diplomate” status in a specific chiropractic field, such as orthopedics, radiology, neurology and sports injuries. Many post-graduate programs are available at accredited chiropractic schools and can take one to three years to complete. Also, many of these programs have flexible scheduling in which you can continue your active practice while you study.

2016 Salary Information for Chiropractors

Chiropractors earned a median annual salary of $67,520 in 2016, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. On the low end, chiropractors earned a 25th percentile salary of $47,460, meaning 75 percent earned more than this amount. The 75th percentile salary is $96,770, meaning 25 percent earn more. In 2016, 47,400 people were employed in the U.S. as chiropractors.