If you’ve recently earned your Doctor of Chiropractic (DC), congratulations. You’ve come a long way and the career you’ve dreamed of is within close reach.
Now, it’s time to move on to the next step: obtaining your license.
Earning and maintaining a license is an essential qualification to work as a chiropractor in the United States, including Washington D.C. and all US territories.
While the exact requirements differ from state to state, the licensing process is roughly the same throughout the US.
Let’s review the steps you’ll take to earn your license. Use this guide as a starting point, then learn more about the specific requirements in the state where you plan on practicing.
Step 1: Obtain Your Doctor of Chiropractic (DC)
Despite the substantial role of chiropractic in modern healthcare, there are only 19 accredited chiropractic schools in the US, and that’s nearly half of the worldwide total.
Before seeking a license, a future chiropractor must complete a chiropractic curriculum at one of these institutions. A chiropractic school graduate earns a DC, the universal prerequisite for any licensure.
Earning your DC proves that you’ve acquired a well-rounded education that covers all aspects of chiropractic care.
Step 2: Complete the NBCE Exam Series
Each state has its own licensing requirements, but a series of national exams are used to standardize licensing nationwide. Future chiropractors must pass these exams in order to pursue a state license.
National exams are administered by the National Board of Chiropractic Examiners (NBCE) and consist of these four parts:
- Part I tests basic science knowledge. Part I is taken during the second year of chiropractic school.
- Part II tests six different clinical science areas. Part II can be taken during the third year of chiropractic school.
- Part III tests knowledge of numerous clinical practice topics, including physical examination and diagnosis. Part III can be taken by students who have already completed Part I and are within nine months of graduation.
- Part IV covers chiropractic technique and case management. Part IV can be taken by students who have completed Part I and are within six months of graduation.
Parts I and II are computer-based multiple-choice exams. Part III includes multiple-choice questions and vignettes, while Part IV requires hands-on demonstrations.
States can establish their own standards for what constitutes a passing grade, but the NBCE recommends a score of 375/800 for each part. If you don’t pass a test on your first try, you can retake the individual sections that resulted in a failing score.
Chiropractic schools help facilitate the test-taking process for students as they work towards their degrees.
If you’re still deciding on a school, review the quality of exam support offered by the schools that you’re considering. Exam success rates published by schools indicate the level of exam preparedness that their curriculums provide.
Step 3: Complete Your State’s Licensing Requirements
After you’ve earned your DC and passed the NBCE exams, you can apply for a license to practice chiropractic in your state or territory.
Each state has a regulatory board that determines and oversees the requirements for becoming a licensed chiropractor.
State requirements vary. Depending on where you want to practice, you may need to:
- Complete a background test and fingerprinting
- Provide proof of malpractice insurance
- Provide personal references
- Answer questions or complete training courses related to morals or ethics
- Complete a chiropractic jurisprudence (legal and regulatory) exam
- Obtain certifications for subspecialties or additional disciplines
Some states have their own state exams that are administered by the NBCE. These include Oregon, Florida, Missouri, and Oklahoma. Most states also require chiropractors to earn continuing education credits.
Once you’ve earned your license, you’ll need to renew it as frequently as your state requires, usually every year or every two years.
Seek Insights for Further Education in Your Chiropractic Career
Wherever you’re at in your chiropractic career, Aligned Mentoring for Chiropractors can help. At AMC, we’re a team of coaches and mentors 100% committed to the chiropractic field.
Our experience and expertise are unmatched in the industry. We’ve helped over 1,000 offices open and achieve profitable status within 90 days. AMC members enjoy a 55% average increase in collections.
If you’re interested in growing your practice or continuing your chiropractic education, contact AMC today for a no-pressure, no-tactics consultation.