How to Become a Chiropractor

Careers as a Chiropractor

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Chiropractors diagnose, treat, and prevent problems with their patients' muscular and skeletal systems. Chiropractors concentrate mainly on the spine and muscles connected to the spine and treat their patients through hands-on manipulation. You'll sometimes hear chiropractors called "back crackers" because they spend a lot of time making adjustments to the spine that cause their patients backs to crack. This article explains what the layman needs to know about how to become a chiropractor.

How to Become a ChiropractorChiropractors are considered alternative or complimentary medicine providers because there's some controversy surrounding whether or not their treatments actually provide a medical benefit. Certainly, if your neck or back is stiff and you receive treatment from a chiropractor, you'll feel better in the short-term. But some chiropractors claim their treatments provide many more benefits and can prevent diseases outside of the realm of the muscular or skeletal systems, including depression, influenza, the common cold, and even cancer.

Whether or not chiropractors are providing a valid medical service to patients, there's a huge business in chiropractic care. Next to medical doctors and dentists, chiropractors are the third largest medical profession, treating 30 million Americans each year. Want to learn how to become a chiropractor? Read on.

Chiropractor Salaries - How Much do Chiropractors Earn?

Chiropractors can work for a salary as part of a larger medical group (usually a network of chiropractors, massage therapists, and other alternative medicine providers) or they can earn income in private practice. Chiropractors who run their own practice stand to make more money, but also risk their initial investment if their business doesn't take off. Working as a chiropractor for a chiropractic or alternative medicine firm is more financially stable but offers smaller potential earnings.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, chiropractors in America earn an average salary of about $75,000. There's a wide range of chiropractor salaries, from a low of around $50,000 to a high of $120,000 annually. The variance in salary reflects the difference between chiropractors in private practice and those working for larger networks of health care providers.

Another major factor in chiropractor earnings is geographic location. In large urban areas, chiropractors can charge more per treatment and have a larger pool of clients, so they can work as much as they want. In rural areas, chiropractors have fewer patients and charge less per treatment. Other factors that affect chiropractor salaries: individual certifications, experience, career accomplishments, and length of career.

Education and Training for Chiropractors

Proper education and continuing education is extremely important for chiropractors. New technology and procedures pop up all the time in chiropractic care, and the only way to learn to use new tools and methods of treatment is to constantly educate yourself.

Most chiropractic schools worldwide recommend their applicants earn a 4-year bachelor's degree first. Though it isn't required, students tend to take a pre-med course before they apply to chiropractic school. A few chiropractic colleges in America offer their own four-year bachelor's degree program in chiropractic care or pre-med for students who want to become chiropractors. That way, students attend the same school for eight years of training.

The degree that chiropractors earn is called the Doctor of Chiropractic degree or DC. This degree requires at least 4,200 hours of classroom, laboratory, and clinical experience. Earning your DC takes about four years to complete. For the first couple of years, students will spend time in the classroom and labs in anatomy, physiology, disease pathology, and other medical sciences. The final two years of earning your DC puts an emphasis on clinical experience. This is where students learn to make spinal adjustments and diagnose muscular and skeletal problems.

How much does it cost to earn a DC? Besides the cost of your four-year degree, tuition at chiropractic schools ranges from $11,000 to $20,000, depending on the program. The difference in the cost of tuition reflects regional differences mostly, though some chiropractic schools (like New York Chiropractic College) charge more because they have a solid reputation.

Some states require both a bachelor's degree and a Doctor of Chiropractic degree to practice chiropractic medicine. These states, Florida, Kansas, Montana, Rhode Island, Wisconsin and the U.S. Virgin Islands, require students earning a DC to first have a bachelor's degree. Because of these state requirements any chiropractic college worth your time will now recommend you earn a bachelor's degree before or while you earn your DC.

Chiropractor Qualifications

The qualifications for becoming a chiropractor include earning degrees, passing licensure exams, and undergoing background and criminal checks.

In forty-six states in America, all you need to earn your license to practice chiropractic medicine is to complete a 2- or 4-year undergraduate chiropractic school program, earn a DC degree from an accredited chiropractic college, and pass whatever state and national board exams required by the state where you plan to practice. Over time, more and more states are also requiring a full four-year undergraduate degree in the sciences, so research your state's latest licensure requirements before you spend money on your DC degree.

Since continuing education is crucial for providing good chiropractic services, every American state has continuing education requirements for chiropractors to maintain their license. DCs can find classes that meet their continuing education requirements at any accredited chiropractic college and through membership in chiropractic associations. Many chiropractors satisfy their continuing education requirements by taking postdoctoral training in medical fields like orthopedics, pediatrics, family practice, nutrition, and even neurology, since chiropractic deals with the spine and the nervous system. Chiropractors who learn these fields earn special clinical status through the International Chiropractors Association and can charge more for their services and treat a wider range of patients.

Becoming a Chiropractor Step by Step

1. Earn a bachelor's degree in the sciences from an accredited college or university, completed with minimum cumulative grade point average of 2.50 on a 4.00 scale. You need 60 hours in English, the humanities, organic and inorganic chemistry, biology, physics, and psychology.

2. Earn your DC degree from an accredited chiropractic college.

3. Pass state and national licensure exams.

4. Submit to a background check and possibly a drug test by your state licensing board.

Chiropractors provide a valuable medical treatment to millions of Americans every year. Whether or not you buy into the innate intelligence theory or just think that a good back cracking every now and then is good for the body, trusting a chiropractor to assist in medical problems is a common way people deal with the aches and pains of everyday life. Becoming a chiropractor is an easy and relatively inexpensive way to practice medicine and can earn your a six figure salary under the right conditions.