Chiropractic doctors treat illnesses and injuries with non-surgical, drug-free methods, such as manipulation, exercises, nutrition, massage and acupuncture. Some chiropractors specialize in specific areas like pediatrics, sports injuries, imaging or orthopedics. Before beginning a Doctor of Chiropractic, or DC, degree, a student must first complete undergraduate prerequisites. Although programs vary, a DC degree takes approximately seven to eight years beyond high school.

Undergraduate Prerequisites

Chiropractic colleges require a minimum of 90 undergraduate units for admission, which is the equivalent of three years of full-time college. However, many prospective chiropractors complete a four-year bachelor's degree before beginning professional school. Whether or not you complete a degree, you must take prerequisite classes in the liberal arts and in physics, biology and chemistry, along with their lab sections. Admission to the DC program at the University of Western States, for example, requires 24 semester units of lab science subjects intended for science majors.

DC Programs

DC programs earn their accreditation from the Council of Chiropractic Education, and they typically require four years of study. Some require as many as five academic years, according to the American Chiropractic Association, and the total time spent on class, lab and clinical work must equal at least 4,200 hours. At the University of Western States, for example, the DC degree is designed to be completed in four years of full-time study. The program at Palmer College of Chiropractic, on the other hand, requires only three and one-third years of year-round study, but it is equivalent to five academic years of eight months each.

DC Curriculum

The first two years of a DC program normally focuses on coursework, including spinal anatomy, biochemistry, physiology and pathology. The last two years of chiropractic college typically emphasize clinical practice in diagnosing illnesses and providing chiropractic manipulations and other treatments. At the University of Western States, for example, students take clinical internships beginning in the third year of study and continue clinical sections and related coursework during the fourth year.

Licensing and Additional Education

Completion of an accredited DC degree is only the first step toward becoming a practicing chiropractor. In all states, graduates must also pass licensing exams from the National Board of Chiropractic Examiners, state exams or both, depending on state board requirements. These exams usually including both written questions and a test of practical chiropractic skills. Many chiropractors complete additional training in a residency to qualify in a specialty. In most states, you must also complete continuing education classes to maintain a chiropractic license.

Outlook

The aging of the US population will contribute to faster-than-average job growth for chiropractors, predicts the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The BLS expects openings to increase by 28 percent between 2010 and 2020, twice the average for all professions. An increase in public acceptance of alternative medical care will also contribute to a favorable job market for chiropractors.