Guide to Selecting a
There are many things to consider when deciding if Chiropractic School is right for you. You might want to start by reading this synopsis about the profession of a Chiropractor by the U.S. Department of Labor - Bureau of Labor Statistics.
We are always in the process of gathering data to help you make the best decision on which school to attend, but you might want to check out our Chiropractic school reviews. These listings have ratings and reviews for each Chiropractic College, so you can see what current and past students are saying about the school.
Many marketers will tell you that if the economy is slowing down, and sales are dropping, it is time to put more money into marketing. This is usually the last thing that business owners want to do when their bottom line is shrinking. Many people are faced with a similar dilemma today – the economy appears to be struggling and quality jobs are hard to find, so maybe it’s time to make yourself more marketable! One of the best ways you can do this is by increasing your training or educational level.
As chiropractic grows in popularity, you may be examining the field to see if it would be a good fit for your pursuit of marketability. Many things are appealing about the profession – you get to help people, learn about the amazing human body, be your own boss, and much more. The Bureau of Labor Statistics is positive about the outlook of the profession in upcoming years, “Job prospects should be good; employment is expected to grow faster than average because of increasing consumer demand for alternative health care.”1
Chances are, if you’re reading this article, you have
already considered attending
Let’s start with your options. Within the
As you peruse the websites for each school and talk to their respective Admissions office, I highly recommend you formulate some questions about what is important to you in selecting a chiropractic school. The following criteria, in no particular order, are my attempt to guide you in that journey.
Location, Location, Location - Important on so many levels, location can really be a major deciding factor for you. How close do you want to be to your family? How rural or urban do you want to be? You may also want to consider these points when looking at location – population, median home value (or average rent costs), crime rate, weather (seasonal averages), distance to airport, recreational activities, and local art and music scene. You will be spending about four years in this city, so you might as well enjoy it!
Show You the Money – Although there isn’t a huge variability in cost between schools, you still might want to factor this in. After all, minimizing your students loans could be the difference between success and defaulting on your loans after you get those initials behind your name. To assess your costs, you should consider tuition, all school fees, and the local cost of living. Another major expense that most schools don’t like to mention is the cost of your national board exams. You will have four boards, and one physiotherapy test – which will currently give you a $2,750 tab. Don’t forget to factor this into your budget.
Size Matters – Depending on your experience in undergraduate courses, you may have realized the benefits to certain class sizes. Some chiropractic schools actually have policies about the student to teacher ratio in their classes. I would recommend asking. The hours you spend in your adjusting labs are extremely valuable. This is where you can hone the special skills that set you apart as a chiropractor. You may also want to know the overall student body size, the average class size, total number of classrooms, campus size (ft2 or acres). I want to stress that there are advantages and disadvantages to having both large and small schools. For example, with a larger school, you may get more social interaction, more opportunities, more clubs, and more lobbying power, but with that may come less interaction with teachers and clinicians, or more competition for clubs and teams.
Wanna be a groupie? – Nearly every chiropractic college is going to offer some kind of group, club, or association, but you might want to find out which ones are available. This gives you insight into a few things. First of all, it tells you a little bit more about the interests of the student population. Second, it gives you an idea about whether or not the administration at the school allows or even encourages free thought and discovery. Third, you may have prior interest in a particular technique or philosophy, so knowing that there is an active group on campus that has regular meetings on the topic would be a major advantage. For example, if you know you want to be active in sports-related chiropractic, then checking to see if the campus has a Sports Med club would be a good idea. Despite what is available, most schools will let you start your own club, so maybe you could inquire about that process and be a catalyst in your campus community.
Olympics for Chiropractors – If you haven’t figured it out already, chiropractic tends to be very proprietary. A great example of this is the Chiro-Games – a pseudo Olympics that is put on exclusively for chiropractic students. Participants from the different colleges compete in a myriad of sports to see if they can bring home the gold for their school. I really hope a school’s participation in this event is not very high on your priority list, but it may be a bonus along the way. The only thing it may be an indicator of is how active the students are on campus. If they send a load of teams each year, then they probably have quite a few athletes on campus to choose from. Just so you know, most all of the schools choose to send at least one team to the Chiro Games, but there are a couple that don’t. If you’re interested, call the school and ask them. You may also want to know how many times they’ve brought a trophy home.
Arrows vs Blenders – Huh? OK, I admit, I just didn’t want to say “straights vs mixers” again. The phrase becomes cliché if you’ve spent any amount of time researching a chiropractic school. This topic alone deserves its own article, or maybe even book, but suffice it to say this is probably where you’ll encounter the most controversy in your research. This question is really more of a spectrum than it is black and white. To put it simply – straight chiropractic puts more focus on the vertebral subluxation as being the cause of disease, and typically has less tolerance for other medical interventions, whereas mixed chiropractic tries to scientifically define subluxations (for example as mere dysfunctional movement patterns and adjustments as mechanoreceptor barrages) and tends to use multiple physiotherapy modalities to encourage the healing process. You must decide for yourself which rationale you feel more comfortable with, realizing that you will need to explain your concepts clearly to a paying patient sometime soon. You’re not being fair to yourself or your future patients without spending a bit of time with chiropractors from all along this philosophical spectrum. Try to keep an open mind, as you may discover that many things you previously thought implausible are occurring on a regular basis for some chiropractors. You should also keep in mind that many of the schools that consider themselves straight, still offer many elective classes on topics that are traditionally part of a mixer curriculum.
“T” is for Technique – I warned you about the proprietary nature of the chiropractic industry, and the plethora of technique systems in chiropractic is illustrative of this paradigm. It must by some sort of sub-cultural hierarchy, because many individuals in the profession are eager to name a technique after themselves – many of which are only mild variations of the very technique they were constructed from. The advantage of a technique is that it offers you a systematic method of evaluating a patient, and should theoretically normalize your results. If you’ve been inspired by the results from a particular technique, then you will definitely want to check with the school to see if it is taught on campus. Remember, some techniques are only offered as electives, so make sure and inquire about those as well. In fact, it is a good idea to get a comprehensive list of all electives offered by each school. Since these electives are always changing, it wouldn’t be helpful to list them all in this article.
Past Performance – Several of the schools like to tout their students’ national board scores in their promotional material. True, all the education in the world won’t get you very far if you can’t pass your national board exams, but be careful not to put too much emphasis on this criterion. Much of the material tested on the exams is not what you will use in your daily practice. Even the adjusting portion of Part IV is fairly straightforward. Anyone who has taken anatomy and can read stands a pretty good chance of passing that section of the exam (don’t let the National Board of Chiropractic Examiners figure this out, or we may see the difficulty level jump). You should keep in mind that the majority of people pass the national boards anyway, so just try to make sure that you take them at the appropriate time in your curriculum and that you spend an appropriate amount of time studying. If you feel like you are struggling with the material, then some of the schools host a third-party national board crash course. Ask about availability when you talk to the admissions office next time.
School Amenities – There you ever looked at pictures of a place on the internet or in a book, and then been sorely disappointed when you spent your savings to travel to this supposedly beautiful destination? A picture is worth a thousand words, but it has also been said that a digital picture can make anything look good. I draw this analogy so that you will not skip the fundamental step of a campus tour at the school of your choice. There are a lot of extra resources a college can provide to help make your out-of-class experience more satisfying. You may have some preferences of your own, but here are a few bonus features you may want to consider inquiring about - Gym, Swimming Pool, Weight Room, Track, Treadmill, game room, number of computers, computers/student ratio, number of books in Library, number of active journal subscriptions in the library, Café on campus, etc…
Take care of their own? – Graduation may feel like it is an eternity away, but it will come much faster than you can even imagine, and once it does you will want to have a support system from your school to help you network for job opportunities. This should be the responsibility of the Alumni services department at your school. Almost all of the schools will tell you they have an Alumni services, so the real question is whether or not they play an active role in helping graduates, or if they just serve as school fundraisers. You could ask how large their alumni database is, or how many of their students they helped find career opportunity for. You could also ask an open-ended question about what additional services they provide to their alumni. Whatever you do, ask specifics! Don’t hesitate to get contact information for a graduate who lives in your city so you can go interview or shadow them.
Mo’ Money Mo’ Problems – I’m not talking about all the drama that may accompany you if you become a millionaire. I’m referring to the problems you’ll face if you can’t pay back the six-figure debt you’ll incur during chiropractic school. This is what we refer to as loan default, and a few of the schools track these default rates for their students. The problem is that most of them only track it for 3-5 years, and since you can usually apply for deferment for the first 3 years, this duration really isn’t indicative of any repayment. This only tells you how good the graduates are at filling out applications for loan deferment. This is a serious issue, since chiropractors traditionally have higher default rates on loans than some other professionals. The bottom line is that unless the school has hard numbers that extend well beyond the 3-year range, don’t put much stock in this figure.
Above and Beyond – Unless they’re engaged in false advertising, all of the chiropractic colleges are going to offer a program for a Doctor of Chiropractic degree. The question is whether or not the school offers any additional programs. Even if you’re not interested in the course, it may still benefit you. For example, if you have a Massage Therapy program at your school, you may get free or discounted massages. If the school offers a Naturopathic degree, then you can extend your scope of practice. If there are several Diplomate programs, then you’ll have access to classes or modules taught by some of the best in the industry of Neurology, Pediatrics, Nutrition, Radiology, and more. Put this on your checklist, because you won’t want to pay for a plane ticket every time you want additional training.
Army of 60,000 – Recent legislative changes have granted chiropractors access to the many veterans that are in need of chiropractic care. Several groups are actively lobbying to try to expand this access into all areas of the military health care system, and it is being received quite well due to the cost effectiveness of chiropractic. The way a school can be involved in this movement is by getting access to rounds at a nearby VA Hospital. There are already several schools that offer this opportunity, and I think it is a great selling point. This would surely enrich your experience as a student by giving you exposure to a specific target market while getting to see how a hospital functions. Don’t ask the school if they plan to be working with the VA, or if they have access to veterans. You must ask if they actually have placed students in the VA hospital setting in the past and how many students are allowed this opportunity. As of this date, the following schools currently claim to have such an opportunity – NYCC, UBCC, and Logan.3 Call them directly to find out more.
Community Service – Other than VA hospital rounds, does the school have other community clinics available? Every college is going to have a clinic where students get their clinical hours during the fourth year of the curriculum, but some of them also have additional clinics throughout the community where you can offer charitable service or get exposure to a broader patient base. These clinics are a great way to increase the number of patients you’ll see during your fourth year, which can vastly improve your clinical skills.
You can see that selecting the best chiropractic college for you is a complicated issue. I recommend you spend some serious time considering your options, and don’t hesitate to ask a lot of questions to those who have gone before you. Chiropractic school is a large investment, so a proportional amount of thought should go into analyzing your potential plans. The real challenge begins once you’ve started at the school of your choice, but if you keep the end in mind, you’ll graduate into a very rewarding career.
3) “A Survey of Chiropractic Academic Affiliations Within the Department of Veterans Affairs Health Care System”, Journal of Chiropractic Education, Vol. 21, No. 2, 2007, pp. 138-143