How to Become a Chiropractor
Chiropractors are doctors who provide primary care based on the idea that health issues arise from problems with the body’s musculoskeletal and nervous systems. Chiropractors adjust and manipulate their patients’ spines to relieve pain and other ailments. They may also use other techniques like massage therapy or acupuncture to treat their patients.
While many people seek chiropractic care for help dealing with musculoskeletal issues like joint, neck, and back pain, others believe that chiropractic adjustments relieve issues like allergies and digestive disorders. Chiropractic practice is guided by a belief in the body’s ability to heal itself without invasive treatment.
Chiropractors may provide general care or focus on a specialty like pediatrics, sports, or orthopedics.
What kind of training is required to become a chiropractor?
Chiropractors must have a Doctor of Chiropractic (DC) degree. DC programs take three to four years to complete and are structured similarly to medical school programs. Students in DC programs take courses in physiology and anatomy, including spine and extremities, head and neck, and thorax, abdomen, and pelvis anatomy. They also take other foundational courses in biochemistry, cellular physiology, pathology, and microbiology.
As they progress in their program, DC students study the evaluation and manipulation of different parts of the body, and how to use medical imaging to identify and diagnose health issues. They learn about various manual therapy and rehabilitation techniques and study alternative medical principles like natural and botanical medicine. The practice of chiropractic care is another focus of DC programs, and students learn how to build relationships with patients, keep records, and run their own practice.
The final phase of a DC program focuses on clinical training, and students complete several clinical internships that allow them to put their learning into practice with real patients under the supervision of experienced chiropractors.
Are there any certification or licensure requirements?
Chiropractors must be licensed by their state to practice. Each state sets its own requirements, but in most cases, chiropractors must complete a DC program that has been accredited by the Council of Chiropractic Education. Graduates of non-accredited programs may be able to earn licensure if they can show that their program of study meets their state’s standards.
Chiropractors must also pass licensing examinations. The National Board of Chiropractic Examiners offers a multi-part test that assesses chiropractors’ knowledge and clinical skills.
How long does it take to become a chiropractor?
It can take seven to eight years to complete the undergraduate and graduate education necessary to become a chiropractor. Some chiropractors complete fellowships after graduation, and these may add one to three years to the amount of time it takes to begin practicing.
What does a chiropractor earn?
The median yearly pay for chiropractors in the United States was $66,160 in 2012. The top ten percent of earners in this field made more than $142,950 and the lowest ten percent made less than $31,030 that year.
What are the job prospects?
The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that employment of chiropractors in the United States will grow by 15 percent between 2012 and 2020. This growth is faster than the average expected growth for all occupations in the United States, and the BLS expects that increasing acceptance of alternative approaches to health care will contribute to this growth, as will increased access to health insurance and a need to care for an aging population.
What are the long term career prospects for chiropractors?
As they gain experience and build a strong reputation for patient care in their community, chiropractors should be able to attract more clients and buy into ownership of a practice or start their own.
Many chiropractors pursue postgraduate education to further their training and specialize in a certain kind of chiropractic care. Others pursue degrees in other areas of health care, such as nutrition or acupuncture, to supplement their practice and provide a wider variety of services to patients.
How can I find a job as a chiropractor?
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, most chiropractors work in single or group practices, and 37 percent practice independently. If you are looking to enter a group practice, you may make some contacts through your DC program and your clinical internships that will help you find one that’s a good fit.
If you want to open your own practice, your DC program may offer alumni resources that will help you prepare the business side of your endeavor. You will need to learn about accepting different kinds of health insurance, running an office, and hiring employees.
How can I learn more about becoming a chiropractor?
The American Chiropractic Association has many helpful resources on its website for those who are interested in becoming chiropractors or just want to know more about the principles and practice of chiropractic care. Each state has its own chiropractic association as well, and these organizations may help you learn more about the practice of chiropractic care in your state.