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How to Become a Chiropractor

Chiropractors always have their patients' backs. And their neck. And their overall neuromusculoskeletal system. These healthcare providers work to fix patients when they're at their worst, often after a traumatic event like a car accident. So, how do you become a chiropractor if you want to be one of these healthcare heroes? 

Don't get bent out of shape scouring the Internet for information about becoming a chiropractor, as here is everything you need to know about making a career as a licensed chiropractor work. 

What is a chiropractor? 

It's no secret that chiropractors make us feel better, but how do they do it? Simply, chiropractors care for and treat patients with health problems involving the nerves, bones, muscles, ligaments, and tendons. They can manage pain, typically back and neck pain, by doing spinal adjustments and manipulations. 

Certain chiropractors will use massage therapy, ultrasounds, and rehabilitation exercises or physical therapy in their practice as well. Additionally, chiropractors can have a specialty such as sports, neurology, pediatrics, nutrition, or orthopedics, to name a few. 

Chiropractors must have a wide range of skills to do their job safely and correctly. They must have excellent decision-making skills to decide the treatment for their patients. Additionally, they have to be detail-oriented so that they don't cause any harm to their patients. Chiropractors must be empathetic as well to care efficiently for those that are in pain. Good organizational skills are also beneficial as many chiropractors must organize their bills, schedule appointments, and have good record keeping. 

Chiropractors typically work a 40-hour workweek. They may work a variety of schedules that may include weekends and evenings. If a chiropractor has their own practice, they will set their own hours and even make house calls to patients if necessary. 

So, how long does it take to become a chiropractor? Overall, becoming a chiropractor can take seven or more years. A doctor of chiropractic program can take four years, and before that, an undergraduate degree must be completed. Following that, the National Board of Chiropractic Examiners (NBCE) exam, or an exam required in a specific state, must be taken and passed to practice as a chiropractor in any state in the US. 

Below are five steps to becoming a licensed chiropractor.

How to Become a Chiropractor: A Step by Step Guide

Step 1: Earn a Bachelor's Degree

Prior to obtaining a doctor of chiropractic degree, you must complete an undergraduate degree. This bachelor's degree is referred to as a pre-med or a pre-healthcare degree. In this degree, you will focus on the biological sciences or human biology. You should take courses involving physics, biology, and chemistry to prepare you for the doctoral degree and complete the prerequisites needed to apply. 

Depending on the institution, specific programs might require you to have 24 hours of physical science coursework before applying to a doctor of chiropractic program. Additionally, you must have a grade point average of 3.0 or higher before applying to chiropractic schools. 

At some institutions, you will also have the option of earning both your undergraduate degree and doctorate concurrently. That means after all of the undergraduate degree program requirements are met, you will immediately move on to fulfilling requirements for the doctorate. 

Step 2: Attend a Chiropractic College 

Continuing education at a chiropractic college is the next step toward becoming a chiropractic medical doctor. You will need to apply to earn your doctor of chiropractic degree. This degree will typically take four years to complete. However, an accelerated degree program can take about three years to complete. 

Many universities will give you hands-on experience early on as chiropractic education usually involves clinical rotations and even internships. Additionally, you can often choose a chiropractic specialty while earning your degree if you know that you are interested in a specific area of study. 

You will also learn radiology and X-rays as part of the curriculum as ideally, chiropractors work to optimize the nervous system's function. Additional topics covered while earning this degree include nutrition, public health, anatomy, rehabilitation, and physiology. Following graduating with a doctorate, chiropractic students will go on to take a chiropractic exam. 

Earning a chiropractic degree will cost you around $10,000 to $30,000 per year in tuition. Over four years, you can expect to pay anywhere from $40,000 to $120,000, depending on the university. However, there might be scholarships, grants, or loans that can help to lessen this amount.  

Step 3: Obtain a License 

Depending upon the state where you want to begin administering chiropractic care, the prerequisites will vary. However, across the board, all US states will require a doctor of chiropractic degree and an exam. The three-part National Board of Chiropractic Examiners exam is typically accepted in all states. However, each state may have a specific exam that should be completed. 

Individual states will also require you to complete a background check and state law exams. You should check the state's health department or the board of chiropractic examiners department prior to taking any exam to see the specific requirements for that state. 

Step 4: Choose a Specialty 

Many chiropractors choose a specialty to focus their education on. You may select a specialty while earning a doctorate. There are a variety of different specialties that you can choose from, including sports injuries or pediatrics. Many chiropractors combine neuropathy with chiropractic techniques and procedures to provide care without using drugs or surgery. 

Step 5: Continue Completing and Updating Education 

Running a chiropractic practice and working as a chiropractor means you have to update your education continually. As with all science fields, medicine is frequently being updated and altered, and chiropractic education is no different. All states require chiropractors to maintain continual education. You can stay up-to-date by attending workshops and classes to learn about the latest developments in the field. Additionally, you can add other services to your practice, such as massage or natural medicine. 

Why You Should Become a Chiropractor 

There are more than 70,000 active chiropractic licenses in the United States. So, why join them? Chiropractors are the 22nd best job in healthcare and here are some reasons why. 

There is a nationwide need for chiropractors

There is a nationwide need for chiropractors across the United States in both big cities and small rural towns. It is stated that chiropractors treat 44 million people in the United States alone. Additionally, chiropractors can open their own practices in these big cities and small towns, which is a dream for many doctors. The nationwide need will continue as many people are drawn to chiropractic services due to its non-surgical avenues of treatment and the fact that they don't prescribe drugs.

Additionally, this need will continue as long as patients or their healthcare plans can pay for the services. The good news is that more and more health insurance plans are covering chiropractic services. 

You will receive a comprehensive education 

Chiropractic education is fully comprehensive and can sometimes be comparable to attending medical school. Four thousand two hundred hours of class time involves hands-on labs and coursework and learning patients' care skills. 

You could work with high profile athletes

Athletes of all caliber are turning to chiropractic medicine for injury prevention, increased performance, and recovery. If you choose to specialize in athletics, you could have the opportunity to work with athletes of all ranges.  

The career of a chiropractor includes nationwide recognition 

Chiropractors are always recognized in major medical journals such as Spine, Annals of Internal Medicine, and the American Medical Association Journal, to name a few. 

Competitive chiropractor salary and job outlook

Not only do chiropractors get to make a meaningful difference in people's lives, but the pay isn't too bad either. According to the labor statistics bureau, the median income for a chiropractor is around $70,340, with the lower end being $35,290 and the highest ten percent being $147,480. Of course, these numbers can change depending on location and number of hours worked, among other factors. Chiropractors can earn more as they build their client base. 

Moreover, a chiropractor's job growth is expected to be seven percent from 2018 to 2028, which is a little faster than the average job in the United States. 

How to Finance a Chiropractic Degree

There are many different options for financing a chiropractic degree. Typical to traditional colleges, there are loans, scholarships, grants, and other additional resources applicable in some instances. Additionally, a work-study position or a part-time job might be a great additional source of income.  

Deciding if a chiropractic career is right for you can be a tough decision. Career Karma is here to make that decision as easy as possible. Learn more about becoming a chiropractor at 

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