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Pre-Medical Preparation at UH Mānoa: Chiropractic Medicine

(Text compiled from the American Chiropractic Association webiste, the Chiropractic Resources Organization, and the UHM 2013-2014 catalog.)

Chiropractic programs offered in Hawai'i: None

Chiropractic D.C. Programs
Prerequisites for Admission
What makes a strong candidate?
Researching Schools
Entrance Exam
The Application Process
Additional Information
Downloadable Brochure

Chiropractic physicians, or chiropractors, are trained healthcare professionals whose focus is treating disorders of the neuromusculoskeletal system.  Within the context of broad medical knowledge, chiropractors treat aliments such as back pain, neck pain, pain in the joints of the arms or legs, and headaches, owing to neuromusculoskeletal problems, using a drug-free, hands-on approach called “spinal manipulation,” “subluxation,” or “chiropractic adjustment.”   In addition to spinal manipulation, chiropractics also provide nutritional, dietary, and lifestyle counseling, along with therapeutic and rehabilitative exercises.  Chiropractors do not prescribe drugs.

Chiropractors determine whether chiropractic treatment is appropriate through diagnostic methods including clinical examinations, laboratory testing, and diagnostic imaging.  When chiropractic care will not address the patient’s condition, or when the condition requires co-management, chiropractors refer patients to appropriate health care providers.

There are two main approaches to chiropractic care: “straight” and “mixer.” Both approaches use subluxation (the aligning of vertebra) to treat patients; distinctions arise from their theory/philosophy and their relationship to other types of treatment. “Straight” chiropracty views spinal misalignment as the cause of most or all disease, relying on the body’s “innate intelligence” to heal itself, and thus remains separate from mainstream medical practice. “Objective straight,” an off-shoot of “straight,” focuses on aligning vertebrae without engaging the question of whether misalignment causes disease, but nonetheless remains apart from mainstream medicine.  “Mixer” views spinal misalignment as one of many causes of disease and incorporates or refers to other practices in their treatment, including complementary/alternative, allopathic, naturopathic, and osteopathic. “Reform,” an off-shoot of “mixer,” focuses on “evidence-based” medicine and incorporates or refers to allopathic, naturopathic, and osteopathic treatments, but generally eschews complementary/alternative treatments.

Following graduation, chiropractors have the option to specialize in fields such as sports injuries, occupational health, orthopedics, and neurology.   In some states chiropractors may obtain additional training to perform minor surgery or practice obstetrics or proctology.

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Chiropractic Programs

Becoming a Doctor of Chiropractic Medicine (DC or DCM) requires approximately 6-11 years of education:

  • Associate/Bachelor degree (~2-4 years);
  • Chiropractic school (4 years); and
  • Specialization (optional 2-3 years).

Chiropractic school consists of a rigorous education including courses and clinical rotations.  In areas such as anatomy, physiology, and rehabilitation, chiropractors may receive an even more intensive education than MD or DO physicians.  Owing to the hands-on approach and the complex manipulation techniques used in chiropracty, a significant portion of the four years is spent in clinical training.  The curriculum requires a minimum of 4,200 hours in classroom, laboratory, and clinical experience.

To become licensed, chiropractic physicians must graduate from an accredited school, pass four examinations from the National Board of Chiropractic Examiners, and complete state-specific requirements. All chiropractors must be licensed to practice. 

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Prerequisites for Admission

Most importantly, remember that requirements vary from school to school!  You must research to create a list of all the prerequisites you will need to apply to the medical schools you are interested in attending.

The following UHM courses are commonly required for admission to chiropractic schools:

BIOL 171/L and 172/L

Introduction to Biology I and II

CHEM 161/L and 162/L

General Chemistry I and II

CHEM 272/L and 273/L

Organic Chemistry I and II

PHYS 151/L and 152/ L
(or PHYS 170/L and 272/L)

College Physics I and II
(or General Physics I and II)

ENG 100 and higher

Composition I and higher (1-2 courses)

PSY 100

Survey of Psychology

Additional requirements may include social sciences, humanities, communication, and language courses. 

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What makes a strong candidate?

Schools need to be certain that the students they accept will be capable of completing the academic curriculum and are likely to become good chiropractic physicians.
Are you capable of completing the chiropractic curriculum?

Admissions committees are looking for students who have:

  • completed the prerequisites
  • a high overall GPA
  • a high science/math GPA
  • balanced their course load so it is challenging yet realistic

Are you likely to become a good chiropractor?

Admission committees are looking for students who have:

  • a broad liberal arts education that includes the humanities and social sciences
  • experience with what chiropracty entails
  • excellent oral and written communication skills
  • excellent interpersonal skills
  • demonstrated empathy, compassion, and a commitment to public service
  • demonstrated maturity (judgment, responsibility, dependability)
  • high ethical and moral standards and a conscientious work ethic
  • a well-rounded life that balances academics, community service, social activities, and personal interests (hobbies, skills, sports, etc.)
  • strong letters of recommendation

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Researching Schools

There are now about 18 public and private chiropractic medical schools in the U.S., each one unique in its mission, philosophy, criteria, and strengths. 

Although there are resources that rank schools, the rankings are rarely pertinent for individual applicants.  More important is whether there is a good match between applicant and school.

To find schools that are a good match for you:

  1. Assess your individual strengths and weaknesses, your professional interests, learning style, and personality;
  2. Create your “Long List” by omitting the schools that do not match your professional interests, learning style, and personality;
  3. Create your “Short List” by categorizing the schools on your Long List into ‘Reach’, ‘Match’, and ‘Safety’, ranking the schools by preference, and finally choosing how many schools to apply to. Be sure to apply to schools in all 3 categories (‘Reach’, ‘Match’, and ‘Safety’).

If possible, visit the schools to see the facilities, talk to the Admissions Directors, and chat with students.

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Chiropractic Schools in the U.S.

Straight / Objective

Mixer / Reform

Cleveland Chiropractic College – Kansas City

D'Youville College

Life University College of Chiropractic

National University of Health Sciences - Illinois

Life Chiropractic College West

National University of Health Sciences - Florida

Logan College of Chiropractic

New York Chiropractic College

Palmer College of Chiropractic

Northwestern Health Sciences University

Palmer College of Chiropractic – Florida

Parker College of Chiropractic

Palmer College of Chiropractic – West

Southern California University of Health Sciences

Sherman College of Straight Chiropractic

Texas Chiropractic College

University of Bridgeport, College of Chiropractic


Western States Chiropractic College

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Entrance Exam

Currently, none of the chiropractic schools require students to take an entrance exam before applying.

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The Application Process

There are two general steps in applying to chiropractic medical schools:  the primary application and the interviews.

  1. Primary applications must be filed with the Chiropractic College Application Service (ChiroCAS), which is a centralized application system.  Once the application is complete, ChiroCAS forwards it to whichever schools the student designated.  Sixteen of the 18 chiropractic schools in the U.S. participate in ChiroCAS.  So far, for schools that do not participate in ChiroCAS, students must apply directly to each individual school by completing the application provided on their website and by submitting it before the posted deadline.  Depending on the school, they may also ask that you send a cover letter, one or more letters of recommendation, a personal statement, college transcripts, and sometimes even high school transcripts.
  2. Interviews: After reviewing primary applications, chiropractic schools invite promising applicants to interview.  Applicants are responsible for all costs incurred while interviewing, including airfare, lodging, professional attire, ground transportation, and meals.


  • The more you know about the school, the better your chances of being accepted.
  • Contact individual schools’ Admission Offices to find out how they handle:
      • advanced placement (AP) credits
      • International Baccalaureate (IB) credit
      • College-Level Examination Program (CLEP) credits
      • military credits
      • courses taken at a community college
      • courses taken for credit/no credit instead of a grade
      • residency issues
      • time limits on science courses
      • non-U.S. coursework

Additional Information

UH Manoa’s Pre-Health/Pre-Law Advising Center (PAC) has reference books, lists of volunteer opportunities, academic planning worksheets, and one-on-one advising by peers who can help you prepare for and apply to chiropractic schools.

UHM's Pre-Medical Association (PMA)
UHM's Biology Club
UHM's Chemistry Club
American Chiropractic Association
Council on Chiropractic Education - USA
Chiropractic College Application Service (ChiroCAS)
Association of Chiropractic Colleges (ACC)
Preparing for Graduate School by the Honors Program

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