When you want to go into a thriving career, becoming a chiropractor is a good idea. But, of course, this means you have to figure out how to become a chiropractor.
As a chiropractor, you’ll work to improve the lives of your patients by treating their musculoskeletal issues. In addition, you will likely work with patients suffering from an injury or chronic pain. Let’s look at the steps you will need to take to become a chiropractor.
Requirements to Become a Chiropractor
To become a chiropractor, you will need to meet the following requirements:
- Gain a Doctor of Chiropractic Degree
- Pass all State Licensing Requirements
- Gain Clinical Experience and may need to complete a residency
Along with these requirements, you’ll need to have the right skills. As a chiropractor, it’s good to be empathetic, a decision-maker, and detail-oriented. You should also have good interpersonal skills, and dexterity is helpful.
How to Get into Chiropractic School
Earn your High School Diploma
The first thing you need to do if you want to become a chiropractor is getting your high school diploma. Taking the right courses in high school can help you in chiropractic school. Courses in physics, chemistry, biology, and mathematics can help you better prepare.
A high school diploma or equivalent is necessary to get into an undergraduate program.
Earn your Undergraduate Degree
Getting a bachelor’s degree is the next step. With a four-year bachelor’s degree, you can qualify for the chiropractic doctoral program. You will need at least 90 undergraduate credits in general education. Along with these general education credits, you will also need to complete organic and inorganic chemistry, biology, and physics courses.
While you can get an associate’s degree to get into chiropractic school, these programs usually only give you about 60 credit hours. So a bachelor’s degree in biology makes more sense.
Most bachelor’s degree programs in science will help you work towards getting into chiropractic school. However, anything with a pre-med concentration or a specialization in microbiology, biotechnology, or molecular biology can help you get into chiropractic school.
Learn About the Field of Chiropractic Care
Before you apply for admission to chiropractic school, it’s a good idea to understand the field of chiropractic care. Having a better understanding of the type of care you will need to know can help you make an educated decision to move forward with this career.
Apply for Admission to Chiropractic School
You will need to have at least a 3.0 cumulative GPA for your undergraduate work. It’s also necessary to have at least 90 semester hours of college courses, including the following:
- 12 hours of humanities/social sciences
- 3 hours of psychology
- 24 semester hours in physical and life science with half the courses including a laboratory component.
- 6 hours of English/communications
- Recommended electives to meet the required 90 semester hours
It’s recommended that eight hours of the science credits are in general and organic chemistry.
Becoming a Licensed Chiropractor
While you will need your high school diploma/GED to get into college and your undergraduate degree to get into Chiropractic school, your journey isn’t over yet. To become a chiropractor, you still need to complete the chiropractic school coursework and pass your licensing exams.
Chiropractic School Coursework
When you enter chiropractic school, you’ll be working through the coursework on a year-round schedule. The courses are offered in trimesters with three per year. This schedule allows you to complete chiropractic school in 3.3 years.
Some of the coursework you will complete includes:
- Trimesters 1 to 3
- Cell Physiology
- Introductory chiropractic techniques classes
- Spinal anatomy
- Head and neck anatomy
- Trimesters 4 to 6
- Skeletal radiology
- Physiology lab
- Advanced chiropractic techniques
- Clinical laboratory diagnosis
- Trimesters 7 to 10
- Advanced diagnostic skills
- Advanced chiropractic techniques
- Chiropractic business management
- Electronic Health Records systems
- Chiropractic case management
- Patient care best practices
When you reach trimester 7, you will be given a white coat. This symbolizes the transition from chiropractic student to chiropractic intern. This also means you can start working with patients.
National Board of Chiropractic Examiners: Board Exams
After completing the correct coursework, you’ll need to pass the national tests. These tests are known as the National Board of Chiropractic Examiners (NBCE) exams. The courses you take at the chiropractic school you select will help you pass these tests.
The NBCE exam is comprehensive, and you will take different parts through your chiropractic school.
You will take the NBCE exams as follows:
- Part 1 – You will take this part of the test during your second year of chiropractic school
- Part 2 – During your third year of chiropractic school, you’ll take the second part of the exam
- Physiotherapy – After you complete at least 120 hours, you will be able to take the physiotherapy portion of the NBCE exam
- Part 4 – You are allowed to take part 4 of the NBCE exam after you’ve passed all the subjects of Part 1
It’s helpful to make sure you’re fully prepared for each portion of the NBCE exam when you’re in chiropractic school.
State Licensing Exam
Just about every state in the United States will require an exam to get your chiropractic license. This is necessary to become a state-licensed chiropractor. The test will vary from one state to another. Some of what you’ll be required to complete for your state license may include:
- A personal interview
- Pay the necessary licensing fees
- Examinations for various topics and subjects
- A complete background check, along with evidence of insurance
After you’ve completed all of these requirements, you will be able to become a licensed chiropractor.
Common Timeline for a Chiropractic Career
After graduating from chiropractic school, you will be able to start working within this career path. After about five years of experience, you may have the opportunity to buy into a practice and become a partner. You can also consider opening your own chiropractic practice as a sole proprietor.
When you reach the ten-year mark, you should have an established practice. After ten years, many chiropractors start teaching part-time or may get involved in a professional organization at a higher level.
If you remain a chiropractor for 15 to 20 years, you will likely be set up to publish studies and conduct research. You will be considered a leader in your profession, which comes with influence.
One of the many reasons people want to become a chiropractor is to work for themselves. As a result, many chiropractors become business owners. In fact, around 30% of chiropractors end up self-employed and gain control over their own business, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
As a self-employed chiropractor, you will control where you live, where you work, and your hours. While it can be stressful to run your own business, it also allows you control over your pay.
Frequently Asked Questions About Becoming a Chiropractor
Is the career of a chiropractor growing?
There are many job opportunities for those going into a career as a chiropractor. The job growth for the industry is expected to be about 12% by 2026, which is close to double the national average.
With the baby boomer generation growing older, chiropractic care is becoming necessary. As a result, there are more opportunities for chiropractors now than ever before. It’s also a growing industry due to many insurance plans now covering the cost of chiropractic treatment.
What type of pain will you treat as a chiropractor?
Chiropractors commonly treat back pain and joint pain. They also work with patients suffering from arthritic pain, neck pain, and even headaches. As a chiropractor, you will likely work with patients that have suffered a car accident injury, sports injury, or suffer from chronic pain.
How much can I make as a chiropractor?
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average annual pay for a chiropractor is just over $70K. But, of course, your actual salary will depend on your location, level of experience, and the type of facility you choose for employment.
How long will it take me to earn my Doctor of Chiropractic degree?
After completing your Bachelor’s degree, it will take 10 trimesters or 3.3 years to gain your Doctor of Chiropractic degree. So, in total, it will take about 7 to 9 years to complete the necessary education to become a Chiropractor.
How do students pay for chiropractic school?
Just like many other college choices, chiropractic school comes with a specific cost. It’s often paid for through scholarships, grants, loans, and personal funds. There are some federal Work-Study positions to consider, as well.