Become a Chiropractor: Education and Career Roadmap

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

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Do I Want to Be 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.

Job Requirements

In order to become a chiropractor, students must obtain medical training and certification. In most states, individuals interested in this profession will need to earn either 90 undergraduate college credits or a bachelor's degree and then continue their education at a school that offers training in chiropractic medicine. A practicum or other type of field experience is also normally required. Additionally, all states require a license or similar credential to practice. The following table contains the primary requirements for being a chiropractor, as outlined by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS):

Common Requirements
Degree Level Doctor of Chiropractic degree required
Degree Field Chiropractic
Licensure and/or Certification All states require a license to practice
Experience Clinical experience; sometimes a residency is required
Key Skills Empathy, dexterity and interpersonal skills

Step 1: Attend College

A Doctor of Chiropractic degree is required to work as chiropractor. However, one must first earn at least 90 completed credits at the undergraduate level. Some states require a bachelor's degree in order to be licensed as a chiropractor, so one should check with the state board where one plans to practice. Students need to 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 humanities and social science 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 four-year degree program. Students typically take courses and labs in anatomy and chemistry, chiropractic philosophy and diagnosis. Specific courses are taught on chiropractic techniques as well, 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.

Success Tip:

  • Earn a bachelor's degree. Even though there are many states that don't require undergraduate education beyond 90 credits, a future chiropractor with a bachelor's degree can be licensed in any state. By finishing a bachelor's degree one will be prepared in the event of a move or a change in state law.

Step 3: Obtain a License

All states require that chiropractors to 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: Continue Education

Continuing education is required for annual licensure by many state licensing boards. Chiropractors often attended 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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Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics