How to Become a Chiropractor

If you are interested in helping people feel better and overcome illness in a holistic way, you may want to think about becoming a chiropractor. The average wage for a chiropractor in 2010 was $112,368, and it was rated among the Top 50 Best Jobs in The Wall Street Journal in terms of working environment, stress, physical demands, and job outlook. Forty-four percent of chiropractors are self employed, and the field is expected to grow by at least 20 percent in the next 10 years. Here are some tips and information to use to become a chiropractor.

What Is a Chiropractor?

A chiropractor is a health care professional who diagnoses and treats health issues related to the musculoskeletal and nervous systems. Chiropractic science supports the concepts that joints that are misaligned affect the nervous system negatively, in addition to decreasing the effectiveness of the immune system and reducing the level of one’s overall health.

Chiropractors manipulate patients’ spines and use other therapies such as heat therapy, hydrotherapy, massage, and acupuncture to help alleviate patients’ adverse symptoms. They rely on their patients’ inherent recuperative abilities to heal themselves after using therapy to help their health issues. Chiropractors often specialize in sports medicine, orthopedics, pediatrics, geriatrics, and other fields in order to concentrate their efforts in a particular type of expertise.

You must have a desire to help people overcome pain and other symptoms if you want to become a chiropractor. Patients often see chiropractors for symptoms such as back and shoulder pain, numbness in limbs or joints, limping, soreness in the back or shoulders, and injuries that involve joints or their backs. Chiropractors often use x-rays, laboratory tests, and intense examinations in order to diagnose the culprit for their patients’ symptoms and pain. Sometimes all that is required to fix a patient’s symptoms is a simple realignment of the spine. Other times more intense therapy is necessary.

To become a chiropractor, a professional must obtain the appropriate education and experience. Many chiropractors attend a college or university to obtain at least 90 hours of education toward a four-year degree. They study humanities, social sciences, and natural sciences including biology, physics, physiology and anatomy, chemistry, organic chemistry, sociology, psychology, political science, mathematics, English, and a host of other subjects. After obtaining the initial hours of education, many students pursue their Doctor of Chiropractor (D.C.) designation by working to acquire at least 4,200 hours of classroom study, laboratory work, and clinical experience.

In 2009, there were only 16 accredited schools for chiropractic medicine in the United States. These 16 schools are accredited by the Council on Chiropractic Education. Other schools may also teach chiropractic medicine, although they are not officially accredited. Most chiropractic schools are very selective when admitting students. They take only those students with the best test scores, grades, and school resumes. These accredited schools teach students theories of chiropractic medicine, techniques, patient relations, law, ethics, and other applicable treatments. Through their studies, students acquire the equivalent of a four-year degree. In the future, many schools may require a four-year degree as a prerequisite for admission.

How to become a Chiropractor
All states and the District of Columbia require licensure in order to practice. So after getting an education, a professional must get licensed to become a chiropractor who can practice legally in all states in the U.S. States may create their own tests and standards, but many of them utilize part or all of the National Board of Chiropractic Examiners’ examination.

Some states require additional testing beyond this. Part of licensure guidelines also includes the requirement of specific minimum education levels. Most states require a Doctor of Chiropractic degree from an accredited institution, along with adherence to a moral and ethical code that ensures the privacy and well being of patients.

Sometimes chiropractors transfer to other states or move their practices. Many states accept other states’ licensing standards, as long as the guidelines are similar, and will grant a chiropractor licensure status without having to take their licensing examination in order to practice in the new state. If the licensing guidelines differ greatly, the chiropractor may have to reapply for a license and take the examination in order to prove his qualifications and abilities.

Additional Requirements

Along with being licensed, chiropractors often belong to professional organizations, such as the American Association of Chiropractors, which require chiropractors to uphold specified levels of expertise and meet indicated moral and ethical standards.

Even after being licensed, however in order to retain their licensed status and to be able to continue practicing as a professional, chiropractors must participate in continuing education by taking additional classes, attending seminars, participating in conferences, and other types of continuing education opportunities. The standards may vary from state to state, but every state in the United States except for New Jersey requires chiropractors to obtain a certain number of continuing education credits for each license term.

Continuing education credits help chiropractors learn about new techniques and trends in the field of chiropractic medicine. They learn about advanced research that brings to light new methods and treatment options for symptoms and illnesses. Many chiropractors use the continuing education requirement as an opportunity to pursue an advanced degree or a doctorate in their field. Others utilize the chance to become more specialized and focus on a particular branch of chiropractic medicine.

It takes a lot of effort, hard work, and funding to become a chiropractor. However, the benefits are numerous once a professional has completed the required education and obtained a license. Chiropractors see an expanding job market, lucrative salaries (especially when in specialized fields such as sports medicine), flexible schedules, and opportunities to assist patients.