Chiropractors are alternative health practitioners who focus particularly on the the musculoskeletal system. They correct misalignments which may affect patients' neuroskeletal health and their overall resistance to disease. Chiropractors make diagnoses and create treatment plans. They often perform and interpret x-rays as part of the treatment process; they may conduct other laboratory tests as well. Hands-on work focuses primarily on the skeletal system, but the impact stretches far beyond that. Proponents of complementary and alternative medicine believe that the skeletal system is integrally connected with other body systems; thus, alignment issues can cause other systems to function below par.
Become a Chiropractor
- Career Plan: How to Become a Chiropractor
- Schools Offering: Bachelor of Science Programs - undergraduate study
Chiropractors are best known for doing spinal adjustments, but, depending on the scope of practice in their municipality, they may provide a variety of complementary and alternative treatments. These can include light and heat therapy and even acupuncture. In some states, chiropractors may practice massage; others specifically prohibit it.
Chiropractors have many work options. Many work in small practices, sharing working space with medical doctors and other complementary and alternative medicine providers. Some work alone; others are employed by hospitals or other large medical facilities.
Required Education for Chiropractors
Chiropractors have doctorate degrees. Most enter chiropractic school with a bachelor's degree; some schools, however, will allow well qualified students who have only completed three years of college (90 semester hours). Candidates will want to check the statutes of their own state on this matter. Students should expect to complete some science prerequisites before admission.
Students should seek programs that have been accredited by the Council on Chiropractic Education. The program typically takes about four years and includes two years of general science and health courses and two years that are focused on diagnosis and adjustment procedures. Typical classes include neurobiology, therapeutics and rehabilitation, radiology, diagnosis, and chiropractic techniques. There is also some coursework in nutrition. Prospective chiropractors can expect to do about 1,000 hours of clinical practice. At the end of the program, candidates are awarded the Doctor of Chiropractic degree. Chiropractors sometimes choose to do a dual program; they may, for example, combine chiropractic medicine with a comprehensive study of nutrition.
Chiropractic Licensing and Certification
Chiropractors are licensed in all states. Most states use the National Board of Chiropractic Examiners exam, in full or in part. They may have additional tests like exams of jurisprudence; these assess a candidate’s knowledge of law and ethics as related to the practice of chiropractic medicine. Links to state boards can be found on the Federation of Chiropractic Licensing site.
Some chiropractors choose to pursue specialty certification. This involves completing a post-doctoral fellowship; the experience typically culminates in exams (practical, written, or oral). Among the specialties are neurology, radiology, orthopedics, rehabilitation, and sports injury. Some chiropractors choose to focus on pediatric populations; others combine traditional chiropractic treatment with nutrition. The nine specialty councils are listed on the site of the American Chiropractic Association.
Salary and Career Outlook for Chiropractors
Alternative health care is becoming more popular. The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicted that demand for chiropractors would grow 20% during the 2008 to 2018 decade. More health plans are covering chiropractic care than did in the past. Coverage, however, will continue to affect the market for chiropractic services. Chiropractors make solid wages. The mean annual wage was $79,820 in 2010, with 80% of providers earning between $32,270 and $143,670. Those employed by doctors' and dentists' offices earned somewhat above the mean while those employed by hospitals earned somewhat less.
44% of chiropractic doctors are in business for themselves. The BLS notes that they are more likely to be successful in areas where there is a lower concentration of chiropractors. Notably, there tends to be higher concentration near chiropractic schools. Job concentration information for different metropolitan areas is available on the BLS site.