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Using the Terms Doctorate or Board Certified in Marketing - Are you Misrepresenting your Degree?

Monday, April 29, 2019 9:00 AM | Anonymous

Lately, I have seen more chiropractic advertising utilizing the terms “Doctorate in Chiropractic” and “Board Certified” but with no designation as to what they are board certified in.  Did you know there are possible advertising violations especially when using the “Board Certified” designation erroneously? Let’s review.

The Chiropractic Degree

A D.C. (Doctor of Chiropractic) or D.C.M. (Doctor of Chiropractic Medicine) degree is considered a 1st Professional Degree.  This degree designation is defined by the Department of Education as follows: 

“First-professional degrees represent a category of qualifications in professional subject areas that require students to have previously completed specified undergraduate coursework and/or degrees before enrolling.  They are considered graduate-level programs in the U.S. system because the follow prior undergraduate studies, but they are in fact first degrees in these professional subjects.  Holders of first-professional degrees are considered to have an entry-level qualification and may undertake graduate study in these professional fields following the award of the first-professional degree.”  

Other 1st Professional Degree’s include Dentists (D.D.S or D.D.M), Attorneys (J.D.), Veterinarians (D.V.M) Osteopaths (D.O.) and of course Medical Doctors (M.D.). 

Using the term Doctorate

The department of eduction defines the research doctorate, or the Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) and its equivalent titles, “as representing the highest academic qualification in the U.S. education system.  While the structure of U.S. doctoral programs is more formal and complex than in some other systems, it is important to note that the research doctorate is not awarded for the preliminary advanced study that leads to doctoral candidacy, but rather for successfully completing and defending the independent research presented in the form of the doctoral dissertation (thesis).”

Most often I see chiropractors referencing where they received their "Doctorate of Chiropractic" from or using the designation "Chiropractic Doctorate" in their CV's or "About Me" sections of their websites or business cards. There is no specialty for a doctorate study program in Chiropractic that I am aware of and thus no one D.C. that can truly say they have a “Doctorate in Chiropractic” although they may also hold a Ph.D. for another specialty in which case it should be added to their credentials as the designation can be supported with another degree.

If a medical doctor asks what your doctorate is in they are assuming it is something more than your D.C. degree and looking for an answer more along the lines of an additionally credentialed specialty focus or in research. Yes “Doctorate” sounds fancier and super smart, and those who have earned this designation certainly are, but you won’t be feeling so smart when the medical doctors you are trying to work with call you out on the designation!

Illegal? Not than I am aware of. Embarrassing - Absolutely!

For further definition on the 1st Professional Degree and Doctorates visit www.ed.gov

Stating You Are Board Certified 

All chiropractors take boards which they must pass to gain licensure - but that doesn’t mean you can advertise you are "board certified". When you say you are board certified (for your D.C. degree) it implies that you have more training than other chiropractors which is misleading and therefore in violation of medical advertising laws.

We often see chiropractic specialties that are truly board certified referred to as a “Diplomate”  status and if you have one you should most definitely advertise the additional accomplishment. To see a list of specialty degrees for the chiropractic profession click here.

These distinctions are more than just a potential source of embarrassment. There are possible regulatory repercussions in the form of advertising violations if you are found to be misleading in your advertising.  This is a major topic in my classroom and one guest lecturer I have in each trimester to discuss these concerns is Marc Abla from the Illinois Chiropractic Society who provides a little more clarity on the topic in this short video.

Illegal - as in the sense of jail time? Probably not. In terms of $$ - most likely if it is reported.  Embarrassing?  Yes, all healthcare specialists abide by the same marketing laws - have you ever seen an M.D. advertise that they are “Board Certified”  for their M.D. degree?

Please also make sure to check with your state board, that the title you are using is appropriate for your state (i.e. Chiropractic "Physician"). 

Don’t compensate for your D.C. degree - it’s impressive just for what it is!


  • Tuesday, December 29, 2020 6:40 AM | Alex Haines
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