Become a Chiropractor: Education and Career Roadmap

Learn how to become a chiropractor. Research the job description, education and licensing requirements, and find out how to start a career in chiropractic medicine.

Should I Become a Chiropractor?

Chiropractors diagnose and treat muscular and skeletal problems, primarily those affecting the back and neck. Manipulating or adjusting the spine to relieve pain and improve function is the best known chiropractic treatment. However, chiropractors may also employ alternative therapies. Chiropractors often spend many hours standing and might work nights and weekends to meet their patients' scheduling needs. Full and part-time work is available, and self-employed workers can set their own hours.

Career Requirements

Degree Level Doctor of Chiropractic degree required
Degree Field Chiropractic
Licensure All states require a license to practice
Experience Clinical experience; sometimes a residency is required
Key Skills Empathic, dexterity, decision-making, detail-oriented and interpersonal skills
Salary $66,720 per year (2014 median salary for all chiropractors)

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Step 1: Earn a Bachelor's Degree

A Doctor of Chiropractic degree is required to work as chiropractor. However, candidates usually must first complete at least 90 credits of undergraduate coursework. Some states do not require a bachelor's degree to become licensed as a chiropractor, so individuals should check with the state board they wish to practice in. Students should choose a major offering coursework in chemistry, biology and physics to meet chiropractic college prerequisites. Because of the close personal contact required by this career, aspiring chiropractors should also take courses, such as communication, sociology and interpersonal relations.

Step 2: Attend a Chiropractic College

Future chiropractors must earn the Doctor of Chiropractic (D.C.) degree from an accredited chiropractic college. Only a handful of schools in the United States offer this 4-year degree program. Students typically take courses and labs in anatomy and chemistry, chiropractic philosophy and diagnosis. Specific courses are taught on chiropractic techniques, such as instrument-assisted systems, chiropractic biophysics, spinal biomechanics and extremity adjustment techniques. Most programs include an internship at a chiropractic practice or clinic where students can practice their manipulation and diagnostic skills under the supervision of a licensed chiropractor.

Step 3: Obtain a License

All states require that chiropractors hold a Doctor of Chiropractic degree and pass a certification exam before they can begin their careers. Some states require chiropractors to earn additional continuing education credits after graduating from a chiropractic college before they can take the exam. The National Board of Chiropractic Examiners offers a three-part exam (with an optional fourth section) that is accepted by most states, while some states have their own exam.

Step 4: Choose a Chiropractic Specialty

Many chiropractors specialize in sports injuries, geriatrics or pediatrics. Some combine neuropathy with chiropractic procedures to treat nervous system and back pain conditions without the use of surgery or drugs. Chiropractors may focus on community outreach programs to increase the population's acceptance of chiropractic medicine.

Step 5: Complete Continuing Education to Maintain Licensure

Continuing education is required for annual licensure by many state licensing boards. Chiropractors often attend workshops or accredited continuing education classes to learn about developments in chiropractic medicine. Many chiropractors study naturopathy, massage or alternative medicine to add to their practice.

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