Choosing to become a medical doctor or chiropractor -- two different approaches to providing health care -- requires committing to years of study and practical work with patients. You will not put the title “Doctor” before your name until years of work have passed -- and for some medical professionals, formal education never totally stops.

Finally, Call Me "Doctor"

Chiropractors see patients as part of their training.

Becoming a physician in the United States requires a rigorous, multi-year education and training program, starting with earning a four-year, undergraduate degree at a college or university -- usually heavy on science. Four years at a medical school accredited by the Liaison Committee on Medical Education comes next, accomplished with strong grades, passage of an admissions test and recommendations. Medical school programs include classroom and practical, hands-on training. Graduates receive a Doctor of Medicine degree, or a Doctor of Osteopathic degree if studying at a college devoted to the branch of medicine geared toward holistic, non-invasive treatments. New doctors must then complete a residency program -- lasting three to seven years, depending on speciality -- treating patients under the guidance of an experienced doctor.

A Chiropractor in the House

Doctors of chiropractic medicine also must undertake years of training and study, typically starting with four years of undergraduate study and a degree, mostly centered on scientific courses. They then must gain acceptance into a chiropractic program at a college accredited by the Council on Chiropractic Education. The typical program lasts four years, with more than 4,800 hours of study, including in-depth education in chiropractic’s complicated adjustment techniques and significant time providing patient care. Some of the requirements vary by state, and a one-year internship must be completed, too.

Get Tested; Get Licensed

Both medical doctors and chiropractors must pass board examinations to become licensed and allowed to practice. Chiropractors must pass the first National Board exam after the first two years of study, with a second part required after the final two years. A third portion is required for clearance to use physiological therapeutics, and the final part ensures knowledge of diagnostic imaging, chiropractic techniques and patient management. Medical doctors also take a series of examinations before securing a license to practice, regulated by the state in which they will work.

But Wait, There's More

Many doctors and chiropractors continue their education after becoming licensed and starting to practice. Some doctors choose a fellowship in a specialty area or field, which can add up to three years of education, along with ongoing education during a career. The story is similar for chiropractors, who often seek additional advanced certification programs to sharpen and enhance their skills.

Related Articles