Chiropractors are Physicians
A fully accredited chiropractic college grants a D.C. or Doctor of Chiropractic degree. Chiropractors are licensed as health care providers in every U.S. state and dozens of countries around the world, and considered “Physicians” in most states and pursuant to Federal laws, and most recently, according to the Joint Commission of Accreditation of hospitals. In New Jersey, the Supreme Court ruled that Chiropractors are "Physicians" in re Thomas v Carlson Hosiery Mills, in 1954! Several edicts of Attorneys-general and various Governors have confirmed that status through the intervening years, and the Weinberg-Sweeney act of 2011 has engraved it in stone.
Differences in Educational philosophy
While it remains somewhat easier to enter Chiropractic school then medical school, the chiropractic and medical school curricula are extremely rigorous and virtually identical. Actually there is philosophical differrence in this too. medical schools do not admit anyone they are not 100% certain will be able to complete the training. Whereas Chiropractic education choose to give those really desirous of being doctors a second chance to blossom as students.Thus, our schools generally admit a larger first semester class and then weed out those who will not carry the weight. This makes for more humanistic clinicians. Just because someone can carry a 4.0 through 4 years at Harvard undergrad, does not mean that they will make a good people-person as a Clinician. Such people will more likely be better researchers and scientists than physicians who have to relate to human beings.
DC's get more classroom (didactic) hours, and more gross anatomy
In fact, chiropractors have more hours of classroom education, and significantly more anatomy and physiology, including gross dissection human anatomy, than their medical counterparts. As part of their education, chiropractic students also complete a clinical internship working with real patients in a clinical setting, supervised by licensed doctors of chiropractic. In order to become licensed in the United States, chiropractic students have to pass four sets of national board exams as well as one or two ancillary board exams depending on the state in which they want to practice.
Similar State and National Boards
Just like medical doctors, chiropractors are professionals that are subject to the same type of testing procedures, licensing and monitoring by state and national peer-reviewed boards. Federal and state programs, such as Medicare, Medicaid, and Workers' Compensations programs cover chiropractic care, and all federal agencies accept sick-leave certificates signed by doctors of chiropractic. Chiropractors are also commissioned as officers in the military.
Major difference is in philosophy of treatment
The biggest difference between chiropractors and medical doctors lies not in their level of education, but in their preferred method of caring for people. Medical doctors are trained in the use of drugs (chemicals that affect your internal biochemistry) and surgery. Consequently, if you have a chemical problem, such as cancer, diabetes, hypothyroidism, or an infection, medical doctors can be very helpful. However, if your problem is a structural one, in which your spine is not moving properly or you have soft tissue damage causing pain, there is no chemical in existence that can fix it. You need a physical solution to correct a physical problem. That is where chiropractic really excels. Chiropractors provide physical solutions -- adjustments, exercises, stretches, muscle therapy -- to help the body heal from conditions that are physical in origin, such as back pain, muscle spasms, headaches, and poor posture. Another distinction is the fact that it is completely appropriate to receive chiropractic care even if you do not have symptoms. Unlike medical doctors, whom you visit when you have a symptom to be treated, chiropractors offer adjustments to improve spinal biomechanics and overall well-being before symptoms develop.
(Reprinted from the ACA website)
Educational requirements for doctors of chiropractic are among the most stringent of any of the health care professions.
The typical applicant at a chiropractic college has already acquired nearly four years of pre-medical undergraduate college education, including courses in biology, inorganic and organic chemistry, physics, psychology and related lab work. Once accepted into an accredited chiropractic college, the requirements become even more demanding — four to five academic years of professional study are the standard. Because of the hands-on nature of chiropractic, and the intricate adjusting techniques, a significant portion of time is spent in clinical training.
Doctors of chiropractic — who are licensed to practice in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and in many nations around the world — undergo a rigorous education in the healing sciences, similar to that of medical doctors. In some areas, such as anatomy, physiology, and rehabilitation, they receive more intensive education than most medical doctors or physical therapists.
Like other primary health care doctors, chiropractic students spend a significant portion of their curriculum studying clinical subjects related to evaluating and caring for patients. Typically, as part of their professional training, they must complete a minimum of a one-year clinical-based program dealing with actual patient care. In total, the curriculum includes a minimum of 4,200 hours of classroom, laboratory and clinical experience. The course of study is approved by an accrediting agency which is fully recognized by the U.S. Department of Education. This has been the case for more than 25 years.
Before they are allowed to practice, doctors of chiropractic must pass national board examinations and become state-licensed. Chiropractic colleges also offer post-graduate continuing education programs in specialty fields ranging from sports injuries and occupational health to orthopedics and neurology. These programs allow chiropractors to specialize in a healthcare discipline or meet state re-licensure requirements.
This extensive education prepares doctors of chiropractic to diagnose health care problems, treat the problems when they are within their scope of practice and refer patients to other health care practitioners when appropriate.
References1- Meeker W, Haldeman H. Chiropractic: A Profession at the Crossroads of Mainstream and Alternative Medicine.
Annals of Internal Medicine 2002, Vol 136, No 3. 2- American Physical Therapy Association. 2005-2006 Fact Sheet, Physical Therapist Education Programs. January 2007.