There are approximately 50,000 chiropractors working in the United States. According to job growth statistics, in the next decade jobs in chiropractic should increase by 20%, which is much faster than average. Approximately 44% of all chiropractors are self-employed.
Chiropractors are required to be licensed in every state. Prior to licensing, they must undergo an undergraduate program two to four years in length, and then enroll in and complete a four year course in an accredited chiropractic college. Applicants must also pass both national and state tests.
Chiropractors look to the musculoskeletal system as the cause of many ills. Spinal manipulation is one approach to chiropractic. In principle, chiropractic holds that spinal misalignments cause disruption to the nervous system, stopping or misdirecting information carried by the nerves, resulting in a physical body that suffers from a lowered immunity and is therefore more susceptible to illness. The focus of chiropractic is correcting misalignments to improve health overall. In addition to spinal manipulation, chiropractic takes a holistic approach in which a healthy diet, sufficient rest, exercise, and avoidance of toxins like cigarettes and alcohol are all contributing factors.
Upon meeting a client for the first time, most chiropractors begin with a series of questions designed to illuminate the client’s life and lifestyle. A health history is taken, including chronic illnesses, medications, and surgeries. They will ask about diet and exercise, as well as stress factors the patient faces. After the interview, the chiropractor will examine the patient for neurological, orthopedic, and physical irregularities. A chiropractor may have occasion to order blood work or other lab tests, x-rays or other diagnostic images. Some chiropractors have found that using mild electrical impulse, heat, massage, water, acupuncture, ultrasound, and light enhances the work they do. Some suggest straps, shoe inserts, braces, or taping as additional aids.
Many chiropractors specialize in an area or field of special interest to them. For example, many chiropractors work exclusively with athletes, either to help heal sports injuries or to prevent them in the first place. Other chiropractors focus their practice on orthopedics, working with children, nutrition, neurology, or diagnostic imaging.
Chiropractors who are self-employed must oversee the office administration, order supplies, consult with insurance companies, hire employees, and otherwise function in a business capacity as well.
Chiropractic offices are for the most part clean, spare, and tranquil. Because of the nature of their work, chiropractors stand or walk for extended periods of time, which can cause fatigue and muscular or skeletal pain. Those chiropractors who own x-ray machines must follow safety measures to guard against radiation exposure. Most chiropractors work a minimum of 40 hours per week. Some self-employed chiropractors will work evenings or weekends as they build a client base. Those who are part of a group practice will be on call from time to time and, if a partner is unavailable, may treat a client who is not a patient with whom she is familiar.
There are currently fewer than 20 U. S. chiropractic programs accredited by the Council on Chiropractic Education. A minimum of 90 undergraduate semester hours are required toward a bachelor’s degree that includes coursework in English, humanities, organic and inorganic chemistry, biology, and psychology. Some chiropractic colleges also have classes in pre-chiropractic study in addition to a bachelor’s degree program. At least 4,200 classroom, laboratory, and clinical experience hours are required to fulfill a chiropractic program.
Classroom and laboratory experience is the focus of the first two years during which time students learn anatomy, physiology, public health, microbiology, pathology, and biochemistry. Once a solid foundation has been achieved, the next two years are spent learning spinal manipulation. During this time, students also undergo supervised clinical experience.
Chiropractic colleges award a Doctor of Chiropractic (D.C.) degree. Some schools also offer postdoctoral work in the areas of orthopedics, sports injuries, nutrition, rehabilitation, radiology, family practice, pediatrics, or applied chiropractic sciences. Coursework culminates in a specialty degree.
All states require chiropractors be licensed, although requirements can vary. Some states offer reciprocity. Newly licensed chiropractors often join a partnership or accept a salaried job. Some who have business training purchase an established chiropractic business.
The median annual pay for salaried chiropractors is approximately $67,000. Those in the middle 50% earn $46,000–$97,000 a year.
Newly licensed chiropractors must first build clientele, become known in the chiropractic community, and develop a reputation. In the early years, earnings will be on the low side. As the practice builds, chiropractors will see greater and greater financial reward. It is important to note that salaried chiropractors receive benefits as well, whereas self-employed chiropractors do not.
Chiropractic School and Career Guide
Chiropractic medicine as a career is becoming more and more popular and is projected to grow by 20 percent in the next 10 years. In order to become a chiropractor, an individual must acquire an education from a chiropractic school and become licensed. It is quite a lengthy process, but it can ensure a stable, well-established career.
Chiropractic medicine is the treatment of a patient through manipulation of the joints and bones to affect the musculoskeletal and nervous systems in order to remedy health issues and problems. Through the manipulation of the spine and other bones in the body, a chiropractor may treat many health issues such as pain management, recuperation of injuries, and improving the immune system.
Other therapies are utilized by chiropractors to add to the treatment plan. These therapies may include hydrotherapy, acupuncture, massage, and heat/cold therapy. Chiropractors also learn through their time at chiropractic school to use laboratory tests and x-rays to enhance their practice. Many chiropractors specialize their practice by focusing on sports medicine, geriatric, and pediatric therapy and orthopedics.
In order to be admitted to chiropractic school, students must meet some standard minimum prerequisites. Most schools require that prospective students acquire at least 90 hours of undergraduate education prior to admission. These hours may include the study of social sciences, humanities, and natural sciences. Typical courses include physical science, anatomy, kinesiology, sociology, psychology, political science, biology, mathematics, English, composition, speech, nutrition, and health. Students must be prepared to pursue a Doctor of Chiropractor (D.C.) degree, the equivalent of a four-year degree, when admitted to chiropractor school, which will include 4,200 hours of education that includes classroom study, laboratory work, and clinical experience.
Attending an accredited chiropractic school is something a serious chiropractic student should pursue. Many chiropractic schools exist, but only 16 schools were accredited in the United States in 2009. Attending a school that is accredited provides many advantages to students. Firstly, students know the education and curriculum provided by the school meets the standards set forth by the Council on Chiropractic Education. But because accredited schools are so few in number, admission standards are quite stringent, and the schools are highly selective. However, the education received through those schools meets the guidelines set forth by the National Board of Chiropractic Examiners and helps prepare students to take and pass the national examination when seeking licensure.
In order to practice after graduating from a chiropractic school, professionals must become licensed. All 50 states within the United States require that chiropractors become licensed before practicing their profession. Licensing guidelines include the passing of the National Board of Chiropractic Examiners’ test. The examination assesses a professional’s knowledge and skills as a chiropractor, based on classroom, laboratory, and clinical experience. Licensing guidelines also include getting a minimum education from a chiropractor school, adhering to a moral and ethical code and, possibly, passing state examinations for practitioners of alternative medicine. Additionally, some states require a certain amount of continuing education credits be completed in order to retain one’s license once approved.
There are many opportunities for graduates of chiropractic schools. Many choose to become self employed in their own practices. In 2008, 44 percent of chiropractors were self employed. The median salary of chiropractors was $66,490 in 2008, with over 49,100 jobs in chiropractic medicine available in the U.S. in 2008. Some chiropractors choose to specialize in sports medicine, holistic spas, rehabilitation medicine, and recreational therapy. Others choose to work exclusively with geriatric or pediatric patients. Many join their practices with older, more experienced chiropractors in order to be mentored by them and inherit their practice when they retire.