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Doctors of Chiropractic (D.C.), or chiropractors, are alternative, primary care physicians who diagnose and treat health problems that are related to the body's muscular, skeletal, and nervous systems. In particular, chiropractic medicine is based on the concept that interference with the spinal cord and vertebrae impairs normal bodily functions and lowers resistance to disease. Therefore, chiropractors focus on the spine in promoting overall physical health. A fundamental aspect of their practice is manipulating or adjusting the spinal column to alleviate problems from misaligned vertebrae.

While they are best known for their back and spine manipulation, chiropractors incorporate a range of therapies and techniques into their treatment of patients. Like most generalists, chiropractors diagnose patients based on their medical history, a physical exam, data from testing, and diagnostic imaging. In recommending therapies, chiropractors often incorporate a number of alternative remedies into their general patient care, including nutrition advice, acupuncture, or herbal medicine.

Obtaining a D.C. degree is similar to pursuing an M.D. in that the programs are usually four years long and traditionally incorporate clinical training in the second two years of study in an affiliated facility. While some of the core coursework also mimics a typical M.D. curriculum (including topics such as genetics, microbiology, and radiology), the chiropractic curriculum differs from traditional health related coursework in two ways. First, due the profession's basic tenets as well as the restrictions on a D.C.'s scope of practice, chiropractic doctors are not trained in pharmacology, surgery, or other invasive or specialty techniques. D.C. programs focus entirely on noninvasive, primary care medicine. Secondly, D.C. programs have an increased focus on alternative therapies, such as nutrition, hygiene, acupuncture, exercise, botanical medicine, and stress management.

Degree Information

The only degree offered is the Doctor of Chiropractic (D.C.) degree.

Questions to Ask Yourself When Choosing a Degree Program

  • What type and how diverse are the manipulation techniques taught?
  • Will you only learn core spinal adjustment techniques or will you also have exposure to other, lower impact techniques?
  • Does the curriculum give you the opportunity to learn complimentary therapies, such as soft tissue manipulation or acupuncture?
  • What are the elective choices? Are there any special programs or classes?
  • What is the range of medical specialties offered?
  • Where will you do your clinical training? What are the clinical facilities like and where is the clinic located?
  • As a student, what will be your involvement in the clinic?
  • How many patients does the clinic treat on a regular basis?

Career Overview

The majority of practicing chiropractors (about 70 percent) work in solo, private practice. Of those who are not in solo practice, most work in group practice with other natural health doctors or for other chiropractors. Chiropractors are licensed to practice in all 50 states, although they do not have the right to prescribe medications. As chiropractors focus on promoting a healthy lifestyle and building patient-doctor relationships, they are a popular choice for patients seeking alternative approaches to health and healing. While most chiropractors are generalists, some pursue a certificate to practice in specialty fields, including sports injuries, neurology, orthopedics, nutrition, internal disorders, or diagnostic imaging.

In addition to private practice, some D.C.s teach at chiropractic colleges, conduct research at chiropractic facilities, or work in hospitals and clinics.

Career/Licensing Requirements

Chiropractors are licensed by the National Board tests administered by the National Board of Chiropractic Examiners. In addition, chiropractors must pass the state licensing exams (in some states, chiropractors must obtain a B.A. in addition to the D.C. to receive a license).

Salary Information

Starting chiropractors can expect to earn between $40,000 and $65,000. This will vary depending on the size of their practice.

Related Links

The Association of Chiropractic Colleges (ACC)
The ACC works to advance chiropractic education, research and service.

The Council on Chiropractic Education (CCE)
The CCE is the accrediting body for all programs and institutions offering the doctor of chiropractic degree.

American Chiropractic Association (ACA)
The ACA is a professional association for Doctors of Chiropractic.

Chiropractic America
Chiropractic America is a directory of Chiropractors in the U.S., as well as resources and news for doctors, patients, and students.

World Federation of Chiropractic
The World Federation of Chiropractic represents national associations of chiropractors in 78 countries worldwide.


  • Systemic Anatomy

  • Biochemistry

  • Cardiovascular Physiology

  • Histology

  • Immunobiology

  • Nutrition

  • Principles Of Chiropractic Philosophy And History

  • Psychiatry

  • Radiology

  • Spinal Anatomy

  • Toxicology