The Complete 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 isn’t entered into lightly.
However, once you’ve made the commitment to a career committed to helping others achieve higher levels of musculoskeletal health, your decision-making process doesn’t stop there.
You also have to decide where to go to school to earn the degree necessary to engage in this type of profession. Why does school matter?
Why chiropractic school of choice matters
One reason school of choice is important is future income potential.
For instance, one Nerd Wallet study found that the average income for those graduating from a top-20 undergraduate program was $61,424, whereas the average income for those graduating from all programs combined was $43,700. At almost $18,000 per year difference, over the course of a 40-year career, this could total almost $709,000 in earnings.
In an editorial published by The New York Times, author Jacques Steinberg notes that some of these types of studies fail to consider other factors associated with earning a degree, thus they cannot be taken on face value alone.
Yet, income potential aside, many readers responded to the editorial, sharing how school of choice has other impacts as well. For example, many commenters mentioned how it affects students’ attitude and drive, ultimately impacting the person’s life (and career) post-college.
One such commenter indicated that she attended a well-known, prestigious school and shared that her school helped her achieve more. Specifically, she wrote, “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, doing your own research can not only help you decide 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, it’s important 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. Check it out before narrowing your choices.
- Graduation Rate: The Open Education Database (OEDb) states 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 large portion of the required coursework. This makes school location an important consideration due to 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 if you’re established in your current geographical area and/or unable to relocate for school-related reasons.
- School cost. Another factor to consider when looking at chiropractic schools is cost. 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, but also financial aid opportunities available at that particular school. 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. 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. One way to do this is to talk to chiropractors in your area and ask about the schools they went to. You can also search via online college review sites such as StudentsReview and College Times.as they offer this type of feedback.
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 and prerequisites
At last report, Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) indicated that there were 47,400 chiropractors in the U.S. To put this number in perspective, Statista reports that there are currently 1.08 million doctors of medicine in the U.S. So, for every 23 practicing doctors, there is only one chiropractor.
The BLS also shares that this particular profession is expected to grow 12 percent between 2016 and 2026. This is a rate that is reported as being faster than the national average, which is currently around 7 percent for all occupations combined.
That makes now 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, there are certain requirements, or prerequisites, you must meet.
Here are a few to consider:
- Previously earned educational credits. The Association of Chiropractic Colleges (ACC) reports that “most chiropractic programs require that applicants have at least three years of undergraduate education.” It goes 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. The three years (roughly 90 semester hours) of study required for a chiropractic degree must include a certain number of classes in the science and humanities areas according to the ACC. The current amount is 24 semester hours.
- Minimum cumulative GPA. To qualify for entrance into a chiropractic program, the ACC reports that applicant’s cumulative grade point average (GPA) must be a 3.00 or higher. College Board breaks GPA 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.
- Lab experience. Gaining access to chiropractic school also requires that you’ve spent some time in the lab. In fact, out of the 24-semester hours in life and physical courses required, “at least half of these courses will have a substantive laboratory component” according to the ACC.
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 prerequisites necessary for application and admittance into its chiropractic program.
Therefore, it’s important to check with your school of choice specifically to ensure you meet its minimum application requirements.
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.
What’s the difference?
Though chiropractic school and college sound like the same thing, they are actually two very different entities.
Degree program offering
For starters, a chiropractic school is an educational institution that, in addition to offering a DC degree, offers additional, non-chiropractic degree programs as well.
For example, Parker University in Dallas, Texas offers an on-campus Doctor of Chiropractic program. However, students can earn other degrees at Parker, some of which include computer information systems, health information technology, massage therapy, diagnostic sonography, and more.
Palmer College of Chiropractic, on the other hand—which has campuses in Davenport, Iowa; San Jose, California; and Port Orange, Florida—is a chiropractic college because it offers only degrees associated with the chiropractic profession. For instance, in addition to the DC degree, students at Palmer can also earn a Bachelor of Science in General Science.
Colleges that specialize in chiropractic (and only chiropractic) have more resources to put toward this field, making it easier to stay updated and current with the latest advancements and innovations.
This is much different than for schools, as these entities must split their efforts—and their financial resources—among all of their available degree programs.
That’s not to say that chiropractic colleges are better than schools, as that isn’t necessarily the case. It is more so to point out that chiropractic colleges are often more specialized because that is their one and only area of expertise.
Another main difference between chiropractic schools and chiropractic colleges is the time it takes to earn your degree.
If you go to a chiropractic school, for example, you’ll likely spend four years earning a Bachelor of Science (B.S.) degree and an additional four years earning your DC.
However, if you go to a chiropractic college, you can potentially cut one full year off your educational requirements, which means graduating in seven years as opposed to eight.
Earning your DC degree in seven years instead of eight helps not only saves time, but also money as living expenses, books, and fees can cost as much as $25,000 per year according to CostHelper.
Add to that the amount of money you stand to make your first year in practice—the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the 2017 median pay for chiropractors is $68,640 per year—and that one year difference can put you almost $94,000 ahead.
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 to consider when deciding which type of institution to attend. Factors that can help you make the best decision for you.
Chiropractic school and college options
Chiropractic students are required to undergo 2,419 hours of instruction according to The Grisanti Report, which is 372 more hours than those mandated for students attending medical school.
Additionally, the areas of study are generally the same, yet each profession has different curriculum for each one. For example, chiropractic students spend approximately 456 hours studying anatomy and embryology, while medical school students only spend 215 hours on the same subject.
Chiropractic students also spend more time studying physiology, chemistry and biochemistry, diagnosis, x-ray, and orthopedics. Medical students, on the other hand, spend more hours learning pathology, neurology, psychology, and obstetrics and gynecology.
Currently, there are 15 educational institutions that offer chiropractic instruction and are accredited by the CCE. They are:
Chiropractic schools list
- Keiser University – West Palm Beach, Florida. The newest of chiropractic colleges, the doctor of chiropractic degree program at the Keiser University College of Chiropractic Medicine was awarded programmatic accreditation by The Council on Chiropractic Education in 2019. The DC degree program consists of 10 semesters of continuous study over 40 months, totaling 216 credit hours. More than 25% of this consists of clinical experience in a variety of settings.
- Cleveland University – Overland Park, Kansas. Cleveland University has an accelerated DC program that can be completed in 3.3 years, or 10 trimesters. Requirements include a 3.00 cumulative college GPA and 90 completed semester hours (includes 6 hours in English or communications, 3 hours psychology, 12 hours humanities and/or social sciences, and 24 hours life and physical sciences). Completion rate is 80.4 percent and tuition costs for the entire DC program total $114,375.
- D’Youville College – Buffalo, New York. D’Youville offers two different degree programs. One is a 7-year degree program which involves earning a B.S. degree in biology followed by the DC program and the second is the 3.5-year DC degree for those who have already completed their undergraduate work. To be admitted in the professional program, students must have completed 90 credit hours, at least 24 of which must be in life and physical sciences. They must also have a 3.0 GPA or higher (or a 2.5 GPA if you have more than 90 credit hours). The cost is $13,060 per semester or $816 per credit hour.
- Life University – Marietta, Georgia. This is a 4-year, 14-quarter program which requires that applicants have 90 completed semester credit hours (with 48 of those hours required in specific categories). You must also have a GPA of 3.0 or higher to be admitted, though those with a 2.75 will be considered. Cost of this program is $126,198 total, or $31,549.50 per year. First-year DC retention is 83 percent.
- Logan University – Chesterfield, Missouri. To be accepted at Logan University, a 3-year DC program, students must have a bachelor’s degree with 24 hours of life and physical science classes (half of which include labs) and a minimum GPA of 3.0. Tuition is $11,265 per trimester with additional fees related to technology, diagnostic kits, books, and more. However, beginning fall of 2018, the DC student with the highest GPA at the end of the third trimester is granted a scholarship covering the remainder of the program costs (though certain requirements must be maintained to continue to earn this benefit).
- National University of Health Sciences – Lombard, Illinois or Pinellas Park, Florida. Students can earn their DC degree from National University in 10 trimesters. This is a three-phase program with phase one covering basic sciences, phase two clinical sciences, and phase three clinical practice. To apply, you must have a 3.0 GPA (2.75 GPAs will be considered) and have completed 24 hours in life and physical sciences. You must also be able to document being immunized for tetanus, diphtheria, measles, rubella, and the mumps. Total cost per trimester is $40,218 if you live on campus, $42,218 for those living off campus, and $34,218 if commuting from home.
- Northwestern Health Sciences University – Bloomington, Minnesota. Northwestern offers two tracks: standard and custom. Both require 90 semester credit hours to apply, with 24 hours in life and physical sciences mandated for the standard track and some of these being waived for the custom track. Additionally, the minimum cumulative GPA is 3.0 for the standard track and 2.75 for the custom track. Tuition is approximately $11,350 per trimester, with additional fees required.
- Parker University – Dallas, Texas. Admissions requirements for Parker’s DC program include 90 semester hours of undergraduate coursework (24 in life and physical sciences, half of which include labs) and a 3.0 or higher GPA. Tuition varies a little from trimester to trimester, but totals roughly $117,105 for the entire program.
- Southern California University Los Angeles College of Chiropractic – Whittier, California. Southern California University’s Los Angeles College of Chiropractic offers a DC degree with a fixed tuition rate of $12,206 per trimester. This 3.3 year, 10-trimester program requires 90 completed semester hours (24 in life and physical sciences, half of which must have a lab component) and a 3.0 GPA. Students with a 2.75 may also be considered. One thing that sets this college apart is that students can also earn their sports medicine designation as part of the DC program.
- University of Bridgeport – Bridgeport, Connecticut. The DC program offered at University of Bridgeport is a 4-year program which requires that applicants have 90 completed credits (24 in life and physical sciences) and a cumulative GPA of 3.0 or higher. Cost to attend is $14,100 for 14 credit hours, plus various other fees.
- University of Western States – Portland, Oregon. Students at University of Western States can earn their DC degree in 12 quarters (3-4 years) and tuition is roughly $10,011 per quarter. To apply, you must have completed 90 semester credits (24 in life and physical sciences, 12 in labs) and have a GPA of 3.0 or higher.
Chiropractic colleges list
- Life Chiropractic College West – Hayward, California. Students wishing to attend Life Chiropractic must have earned at least 90 transferable semester units, with 24 of those in life and physical sciences, and have a minimum 3.0 GPA. Applicants with at least a 2.75 GPA can apply and will be considered on an individual basis. Cost of the program is roughly $35,520 per year.
- New York Chiropractic College – Seneca Falls, New York. This is a 10-trimester program that takes three years and four months to complete. To apply, you must have completed 90 semester hours (24 in life and physical sciences and these must have been earned within the previous 10 years) and have a minimum 3.0 GPA, though 2.75 GPAs will also be considered. Tuition is $40,790 per year or $125,810 for the entire program. Additionally, approximately 90 percent of New York’s graduates are still practicing seven years post-graduation.
- Palmer College of Chiropractic – Davenport, Iowa; San Jose, California; or Port Orange, Florida. Applicants to Palmer’s DC program must have completed 90 credit hours (24 in life and physical sciences) and have a 3.0 or higher GPA. Individuals with 2.75 GPAs will be considered. Total cost of the program varies based on campus, ranging from $17,934 per trimester at the San Jose campus to $19,428 at the campus in Davenport.
- Sherman College of Chiropractic – Spartanburg, South Carolina. Admission requirements at Sherman are 90 semester hours (24-semester credits in life and physical sciences and 15-semester credits in humanities, social, and behavioral sciences) and a minimum 3.0 GPA. Total annual tuition is $33,116 or $8,279 per quarter.
- Texas Chiropractic College – Pasadena, Texas. Students wishing to attend Texas Chiropractic must have completed 90 semester hours (24 in life and physical sciences, half of which include labs) and have a minimum 3.0 GPA, though 2.75 GPAs will be considered. This 10-trimester program costs roughly $10,115 per trimester with additional fees related to labs, technology, and more.
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 much does chiropractic school cost?
According to Student Loan Hero, the average 2017 college graduate’s student loan debt is $39,400. However, students of chiropractic typically owe much more.
A 2014 study published in the Journal of the Canadian Chiropractic Association looked at 57 students taking classes at a U.S.-based chiropractic school, a majority of whom 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 confirms this, in part. Based on this website’s research of chiropractic education institutions, it indicates that tuition alone generally ranges from $10,000 to $30,000 annually for those in chiropractic school.
There are also additional costs associated with chiropractic schooling, such as books and lab expenses, which can increase 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 ways to offset the costs.
Ways to help manage the costs
One option is to apply for financial assistance in the form of grants or scholarships. Both of these involve receiving educational monies that typically don’t have to be repaid, though some exceptions do apply, so it’s important to research each one to learn its stipulations up front.
Chiropractic schools can help students find grants and scholarships or students can search for them online. For instance, the U.S. Department of Labor has a website called CareerOneStop that enables you to search more than 7,500 scholarships, fellowships, grants, and other financial aid award opportunities, providing the award amount and deadline for application submission for each one.
Other websites can help chiropractic students obtain the tools necessary to succeed in school at a lower cost. For example, Amazon offers textbook deals up to 80 percent off and Barnes & Noble sells used textbooks as well. Students can also rent them from reputable, online resources such as Chegg.
Another way to offset schooling costs is to take business classes to learn how to properly run your chiropractic practice. Regent Business School explains that learning more about marketing, technology, and best practices provides many benefits, one of which is financial as Market Watch reports that earning a business degree “can nearly double your earnings potential.”
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.
Continuing education requirements
In addition to the schooling required to earn a DC degree and certification, there are also requirements related to continuing education credits (CECs). The number of CECs required annually is delegated by each individual state licensing board.
For example, the Alabama State Board of Chiropractic Examiners dictates completion of at least 18 hours per year for chiropractic license renewal. The Montana Board of Chiropractors, on the other hand, mandates 12 hours every year and four additional hours of credit in ethics and boundaries every four years effective March 31, 2018.
Advanced chiropractic degrees
Another option to earning a 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 instance, some colleges offer a master’s in chiropractic sciences, whereas others provide the opportunity to earn a Master of Science in clinical research or nutrition and human performance.
Each one can lead to a satisfying career in chiropractic care, but this will also add more time to your educational endeavors. Generally speaking, you can expect an additional two years of study should you pursue a master’s level degree program.
All stories written by Christina DeBusk. Updated November 2018