The Ultimate Guide to Choosing a Chiropractic School
How to find the best chiropractic school for you
Deciding to become a doctor of chiropractic (DC) is a major life choice, and one that shouldn’t be entered into lightly. However, once you’ve made the commitment to this career which helps others achieve higher levels of musculoskeletal health, your decision-making process doesn’t stop there.
You also have to figure out where to go to school to earn the degree necessary to engage in this type of profession. But why does the school itself matter?
Why chiropractic school of choice matters
In an editorial published by The New York Times, author Jacques Steinberg points out how “one prominent study found that graduates of the most selective colleges can earn, on average, as much as 40 percent more than alumni of the least selective public universities.”
Steinburg did note that these types of studies tend to be dated and fail to consider other factors associated with earning a degree (such as cost), further opening the post for comments from the readers, many of which stated that the school attended has at least some type of impact on future success.
For instance, many commenters talked about the environment at top schools and how it affects a student’s attitude and drive, ultimately impacting the person’s life (and career) post-college.
Case in point: a woman who attended a well-known and prestigious school said, “The people I met at those places were amazing-talented, driven, high-achievers. It pushed me to do my best.”
Factors to consider when choosing the best chiropractic school for you
Because everyone’s idea of what constitutes a “top school” is different, you must often do the research on your own to help you decide not only which chiropractic school is the best, but, perhaps more importantly, which one is the best for you.
Here are some factors to consider when looking at each one:
- School accreditation: Before spending your hard-earned cash on a chiropractic degree, you want to make sure the school you attend is accredited, which means that it is recognized officially within the profession. The Council on Chiropractic Education (CCE) has a list of CCE accredited programs and institutions on their website, so you might want to check it out before you narrow your choices.
- Graduation Rate: The Open Education Database (OEDb) says that a school’s graduation rate “is an indicator of success of a college’s student in attaining their educational goals.” Therefore, attending a college with a higher graduation rate means that more students are able to achieve their education-based objectives, increasing the odds that you will do the same. Some of the top schools, according to OEDb stats, have graduation rates of 80 percent or more.
- School Location: Chiropractic classes differ from those offered in many other fields in that labs are a big portion of the required coursework. This makes location of the school an important consideration as you’ll be spending a decent amount of time on campus. While this may not be a big deal if you’re fresh out of high school or able to move to attend the school of your choice, it may limit your choices more if you’re established in your current geographical area and unable to relocate for school-related reasons.
- School cost. Another factor to consider when looking at chiropractic schools is cost. After all, if it doesn’t fit into your budget, there’s no sense in keeping it on your list. This requires looking not only at total expenses if you choose that particular school, but also financial aid opportunities that are available. A phone call or visit to its financial aid office can help you decide whether you can afford that specific program or not.
- Student feedback. Certainly, you can find pros and cons about most any chiropractic school, but sometimes it’s nice to hear from current and former students to get their input on how they feel about the school itself. One way to do this is to talk to chiropractors in your area and ask about the school they went too. You can also search via online college review sites that offer these types of comments, a couple of which include StudentsReview and College Times.
Choosing the right chiropractic school can help you better achieve your professional goals. Looking at all of these factors places you one step closer to selecting the best one for you.
Chiropractic School Requirements
At last report, Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) indicated that there were 45,200 chiropractors in the U.S. alone. To help you put this number in perspective, Statista reports that there are currently 1.04 million total doctors of medicine in the U.S. This means that for every 23 doctors practicing some type of medicine, there is only one chiropractor.
The BLS also shares that this particular profession is expected to grow a whopping 17 percent between the years of 2014 and 2024. This is a rate that they report as being “much faster” than the national average, which is a mere 7 percent (less than half) for all occupations combined.
That makes it a great time to get into the field of chiropractic as many people will be looking for these types of services in the years to come. However, prior to being accepted into chiropractic school in order to become a top-notch doctor who focuses on musculoskeletal issues and health, there are certain requirements, or prerequisites, you must meet.
Here are a few to consider:
- Previously earned educational credits. Depending on which chiropractic school you plan to attend, you’ll likely find that you need a minimum number of credit hours to even apply. How many? The Association of Chiropractic Colleges (ACC) reports that “most chiropractic programs require that applicants have at least three years of undergraduate education.” They go on to say that “an increasing number require a bachelor’s degree,” which is traditionally a four-year degree program.
- Coursework in life and physical sciences. It’s also important to note that these three required years of study—which equates to roughly 90 semester hours—must include a certain number of classes in the science and humanities areas, according to the ACC. The current amount is 24 semester hours. This means that roughly one-quarter of the classes that you take prior to entering the chiropractic program must be science or humanities-related. Keep this in mind when creating your course schedule so you have the correct classes prior to submitting your application.
- Minimum cumulative GPA. To qualify for entrance into a chiropractic program, the ACC also says that, effective January 2014, your cumulative grade point average (GPA) must be a 3.00 or higher. If you’re not sure exactly what this means, College Board breaks it down into easy-to-understand terms by saying that this is the equivalent of having a “B” average, or an 83 to 86 percent, in all of your classes combined. But there are individual class requirements as well.
- Minimum GPA in specific, individual courses. According to the ACC, your GPA cannot fall below a 2.00 (which College Board notes is a “C” grade, or a 73 to 76 percent) in the individual classes you take which are related specifically to English, psychology, and social sciences. The same is true for science classes with corresponding labs, which includes those in the areas of biological sciences, chemistry, and physics.
- Lab experience. Gaining access to chiropractic school also requires that you’ve spent some time in the lab, according to the ACC. A minimum of six semester hours in chemistry courses is necessary for admittance, and there are also requirements in regard to labs associated with physics classes (you need at least two) and biological sciences as well.
While the ACC spells out these requirements for admittance into most any chiropractic school, it’s important to remember that each individual institution sets its own guidelines regarding what prerequisites are necessary for application and admittance into the chiropractic program.
Therefore, you’ll want to check with your school of choice specifically to make sure you meet the minimum requirements for that one in particular.
What's the difference between a chiropractic school and a chiropractic college?
Before you can pursue your dream of practicing chiropractic care, you must first obtain your doctor of chiropractic (DC) degree. One option for doing such is to earn this higher level of education by attending a chiropractic school. The other is to enroll in and graduate from a chiropractic college.
But what’s the difference?
Degree program offering
For starters, a chiropractic school is a college or university that offers a DC degree, but also offers other degree programs as well.
For example, Parker University in Dallas offers on-campus programs that enable you to earn your degree in chiropractic, but it also offers degrees in diagnostic sonography, massage therapy, radiologic technology, and more.
On the other hand, Palmer College of Chiropractic—which has campuses in Davenport, Iowa; San Jose, California; and Port Orange, Florida—is a college that offers only degrees associated with the chiropractic profession.
In addition to the doctor of chiropractic (DC) degree, it also has programs which enable you to earn your Master of Science in Clinical Research, Bachelor of Science in General Science, and Associate of Applied Science in Chiropractic Technology, just to name a couple.
Obviously then, based on this factor alone, it’s easy to see that one of the major differences between a school and a college is its specialization (or lack thereof) in the chiropractic field. That’s not to say that chiropractic schools can’t offer a quality education when earning your DC degree. They can and they often do.
However, colleges that specialize in chiropractic and only chiropractic have more resources to put towards this field, making it easier to stay updated and current with what’s going on. Basically, because it is their only focus, all of their time and energy can be put toward staying abreast of the latest and greatest in chiropractic methods and research, which is much different than for schools, which must split their efforts among all of their available degree programs.
Another main difference between chiropractic schools and chiropractic colleges, other than specialization in this specific field, involves the time it takes you to earn your degree. If you go to a chiropractic school, for example, you’ll likely spend four years earning your Bachelor of Science (BS) degree and an additional four years earning your DC.
But if you go to a chiropractic college, you can potentially cut a year off your educational requirements, which means that you will graduate in seven years as opposed to eight. While this may not seem like a major length of time, the quicker you can start practicing, the sooner you can start helping your patients experience higher levels of health.
As Natural Healers points out, choosing a college that enables you to earn your DC degree in seven years instead of eight “can help you save time and some money.” A lot of money, in fact, as they also report that you’ll spend anywhere from $11,000 to $20,000 per year obtaining your DC degree.
Add to that the amount of money you stand to make your first year in practice (the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the 2015 median pay for chiropractors is $64,440 per year) and your bank account could increase versus decrease in size. And this is based solely on whether you choose to earn your DC degree by attending a chiropractic school versus a chiropractic college.
It’s important to stress that, while there are some benefits of attending a college that specializes in chiropractic, there are many reputable, top-notch schools that offer DC degrees.
Therefore, these are simply factors for you to consider when making your choice as to which type of institution to attend—factors that can help you make the best decision for you.
How long does chiropractic school take?
Deciding which career path to take is an important life decision, and one in which a number of factors generally come into play.
For instance, you must consider how much schooling costs and whether you can afford it, which schools are the best in your field of choice, and what type of degree is necessary to get wherever it is you want to be professionally.
And while all of these are definitely important considerations, it’s also necessary to realize that learning a new profession or trade often takes a significant time commitment as well. This is especially true if you’re considering working in chiropractic.
DC degrees and time
The Association of Chiropractic Colleges (ACC) reports that, “Accredited chiropractic programs last four years and lead to a chiropractic degree,” which is the degree required to offer patients chiropractic care. However, if you choose to get your Bachelor of Science (BS) degree before entering into a chiropractic program, that length of time can easily increase to seven years or more.
The reason schooling takes so long is the number of courses necessary to become proficient enough to offer chiropractic care. There are so many courses, in fact, that one comparison found that students of chiropractic have to spend more hours in the classroom than those enrolled in medical school.
Chiropractic school length versus medical school length
According to The Grisanti Report, a report created by Board Certified Chiropractic Orthopedist Ron Grisanti, chiropractic colleges require students to undergo 2,419 hours of instruction. This is 372 more hours than those mandated by a majority of medical schools across the nation. The areas of study are generally the same, yet each profession has different curriculum for each one.
For example, The Grisanti Report indicates that a chiropractic student spends approximately 456 hours studying anatomy and embryology, with medical school students requirements coming in at less than half that at 215 hours. Chiropractic students also spend more time in areas such as physiology, chemistry and biochemistry, diagnosis, X-ray, and orthopedics. Medical students, on the other hand, typically spend more hours learning pathology, neurology, psychology, and obstetrics and gynecology.
Advanced chiropractic degrees
Another option when it comes to earning your chiropractic degree is to pursue a higher level of education than that of DC. This involves attending a school that offers a master’s degree program in the chiropractic field.
For instances, some colleges offer a Master’s Degree in chiropractic sciences. Others provide the opportunity to earn your Master of Science in clinical research or a Master of Science in nutrition and human performance, just to name a couple.
Fortunately, there are many different routes you can take, each one leading to a satisfying career in chiropractic care, but they will also add more time to your educational endeavors. Generally speaking, you can expect an additional two years of study should you choose to pursue a master’s level degree program.
Continuing education requirements
In addition to the schooling required to earn your degree and certification in chiropractic, you must also consider the amount of time required annually earning your continuing education credits.
The number of continuing credits necessary is delegated by your individual state licensing board. For example, if you practice in Alabama, the Alabama State Board of Chiropractic Examiners dictates that you complete at least 18 hours per year in order to renew your chiropractic license.
If, on the other hand, your practice is in Michigan, the Michigan Public Health Code and Board administrative rules mandates 30 continuing education hours every two years.
Thus, not only will you be making a time commitment initially taking classes and earning your degree and license to practice, you must also spend time annually or bi-annually to keep your license and certification intact. This is something to keep in mind as well when deciding whether you have the time necessary to make chiropractic your field of choice.
How expensive is chiropractic school?
According to Student Loan Hero, the average 2016 college graduate will walk away with student loan debt in the amount of $37,172 in exchange for his or her degree. However, research says that students of chiropractic typically owe much more than that. Therefore, if your goal is to become a doctor of chiropractic (DC), it’s likely that the expense of schooling is a major concern.
Average chiropractic school cost
In early 2014, a study was published in the Journal of the Canadian Chiropractic Association that involved 250 students taking classes at a U.S.-based chiropractic school. Out of the 57 individuals who responded to the questionnaire request, “most” of them indicated that their student loans would total more than $125,000 by the time they graduated—more than three times the national average.
CostOwl.com, a website designed to help consumers “research average prices” on everything from schooling to healthcare plans to vehicles, confirms this in part. Based on their research of chiropractic educational institutions, they indicate tuition alone generally ranges between $10,000 and $30,000 annually for those in chiropractic school.
Taken over four years (the typical length of schooling for a DC), this adds up to as much as $120,000.
There are also the additional costs associated with schooling, such as books and lab expenses, which can increase your potential debt even more.
But this doesn’t mean that your dream of becoming a DC has to be squashed due to the financial commitment of schooling as there are many different ways to offset the costs.
Ways to help manage the costs
One option is to find and apply for financial assistance in the form of grants or scholarships as both of these involve receiving educational monies that don’t have to be paid back. Although some exceptions do apply, so it’s important to look at each individual one to learn about its stipulations upon receipt. This can either be done through the chiropractic school itself as many have financial aid offices, but it can also be accomplished by searching for available grants and scholarships yourself.
For instance, the U.S. Department of Labor has a website called CareerOneStop that enables you to search through “more than 7,500 scholarships, fellowships, grants, and other financial aid award opportunities.”
On it, you can locate forms of assistance available to you based on factors such as level of study, your geographical location, gender, and even affiliation or group requirements.
For each one, CareerOneStop provides a link to the individual award page, the award amount, and the deadline for application submission, making it easier than ever to locate and apply for and hopefully receive financial help for your chiropractic schooling.
There are also websites set up to help you obtain the tools you need to succeed in school, albeit at a lower cost. For example, Amazon offers textbook deals up to 80 percent off. Barnes & Noble sells used textbooks as well, or you can rent them from reputable, online resources such as Chegg.
Look around before purchasing any of these things new and you’ll likely find them at a reduced amount.
Offsetting costs after the fact
Another suggestion to help offset the costs, this one provided by Doctorly.org, is to “take business classes.” The premise behind this idea is that learning how to properly run your chiropractic business upon graduation will benefit you financially in the long run, making the costs associated with your degree more manageable. In this way, making the most of your education will result in a career path that is more than worth the debt you’ll accumulate to achieve it.
Similarly, Doctorly.org also says that it helps to become more active in your community. What they’re referencing is two-fold: Networking with other chiropractors to learn what they do to make their businesses more profitable and marketing to potential customers, growing your business to better support (and pay off) your education-based debt.
Follow these suggestions and the cost of education will likely be something you can more easily afford.
All stories written by Christina DeBusk