What is involved in a chiropractor career? The work of a chiropractor consists primarily of diagnosing and treating musculoskeletal problems in patients suffering from the resultant effects on their nervous systems. Treatment often calls for manipulation of the spine, since chiropractic is based on the idea that spinal joint misalignments inhibit the nervous system, leading to possible increased incidence of disease and a variety of other nagging health conditions. Chiropractors take a drugless, nonsurgical approach to treating patients, perform physical exams, order lab tests including x-rays, analyze patients’ spines and postures, and, when appropriate, manually adjust the spinal column. Other aspects of a particular chiropractor’s practice may involve using heat therapies, massage, or acupuncture, urging the use of supports like shoe inserts, and counseling patients about nutrition, exercise, and stress reduction. Individuals who go medical careers as chiropractors may be general practitioners, or they may specialize in applying their talents to a certain area like orthopedics, diagnostic imaging, or sports injuries.
The Council on Chiropractic Education has accredited 16 programs in the United States. To gain acceptance for entry, those aspiring to a chiropractor career need 90 or more semester hours of undergraduate study, with many obtaining a bachelor’s degree prior to applying. To successfully complete a training program offered by a chiropractic college, students must have a combination of 4,200 hours of classroom, laboratory, and clinical experience. Instruction covers, among other things, anatomy, microbiology, pathology, manipulation and spinal adjustment, neurology, orthopedics, and nutrition.
Chiropractic treatment is regulated in every state and the District of Columbia, and a chiropractors may practice only in the state in which they received their license. However, if that state has an agreement with one or more another state, the chiropractor may also obtain a license to practice elsewhere without being required to pass another examination, as long as his credentials meet the other state’s particular standards. Two years of undergraduate education is generally the minimum required by state licensing boards. However, possession of a four-year bachelor’s degree is becoming increasingly necessary as more boards demanding a higher level of education from those seeking to begin a chiropractor career. Additionally, prospects must pass the four-part certification test given by the National Board of Chiropractors. After being certified, they must complete a certain number of hours of continuing education annually in order to maintain licensure, except in New Jersey, which has no such requirement.
The employment outlook for individuals going into a chiropractor career is presently quite good and expected to spike sharply, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Typical annual compensation is in the $60,000 to $90,000 range. As the public continues to explore alternative forms of health care, especially those that stress healthy living and de-emphasize drugs and surgery, chiropractic care should become an increasingly attractive option for addressing back, neck, and joint problems. This makes a chiropractor career an excellent choice for anyone with a preference for close interaction with patients and a hands-on, drug-free philosophy of medical care.