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What do you want to become?
How to Become a Chiropractor
Alternate Career Titles:
Doctor of Chiropractic, Chiropractic Doctor, Chiropractic Physician
Chiropractor Job Description: Chiropractors diagnose, evaluate and provide non-pharmaceutical care and rehabilitation to individuals with acute and chronic back, lower back and neck pain, headaches, neuromusculoskeletal and other general health conditions.
Chiropractor Salary (Annual): $70,340
Chiropractor Salary Range: $$35,290 to $147,480
How Long To Become a Chiropractor: 7 years
Chiropractor Requirements: Doctor of Chiropractic Degree
Become a Chiropractor
The role of a Chiropractor involves caring for and treating patients with neuromusculoskeletal health problems by initially assessing their condition through a physical examination. While most people think chiropractics are just about treating back pain, neck pain, etc., the field is really about improving people’s health by removing interference to the nervous system. By only minimizing chiropractic to musculoskeletal conditions, patients do not receive the full benefit of chiropractic.
After reviewing their health history and inquiring about their concerns, Chiropractors will then thoroughly assess their reflexes, spine and posture, and can conduct tests such as x-rays. Dependent upon what the assessment and test results show, Chiropractors will next determine a neuromusculoskeletal therapy plan.
These plans may involve manipulating, massaging, providing rehabilitative exercise, adjusting a patient’s joints or spinal column or simply applying a hot or cold compress to the problematic nerves, tendons, ligaments, bones or muscles. If necessary, Chiropractors may also refer their patients to other healthcare professionals, in addition to providing advice on future care, general health and lifestyle best practices.
Chiropractors who own and operate their own practices are further required to engage in business practices, marketing strategies, development operations and efficient record-keeping practices. In treating their patients, Chiropractors often work with Physical Therapists, Occupational Therapists and other healthcare professionals.
“The career of a Chiropractor is entrepreneurial, rewarding and self-fulfilling,” Dr. Michael Gampolo, a Chiropractor practicing in Florida, said. “A career as a Chiropractor is entrepreneurial because you have to seek your own patients to help. Unfortunately, there are still other healthcare professions who do not understand the extent of schooling, knowledge and conditions Chiropractors treat.”
Since these professionals are a portal of entry provider in the United States, a patient does not need a referral to seek their care. Gampolo noted that helping people is how professionals within this occupation build their reputation and enhance their careers.
“This career in medicine is rewarding and fulfilling because you get to help someone all day, every day,” Gampolo said. “The general environment for a Chiropractor’s office is uplifting, happy and therapeutic both physically and mentally. Generally, most people get into the profession because they have a passion to help others, whether it be getting them out of pain or enhancing their performance on the field.”
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Education & Training
To become a Chiropractor, these professionals must first obtain an undergraduate degree prior to applying to a chiropractic program. Typically, for admission into one of these programs, learners must take coursework in the sciences (i.e. biology, chemistry, physics, etc.).
Once admitted into a chiropractic program, which normally take four years to complete, learners will take additional classes in the sciences, like anatomy and physiology, and business management skills. Doctor of Chiropractic (D.C.) degree programs also involve supervised clinical experience through which learners are given instruction on diagnoses, spinal assessments and general adjustment techniques.
“Each DC program is different, but the core classes are the same and include differential diagnosis, primary care, chiropractic manipulative therapy, biochemistry, microbiology, anatomy, physiology, neurology, orthopedics and more,” Gampolo confirmed. “At Palmer College Of Chiropractic Florida, I enrolled in a 3.5 year accelerated program where I was in class 30 to 40 hours a week to obtain 30 to 36 credit hours.”
Gampolo added that this program took him 3.5 years to complete, and he said he found the program to be challenging mostly due to the stressful nature of the curriculum. He explained that there were multiple examinations every week.
“On average we would take between five to 10 examinations per week,” Gampolo said. “You become numb to exams and your weekends will be sacrificed to study and learn new material. The program is a marathon, not a sprint.”
Lastly, to begin practicing as a Chiropractor, professionals must become licensed by passing the four-part National Board of Chiropractic Examiners (NBCE) exam. To maintain this license, professionals are required to take continued education courses periodically. Some states also require Chiropractors to pass a background check, and/or state-specific law exams (referred to as jurisprudence exams) prior to practice.
“Part one of the National Board of Chiropractic Examiners consists of your basic sciences including anatomy, physiology, pathology, microbiology, neurology and chemistry,” Gampolo said. “Part two consists of diagnosis, clinical applications and science, part three is vignettes (scenarios) and x-rays, and part four is the application of everything you have learned.”
One way to advance in a career in healthcare as a Chiropractor is to complete a postgraduate program. Through these programs, Chiropractors can receive the additional training necessary to specialize in particular areas of chiropractic practice, such as geriatrics, orthopedics or pediatrics. Another way to advance in this career is to establish a practice or be self-employed.
“A Chiropractor could also get diplomas in neurology, sports, nutrition, internal medicine or in other areas,” Gampolo suggested. “I had to take classes and pass an examination to be a National Registered Certified Medical Examiner (NRCME), necessary in order to perform Department of Transportation exams and drug testing.”
Experience & Skills
“You need to be strong willed in the profession of chiropractic,” Gampolo said. “I believe you also need to be willing to teach, because many people do not know exactly what we do. You have to have a passion for people and helping others.”
To be an effective Chiropractor, professionals should first-and-foremost possess strong judgment and decision-making skills. This is because Chiropractors are responsible not only for diagnosing their patients, but for determining the most efficient and appropriate treatment plans to help them improve their musculoskeletal conditions. A Massage Therapist is another healthcare professional who treats musculoskeletal conditions and disorders.
Furthermore, they should have the interpersonal skills required to be able to communicate with patients, as well as other healthcare professionals or staff members. Patients expect their Chiropractors to be articulate in explaining all treatments and procedures, as well as to the utmost professionalism.
Dexterity is important in this role due to the vast amount of time Chiropractors spend performing adjustments and manipulations on patients. Possessing organizational skills are imperative in this role to ensure that all patient records are kept in an accurate and reliable fashion, and that all appointments are met in a timely manner. Being organized is necessary when billing patients, filing insurance claims and managing staff members.
“Chiropractors should be outgoing and not afraid of meeting new people,” Gampolo explained. “First impressions last a lifetime, and you get to meet new people every day in this profession. I wouldn’t necessarily recommend becoming a Chiropractor as an ideal career for an introverted personality.”
Experts recommend that chiropractors be kind, courteous and empathetic to patients experiencing pain, discomfort or musculoskeletal issues. These conditions can be frustrating, and Chiropractors must be understanding and sympathetic to the emotional state of their patients, in addition to the physical. Being detail-oriented is also important to ensure that all treatments are performed with precision and accuracy. Without attention to detail, mistakes in either performance or diagnoses are more likely to occur.
Although most Chiropractors are employed full-time, roughly 25 percent seek part-time employment. To accommodate patient schedules, many of these professionals will work evening or weekend hours, or travel to their patients’ homes. Those who are self-employed can have greater flexibility with their hours. Due to the scope of their work, Chiropractors tend to be on their feet for long periods of time, and their services can be physically demanding.
“The exact lifestyle ranges from practitioner to practitioner,” Gampolo said. “I believe each Chiropractor understand that living a fulfilling life means being active both physically and mentally. You can achieve as much as you’d like in this profession.”
He added that most Chiropractors choose to live active, outgoing and healthy lifestyles.
Ultimately, employment of Chiropractors is projected to grow 7 percent over the next decade. Why? Chiropractic is becoming a preferred method of integrative and complementary healthcare. This is because chiropractic care is non-invasive and thus more appealing to some patients. Also, as the baby-boom population ages, they are more likely to experience musculoskeletal issues and seek out the services of a Chiropractor. Most healthcare insurance companies now cover these services within their plans.
Today, the vast majority of Chiropractors work in offices, while others are either be self-employed or employed with a Family Physician, and the state with the highest employment level in this occupation is California. The next highest employing states of Chiropractors are Texas, Florida, New York and Illinois.
“If you can open up and start your own practice right out of school, I’d recommend doing so,” Gampolo advised. “Employment your first two years out of school can be difficult, since we do not do a residency program. Some established practitioners will offer low income positions to recent graduates.”
The median annual wage for Chiropractors was $70,340. The lowest 10 percent of earners within this profession were recorded to have made less than $35,290, while the highest 10 percent earned more than $147,480. This career in healthcare can most certainly be lucrative. Additionally, the top paying industries which employ these professionals are the offices of Physicians and the offices of Chiropractors. Ultimately, earnings depend on a professionals experience, number of hours worked and region in which they practice. Top paying states for this occupation are Rhode Island, New Jersey, Delaware, Alaska and Tennessee.
“A new graduate will start earning between $40,000 to $60,000 annually. A more established practitioner can earn between $60,000 to $80,000 a year,” Gampolo explained. “In order to make over $80,000, you need to own your own practice.”
He added that in a practice’s first year, a Chiropractor will earn between $100,000 to $200,000, with an endless potential for growth. Gampolo said he believes that owning a practice is more fulfilling, in addition to being more financially rewarding.
“A fully-functioning, successful practice with more than three to five years experience can produce upwards of one million dollars annually,” Gampolo said.
Unions, Groups, Social Media, and Associations
The American Chiropractic Association (ACA) is an organization dedicated to ensuring that Chiropractors adhere to the highest standards of professionalism, accountability, collaboration and respect. The organization seeks to ensure that every ACA Chiropractor is committed to moving the profession forward.
The International Chiropractors Association (ICA) is an organization designed to empower humanity in the expression of maximum health, wellness and human potential through universal chiropractic expression and utilization. The organization also seeks to advance this profession throughout the world, as well as to foster professional and technical development throughout this area of study.
The Foundation for Chiropractic Progress (F4CP) is a non-profit organization which seeks to educate the public about chiropractic care through positive press.
Discover Chiropractic is an online resource for those interested in becoming a Chiropractor which offers professional insights, success stories and career specifics.
- Shadow a Chiropractor
- Find other 3 to 5 other Chiropractors to shadow to understand the many differences in operation, functionality and style
- Shadow other similar healthcare professionals (Orthopedist, Occupational Therapist, Physical Therapist) to ensure chiropractic is the path which a learner wishes to pursue
- Research educational programs and their admissions requirements
- Apply to select programs
All statistics are provided by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Meet the professional: Michael Gampolo, DC
Practice: Orlando City Health and Wellness, OrlandoCityHealth.com
Location: Winter Park, FL
What is the single biggest suggestion you would give to someone wanting to get into this career?
“I would recommend looking into grants and scholarships to help pay for school. Becoming a Chiropractor is very expensive. They will also need to learn business skills and have an entrepreneurial spirit.”
What’s the number one mistake people make when trying to get into this career?
“They think that because they are a doctor that patients will automatically seek them out. You need to be out in the community and people need to know what you do.”
What is the question people should ask about this career but rarely do?
“Where is the Chiropractic heading? Are we going to be able to prescribe? Will our license be limited or expanded to do more in the future?”
Why did you choose to become a Chiropractor?
“I chose to become a Chiropractor because I wanted to help other people daily. I chose the career because I get to educate, teach and provide therapy to those who are in pain from recent car accidents or suffering too much to enjoy life. As a Chiropractor, I get to change people’s lives and they never forget that. Another reason I chose to become a Chiropractor is because the therapies have helped me recover from a permanent back injury. I use chiropractic on a regular basis to keep my back pain at bay. The therapy enhances my health and well-being.”
If you could describe in one word what makes you successful, what would it be?
*Credentialing organization: The Council on Chiropractic Education