Chapter Three Chiropractors Are Well Qualified

Chiropractors Are Well Qualified

Time to Define

As more and more individuals seek alternatives to potentially harmful drugs or surgery, chiropractic has been gaining a lot of momentum. It is true that chiropractors do not prescribe medication, as this is not part of our model of health. The chiropractic wellness model is all about nervous system health. When the brain and spine have no communication barriers, no subluxations, then the body is working at its optimum level and many health issues can be eliminated or prevented.

   Words Defined: Doctor of Chiropractic

Chiropractic is the science, art and philosophy which utilizes the inherent recuperative abilities of the body and deals with the relationship between the spinal column and the nervous system and the role of this relationship in the restoration and maintenance of health.

The same is true concerning surgery. Chiropractors do not perform surgery as this is considered a last resort within our proactive model of healthcare. So, in this respect, a doctor of chiropractic is not a physician that works within the reactive “sickness” model, but chooses to help patients within a “wellness” model or paradigm.  Both a medical doctor (MD) and a doctor of chiropractic (DC) are indeed well educated with degrees from government accredited schools. The difference is in the way we look at health and healing.

Stat Fact

According to many sources, chiropractic is the second largest health care profession.

Doctors of Chiropractic deal with people, not diseases. We work to help each patient experience greater levels of health, vitality and improved bodily functions through maintaining or correcting nervous system integrity. Medical doctors have a completely different model and, therefore, have a completely different education to complement that model.  Both of these models have a place in our society. The medical doctor model is one of emergency and reactive situations. If you have a broken bone, are experiencing a heart attack, or are bleeding, then a medical doctor is the professional for you. However, if you are suffering from many types of chronic health issues or non-emergency aches or pains, then the chiropractic model may work best for you.

Thousands of Hours of Proof

A chiropractor is well educated, with an educational emphasis on science. In fact, the requirements to become a chiropractor are extremely rigorous and are as or more intense than many other healthcare professions. Being accepted to chiropractic school is no easy feat. To do so, a prospective chiropractor must have completed two to four years of undergraduate classes with an emphasis in science. This depends on the chiropractic college and the state where the student wishes to practice. This is similar to the requirements of medical students before entering medical school. Once accepted to the school, another four years of schooling is required and the focus on science continues. 

According to the Center for Studies in Health Policy, the sciences taken by doctors of chiropractic and medical doctors are as follows: 

Subject       Chiropractic Schools          Medical Schools

              Hours      % of Total        Hours     % of Total

Anatomy        570         40                368        10      

Biochemistry   150         11                120        10

Microbiology   120          8                120        10

Public Health   70          5                289        24

Physiology     305         21                142        12

Pathology      205         14                162        14

Total Hours  1,420        100              1,200       100

The first two years of chiropractic school consists of courses similar to the following:

  • Anatomy
  • Physiology
  • Public health
  • Microbiology
  • Pathology
  • Biochemistry

The later years are more specialized including such courses as:

  • Chiropractic philosophy and practice
  • Chiropractic diagnosis
  • Adjusting methods

Additionally, there is deeper training in anatomy, physiology, rehabilitation, nutrition, diagnosis, x-ray and a variety of therapeutic techniques that aren’t taught in other health care fields.

The purpose of the chiropractic education is to teach students to recognize and care for patients that are experiencing the effects of vertebral subluxations and disorders that are related to the neuromusculoskeletal system of the body. Students also learn how to adjust the spine so that the nervous system functions at its optimal level.   Chiropractic promotes the wellness model of health. The essence of chiropractic is that the body has the innate ability to heal itself and resist disease processes as long as it is functioning properly with no interference. Therefore, in addition to adjustment techniques, students learn a variety of other wellness ideals such as diet, exercise and nutrition.

It is true that the coursework is rigorous, but the student’s education does not end in the classroom. Students must spend hundreds of hours as an intern under professional supervision. The purpose of an internship is to ensure that those graduating with a doctor of chiropractic degree will have all the experience needed to provide safe and effective care to their patients.  Although some of the classes are different, DCs and MDs spend nearly the same number of hours in the classroom. Both MDs and DCs cannot practice without passing a licensing exam. And finally, to continue to practice, a chiropractor must take clinical continuing education classes. 

Let’s Talk About Accreditation

In the United States, there are 18 chiropractic colleges:

  • Cleveland Chiropractic College
  • Life Chiropractic College West
  • Palmer College of Chiropractic West
  • Southern California University of Health Sciences
  • University of Bridgeport, College of Chiropractic
  • Palmer College of Chiropractic Florida
  • Life University, College of Chiropractic, College of Arts and Sciences
  • National University of Health Sciences
  • Palmer Chiropractic University Iowa
  • Northwestern Health Sciences University
  • Cleveland Chiropractic College
  • Logan College of Chiropractic
  • D’Youville College, Chiropractic Program
  • New York Chiropractic College
  • Western States Chiropractic College
  • Sherman College for Straight Chiropractic 
  • Parker College of Chiropractic
  • Texas Chiropractic College 

More than 14,000 students attend these colleges each year.  Having 18 schools with a great enrollment does not, however, say anything about the quality of the education found inside the walls of the colleges.  That is where accreditation comes in.

Words Defined: Accreditation

The type of recognition held by an educational institution. There are a number of nationally recognized accrediting agencies and associations that are reliable authorities on the quality of training offered by educational institutions. For chiropractic, it is the Council on Chiropractic Education (CCE).

The Council on Chiropractic Education (CCE), a nonprofit organization and recognized by the U.S. Department of Education as the accrediting agency for chiropractic, has been setting the standards since 1974. The CCE sets standards not only for curriculum, but also for faculty, facilities, patient care and research. Additionally, admissions requirements of chiropractic colleges as well as licensing board requirements are highly influenced by the CCE standards.

For instance,

  • Undergraduate courses must include biology, chemistry, organic chemistry, physics, psychology, English and the humanities. All science courses must also have associated labs.
  • More and more states require a Bachelor’s degree in addition to a DC to practice. 

A License to Practice

Once a student finishes chiropractic college, they still have to get licensed to practice. Every state in the United States, along with 30 countries, license and regulate chiropractic.  State licensing boards do more than simply proctor the state licensure test. Among other things, they also regulate:

  • Education
  • Experience
  • Moral character
  • Protect health, safety and welfare

Words Defined: NBCE

The National Board of Chiropractic Examiners (NBCE), a not-for-profit organization, is the principal testing agency for the chiropractic profession. Established in 1963, the NBCE develops and administers standardized national examinations according to established guidelines.

Over the state licensing boards is the National Board of Chiropractic Examiners (NBCE), which was established in 1963. Similar to the National Board of Medical Examiners, the NBCE makes sure that state licensing boards are fair and consistent.   Additionally, the NBCE is in charge of the national board examination, which has to be passed in order to practice.   Let’s take a quick look at the exam. It is divided into four main sections:

  • Part I covers six basic science subjects – general anatomy, spinal anatomy, physiology, chemistry, pathology and microbiology.
  • Part II covers six clinical subjects – general diagnosis, neuromusculoskeletal diagnosis, diagnostic imaging, principles of chiropractic, chiropractic practice and associated clinical sciences.
  • Part III covers case history, physical examination, neuromusculoskeletal examination, roentgenologic examination, clinical laboratory and special studies examination, diagnosis or clinical impression, chiropractic techniques, supportive techniques and case management.
  • Part IV covers x-ray interpretation and diagnosis, chiropractic technique and case management skills.

After passing the NBCE exam a "Certificate of Attainment" is given, but chiropractors must still meet individual state or international requirements.

It Never Ends

A chiropractor’s education never ends. Once licensed, a chiropractor must take continuing education courses to keep up with the latest techniques. Such courses also help us keep our diagnostic skills sharp. Without these courses, a chiropractor would lose their license.  In addition to the mandated coursework, many doctors of chiropractic choose to complete postgraduate work. These programs last one to three years and include such areas of study as:

  • Orthopedics
  • Neurology
  • Radiology
  • Sports
  • Rehab
  • Nutrition
  • Pediatrics
  • Research

As you can see, doctors of chiropractic are highly educated. You can feel confident that when you choose to see a chiropractor, you are seeing someone who has been through intensive training and can understand your body through a model that is focused on correcting causes to ill health rather than just treating effects.


I began my chiropractic care when I was three months pregnant. I needed a drug free alternative to relieve chronic neck and back pain. Since I began seeing Dr. Rardin I no longer take pain pills or muscle relaxers. I continued with my chiropractic care after the birth of my daughter. I have never felt better. What a difference in my life Dr. Rardin has made!                            

- Rebecca B.