As the statutory governing body, the General Chiropractic Council sets the syllabus for chiropractic education.
The minimum length of time it takes to qualify as a chiropractor is four years, although this depends largely on the route taken into the profession. Most chiropractors train for five to six years, graduating with an undergraduate Masters’ degree. Many chiropractors elect to train for longer, leading to postgraduate Masters’ degrees and the courtesy title Doctor of Chiropractic.
Two universities in the UK offer chiropractic degrees; Bournemouth University and The University of South Wales.
Topics covered at undergraduate level are almost identical to those covered in a medical degree, and range from basic sciences such as embryology, physiology and biochemistry, to clinical sciences such as pharmacology and radiology. The key difference between chiropractic and medicine degree programmes is the weighting of the subjects. As an example, chiropractic students spend a far greater amount of time on anatomy than medicine students, but do not study pharmacology in as much detail.
As one would expect, there is a great emphasis on practical and clinical work as part of chiropractic education. Early in their course all chiropractic students engage in dissections and spend a significant amount of time working with cadavers to gain a detailed appreciation of the structure of human tissues.
Great stress is also placed on perfecting the manual techniques used in practice. Daily practical classes begin with learning to assess joints, muscles and nerves, introducing methods of treatment alongside. These classes build from a very basic level to the most advanced manual techniques in current medicine.
While learning these manual techniques, such as spinal manipulation, chiropractors practice first on models and specifically designed aides, before practicing on each other, and finally on patients. The whole process is supervised. It is not until their fourth year that chiropractors actually deliver any treatment.
Finally, after years of academic and practical development, chiropractic students enter into a clinical year. This year is based in a specially designed teaching clinic. Students are supervised throughout this process, and by the end of the year have delivered over four hundred treatments and consultations each.
Upon entering the work force, chiropractors are the most highly trained manual therapists on the planet and are peerless in the field of neuromusculoskeletal medicine. They have the diagnostic skills to pick up when cases are not suitable for treatment and to advise GPs on suitable referral and investigation. This all means that patients can present to chiropractors without having had any prior investigation and be sure that they will receive accurate diagnosis.
Chiropractic graduates are encouraged to participate in a postgraduate training scheme in their first year of work. This bridges any gap between a final clinical year and “real world” practice.
Continuing education is overseen by the Royal College of Chiropractors. It is a General Chiropractic Council requirement that all chiropractors conduct a minimum of thirty hours continuing professional development every year.