Do chiropractors go to medical school? No, chiropractors do not attend medical school and chiropractors are considered separate healthcare professionals from medical doctors. Instead, chiropractors receive their education and earn a Doctor of Chiropractic (DC) degree. While the journey to becoming a chiropractor is similar to that and becoming a physician, there are definite differences in the training, scope of practice and educational philosophy between MDs and DCs. In this blog, we’ll explore the differences between these two professions, how to become a chiropractor and how to decide if med school or chiropractic school is right for you.
Listen to the blog!
Although chiropractors and physicians are different professions who complete different degrees, there are many similarities between the two. Although chiropractors don’t attend medical school, they do attend chiropractic school. The curriculum chiropractors go through is similar to medical schools in that it involves both coursework and clinical training. While medical students learn about the various organs of the human body and the treatment of illness and disease, chiropractors’ education
Are chiropractors doctors?
Chiropractors are doctors in that they must hold a doctorate degree in order to practice and are licensed and recognized healthcare providers. However, chiropractors are not physicians and are not considered medical doctors. Chiropractors have a different purpose in healthcare, a different approach to practice and do not receive the same medical education as MDs or DOs.
Both chiropractors and medical doctors are recognized and licensed health professionals, but they do receive different training and are licensed to practice under different conditions. While there is a myth that chiropractors are not legitimate, they do require many years of education and training to become licensed and their profession is regulated by an authoritative body. Chiropractors are able to provide patient care, write prescriptions and manage patient treatment, just like medical doctors. However, chiropractors focus their training on the healing of the bones, primarily the spine, muscles and joints.
So, while a chiropractor is considered a doctor, they do not treat the same scope of disease or illness as medical doctors. We’ll look at the similarities and differences between chiropractors and MDs next.
Philosophy of Health
MDs and chiropractors have different approaches to healing, health and overall wellness. Whereas entering medical students will follow the of medical practitioners, chiropractors have their own set of values. For example, the Chiropractic College of Ontario has its own set of core competencies for students and graduates.
The chiropractic philosophy of health is more akin to osteopathic medicine, which uses a holistic approach to medicine. Chiropractors focus on treating the musculoskeletal system and nervous system and how it relates to the overall health and wellness of patients.
An MD will focus on the diagnosis of illness or disease through physical examinations of a patient and ordering diagnostic tests, then devise a treatment plan, prescribe medications and otherwise monitor a patient’s progress. A chiropractor may seek to diagnose and treat illness or injury through a more holistic and hands-on treatment. Chiropractors use manual manipulation and adjustment of a patient’s musculoskeletal system to alleviate back and spinal pain. They also often advise patients on exercises to help alleviate pain, nutrition and lifestyle advice.
DOs also receive training in treatment and manipulation of the musculoskeletal system through osteopathic manipulative treatment (OMT), a type of treatment MDs do not typically learn or use in everyday practice. DOs and chiropractors are more similar in that they use manual manipulation of a patient’s muscles and joints to diagnose and treat common ailments.
Education and Training
Like medical doctors, chiropractors must go through many years of education and training before they can become licensed to practice.
A medical student will usually spend 4 years completing an undergraduate degree, 4 years in medical school and then at least 3 years, often longer, completing a medical residency or postgraduate training. They may also choose to complete a , adding another 1-3 years to their timeline.
A chiropractor also needs to complete a 4-year bachelor’s degree and a 4-year Doctor of Chiropractor degree, so it is similar to . The first two years of a chiropractor school are spent on core coursework such as anatomy, biochemistry, chiropractic principles and procedures, pathology and more. The third year and fourth year of a chiropractic degree involves clinical internships and training.
However, for chiropractors they do not need to complete any residency training. The final year of chiropractic school is often similar to a residency intern year or . Chiropractic students spend their final year in a clinical setting under the supervision of a licensed chiropractor, just like a first-year .
Scope of Practice
Medical doctors are able to practice in any area of medicine, and typically in their final year of medical school before going on to complete further training in their residency years. They can also prescribe medications, order and interpret diagnostic tests, formulate treatment plans, perform surgery and much more.
Chiropractors on the other hand, are already a specialized healthcare practitioner. They do not perform surgery, prescribe medications or complete a traditional residency program. Chiropractors can choose to subspecialize and receive further training in nutrition, neurology, sports medicine or orthopedic rehabilitation, among other specialties. They can treat and diagnose patients and perform medical tests, just like MDs. Chiropractors treat a variety of patients of all ages.
The primary difference in the scope of care between MDs and chiropractors is that chiropractors focus their care on the treatment of the musculoskeletal and nervous systems, particularly the care of the spine. They use manual techniques to adjust the spine or bones to put them back into proper alignment. Chiropractors may also use holistic methods to treat pain and different conditions including water or heat therapy, physical supports or electrostimulation of the muscles.
Licensing and Certification
To become licensed as a physician, MDs and DOs complete 4 years of medical school, complete residency training or a fellowship, and must also pass the necessary licensing exams. In the US, this is the and the , completed during medical school, and the , completed at the end of your residency training in order to become a practicing physician.
Chiropractors, upon completing their DC degree from an accredited school and pass the necessary licensing exams. In both the US and Canada, chiropractors need to register with the governing body in their province or state, and past the required exam for licensure. Chiropractors also need to regularly renew their certification to keep up to date with regulations in their province or state.
Compensation and Lifestyle
In Canada, chiropractors earn between $85,000 to $110,000 per year. In the US, the range is between $138,000 and over $200,000 per year. When compared to the , chiropractors make a little less than the top-paid doctors, depending on the type of doctor and where they are practicing. But on average, chiropractors make about the same as the average medical doctor. In short, chiropractors earn a very good living on par with most physicians, both DO and MD.
As far as lifestyle, chiropractors have a fairly high job satisfaction and can have more of a work-life balance than some doctors. Chiropractors typically work in health clinics rather than hospitals and tend to keep normal 9-5 hours instead of being on-call. Chiropractors also form long-term relationships with their patients and can experience a high level of satisfaction in helping alleviate patient’s pain and improving their lifestyles. Chiropractic care can be fairly routine, but it also allows practitioners to investigate, diagnose and decide on various treatment plans for patients, so every day can be different from the last.
How do you become a chiropractor? The process is similar to how to get into medical school or any other graduate program. To get accepted, you’ll need to meet the admission requirements, complete an application and attend an admissions interview.
There is no centralized application service for chiropractic colleges, like the AMCAS application for medical students or for DO applicants. You must apply directly to the college of your choice and fill out the application.
What are the requirements for chiropractic school?
First, you’ll need to complete a bachelor’s degree, although some schools may accept only 3 complete years of undergraduate study. Beware that just like , you may be at a disadvantage without your complete degree. Some chiropractor schools require a 4-year degree, while others may just want to see a higher GPA.
Here are some of the common admission requirements for chiropractic colleges:
- Bachelor’s degree (or 90 completed credits from an accredited institution)
- Completion of any prerequisite courses (life and physical sciences courses, plus labs)
- Well-rounded undergraduate education (including courses in the humanities and social sciences)
- Personal statement or essay
- Extracurriculars and activities
- Letters of recommendation
- Resume or CV
- Admission interview (program dependent)
How long does it take to become a chiropractor?
To become a chiropractor takes at least 7-8 years to complete your education and training. You may also choose to pursue specialty training as a chiropractic college graduate, which can add another 1-3 years of training to your timeline.
How competitive is getting into chiropractic school?
The average acceptance rates for chiropractic schools can vary significantly. For the most competitive schools, the number hovers around 30%, while other schools range anywhere from 50% to 90% acceptance rates. In general, chiropractic colleges are not as selective or competitive as . However, chiropractic colleges do still consider many of the same admissions criteria as medical colleges, and admissions data can fluctuate from year to year.
The decision of whether to become a chiropractor is just as important as asking yourself if you should go to medical school. If you’re deciding between these two professions, it’s crucial to do some research into both professions. Consider shadowing a physician and a chiropractor to get an in-person understanding of what these two health care practitioners do and what day-to-day life is like. Also ask yourself what your personal and professional goals are, what areas of medicine interest you and what type of career you want to have.
Cons of becoming a chiropractor
Among the cons of becoming a chiropractor are many of the same cons of attending medical school. Getting your chiropractor degree can be just as expensive, both in cost and time, as becoming a doctor. The tuition for chiropractic colleges can be pricey, just like any professional school. And, it becomes nearly as long to become a chiropractor as it does to become a doctor. The timeline is similar if you choose to specialize as a chiropractor and complete a residency.
Second, being a chiropractor is actually a very physically demanding job. Chiropractic treatments are very hands-on and require long hours making manual adjustments, moving patients and standing on your feet. The physical toll of being a chiropractor is similar to being a physical therapist or rehabilitation specialist or massage therapist. You’ll be working with your hands and working on your feet.
Another con for some would be that it’s not as easy to start practicing as a chiropractor in a new location. Most states have different licensure requirements, so you’ll need to sit the licensure exam for the state you want to practice in, even if you’re already licensed. Chiropractors also need to renew their credentials fairly often to keep practicing, depending on the state or province you’re located in.
Lastly, chiropractors have a narrower scope of practice than MDs or DOs, and there are not as many areas of specialization. Chiropracty is diverse and there are many different approaches to treatment, and chiropractors work in many different environments including clinics, hospitals and care homes, but in general physicians have a greater diversity of practice.
Pros of becoming a chiropractor
The biggest pros of becoming a chiropractor are that you will enjoy a high level of job satisfaction and job security. You’ll be able to earn a good living, enjoy more regular work hours and have opportunities to advance your education and work on diverse cases. Chiropractors also have a high level of independence in their work, often opening their own clinics.
Chiropractors can work in many different places, on diverse patient populations from children to adults to seniors. There are opportunities for specialization if you’re interested in a particular area of medicine. Plus, chiropractors get to work knowing they are making sustainable and noticeable differences in their patient’s lives, improving their day-to-day health and wellbeing.
List of Chiropractic Colleges in the US
If you’ve decided you’re interested in becoming a chiropractor, your next step will be researching potential schools! Below is a list of the chiropractic colleges in the US and Canada.
Locations: Davenport, Iowa; San Jose, California; Port Orange, Florida
Location: Marietta, Georgia
Location: Chesterfield, Missouri
Location: Lombard, Illinois
Location: Portland, Oregon
Location: Seneca Falls, New York
Location: Pasadena, Texas
Location: Whittier, California
Location: Overland Park, Kansas
Location: West Palm Beach, Florida
List of Chiropractic Colleges in Canada
Location: Toronto, Ontario
Location: Trois-Rivières, Quebec
1. Do chiropractors go to medical school?
No, chiropractors do not go to medical school. Instead, they complete a Doctor of Chiropractor degree, which is similar to an MD or DO degree.
2. Are chiropractors considered doctors?
Yes, chiropractors are considered doctors and use the title of doctor in their practice. However, chiropractors are NOT physicians. They cannot prescribe medication or perform surgery, and their scope of practice is narrower than that of an MD or DO.
3. How long does it take to become a chiropractor?
It takes at least 8 years to become a chiropractor. Chiropractors complete a 4-year bachelor’s degree and then a 4-year Doctor of Chiropractic degree before they can become licensed to practice. Some chiropractors may also choose to specialize and take on 1-3 more years of postgraduate training.
4. How much are chiropractors paid?
On average, chiropractors are paid $100,000+ per year, on par with many MD and DO practitioners.
5. Can chiropractors write prescriptions?
Chiropractors cannot prescribe prescriptions. The chiropractic philosophy of health also promotes using a holistic and all-natural approach to healing.
6. What is the difference between a physical therapist and a chiropractor?
Chiropractors specialize in the treatment of the musculoskeletal and nervous systems, treating injuries and disorders of the spine, bones and joints. While both professions use movement and physical adjustment to promote healing, a physical therapist focuses on the movement and healing of the entire body through movement and hands-on treatment.
7. Is chiropractor better than an MD?
While one profession is not necessarily better than the other, there are some key differences in the scope of practice, education and training of chiropractors vs an MD. If you are considering whether to apply to medical school or chiropractic college, think about what your professional goals are, what interests you about medicine and the pros and cons of a career as a physician or chiropractor.
8. Is chiropractor a good career?
Yes, overall chiropractors are a good career with good job stability, high pay, good work-life balance and high job satisfaction. Chiropractors also enjoy a strong level of independence in their work.