I am often asked by patients, and those unfamiliar with chiropractic, how long it takes to become a chiropractor. They are usually shocked when I tell them that it take three and a half years of chiropractic school after an undergraduate degree. Most usually think that its a few weekend classes or a year of school at the most. I’m writing this blog post so that the public can better understand exactly how long it takes to become a licensed Doctor of Chiropractic.
After obtaining an undergraduate degree, students begin their first year of chiropractic school with three semesters of health science courses. The first year courses in chiropractic school are very similar to the first year classes in medical school. These health science courses include human anatomy, including cadaver dissection, neuro and spinal anatomy, biochemistry, microbiology and multiple pathology courses. In addition to these classes, students also take multiple human biomechanics and physiology courses, courses teaching how to take a proper history, as well as their first adjusting class.
In the second year of chiropractic school, classes transition from basic science courses to a more clinical emphasis. These classes include, physical examination and multiple orthopedic and radiology courses. In addition, classes in dermatology, pediatrics, geriatrics, neurology, psychology and an introduction to pharmacology. During this year, a number of courses involve spinal and extremity adjusting technique.
The third year in chiropractic school begins with a semester interning in the student clinic. During this time, students treat fellow students who are beginning their chiropractic education. For the final year of chiropractic school, students treat the public in an outpatient clinic. Under the supervision of a licensed chiropractor, interns must treat a minimum of 250 patients.
In addition to these adjustments, interns must also perform at least 20 physical therapy/rehabilitation treatments. As an intern, they also must complete a radiology rotation where they take and interpret x-rays with a licensed radiologist. In addition to interning, students complete their course work with classes in emergency procedures, ethics, case management, and physical medicine and rehabilitation.
Becoming Board Certified
Throughout chiropractic school, students are required to take and pass a number of national board exams. The first three parts of the exams are broken into thirteen tests that cover almost every subject taught in chiropractic school.
The final part is a practical exam that covers radiology, orthopedics, history taking, neurology and adjusting. In addition to each of these national board exams, a chiropractor must also pass a state board exam for the state they wish to practice in. These exams vary from state to state.