How to Become a Chiropractor

To become a chiropractor involves taking up a highly successful form of health therapy. Chiropractic concepts are based on the principle that misalignment of the spine is a major issue in causing neural disorders, reducing resistance to disease and other health problems. 

Education and Licensing

To qualify as practitioners chiropractors must complete 2-4 years undergraduate studies in a related discipline, and four years formal training at a chiropractic college. Most undergraduate studies are in humanities or organic sciences at Bachelors degree level. Chiropractic programs involve a required minimum 4200 hours in laboratory, clinical and classroom work over the four year period. They are highly structured progressive programs, starting from basal theory and developing knowledge bases and skills in concert with applied science. The first two years involve classroom and laboratory work in basic sciences, introduction to chiropractic principles, clinical operations, etc. The second two year period involves practical diagnosis, radiology and training in the chiropractic techniques.

All chiropractors are required to meet state licensing requirements, which may vary between states. The baseline requirements for all states are a required level of undergraduate studies of 2-4 years, and all states require successful completion of a four year program at an accredited chiropractic college.

The work environment

Chiropractors, as health practitioners, work in "clinical" environments, serving clients on an appointment basis. The work involves:

  • Consultation
  • Tests in whatever form required
  • Diagnosis
  • Therapy 

The therapy is the essential chiropractic operation, which involves spinal manipulation and is a manual process. However, treatment of conditions may also include heat treatment, ultrasound, massage, acupuncture and other therapies. The therapy may also include setting up a nutritional program and exercises for patients to do at home. Treatment may involve considerable case management, sometimes over long periods. Although the common image of the chiropractor is mainly concerned with bones joints and muscles, a chiropractor functions in many ways, offering advice and services to deal with a wide range of conditions.

The career environment

A chiropractor's qualifications, although demanding, are only the beginning of a range of possible career paths. Additional qualifications can lead to particular specializations in areas like sports injuries, neurology, and orthopedics. Also, pediatrics, health consultant or technical areas, like radiology, are common roads for a chiropractor.

Chiropractors have a wide choice of career options. In the early stages of a chiropractor's career, getting established as a practitioner imposes career directions in terms of the type of chiropractic services involved related specializations and form of employment. Some chiropractors work in clinics as part of larger medical services, but many are also self-employed. Chiropractors also often run businesses, or are partners in practices.

The business element introduces the next stage of the career progression. Chiropractors can operate very successful practices, depending on the business model. Overheads for advanced practices are potentially high, but so is the revenue. The income range for chiropractors starts from about $50,000 up to roughly $110,000 per year. A successful joint practice can put real money into development and extending its range of services. Over time, practices build careers and a chiropractor can make more money.