innerbody

How to Become a Chiropractor

What Does a Chiropractor Do?

chiropractor with an x-ray

Chiropractors are health care professionals who treat illnesses and injuries and promote overall health using hands-on adjustments of the spine and joints. Unlike medical doctors, they do not prescribe drugs or perform surgeries. Instead, they focus on increasing the body’s natural healing power. Chiropractors are experts in caring for the neuromusculoskeletal system, which includes the nerves, spinal cord, bones, ligaments, and tendons.

People often turn to them for treatment of back and neck pain, headaches, arthritis, and injury rehabilitation. Chiropractic care is also believed to promote overall health and wellness. For this reason, a growing number of people are choosing a chiropractor as their primary care provider.

Typical duties of a chiropractor include:

  • Assess patients by taking a history and performing a physical examination. This might include tests for posture, reflexes, and spinal health.
  • Diagnose health conditions
  • Order and interpret diagnostic tests
  • Treat medical conditions using spine and joint manipulation, heat and cold therapy, ultrasound, therapeutic exercise, acupuncture, and other techniques
  • Counsel patients on wellness issues such as exercise, nutrition, and sleep
  • Make appropriate referrals when a patient’s condition is outside a chiropractor’s scope of practice
  • Perform business management tasks like marketing and staff supervision (if in private practice)

Most chiropractors are generalists, but some specialize in a practice area like pediatrics, orthopedics, nutrition, or sports rehabilitation.

Chiropractic is based on a wellness model of human health and functioning. Chiropractors believe that structural maladjustments of the joints and spine impair the nervous system, causing pain and dysfunction throughout the body. Relieving these maladjustments enhances the body’s natural healing abilities. Chiropractors also acknowledge the roles that infection, injury, and occupational and lifestyle factors play in human health.

Many chiropractors are drawn to the field because of its emphasis on natural, patient-centered care. They take pride in healing their patients without the use of invasive treatments. They also like being part of a well-established health care field with a high degree of acceptance and prestige.

Workplace Details

About 37 percent of chiropractors were self-employed in 2012, either as solo practitioners or joint owners in a group practice. Most of the rest work for chiropractic practices, physician practices, hospitals, holistic health centers, and chiropractic schools.

Self-employed chiropractors enjoy considerable freedom to set their own hours. About a third of chiropractors work part-time. However, it’s common for these professionals to work some evening and weekend hours for the convenience of patients.

Salary and Job Outlook

State
Average Wage
California
$82210
Texas
$64750
Florida
$90760
New York
$90570
Illinois
$70940

Hover over any state to explore local income and job growth data.

Created with Raphaël 2.1.0 AL AK AZ AR CA CO CT DE DC FL GA HI ID IL IN IA KS KY LA ME MD MA MI MN MS MO MT NE NV NH NJ NM NY NC ND OH OK OR PA RI SC SD TN TX UT VT VA WA WV WI WY

ALABAMA

Median Salary: 
$76,900
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $43,400
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): Over $187,200

2014-2024 Job Growth: 17%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 20

ALASKA

Median Salary: 
$98,400
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $68,700
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): Over $187,200

2014-2024 Job Growth: 20%
Projected Annual Job Openings: Fewer than 10

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Anchorage$70,180$99,140Over $187,200

ARIZONA

Median Salary: 
$61,600
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $35,100
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $98,500

2014-2024 Job Growth: 15%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 30

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Phoenix$35,540$61,680$97,680
Tuscon$48,830$59,430$74,960

ARKANSAS

Median Salary: 
$44,600
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $24,100
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $124,700

2014-2024 Job Growth: 15%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 10

CALIFORNIA

Median Salary: 
$71,000
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $36,400
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $141,400

2014-2024 Job Growth: 5%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 90

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Los Angeles$35,340$71,610$145,620
San Francisco Bay$36,850$57,260$132,850
San Diego$33,550$63,250$150,490
Sacramento$44,650$68,630$77,380

COLORADO

Median Salary: 
$49,400
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $32,500
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $152,500

2014-2024 Job Growth: 18%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 50

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Denver$32,800$45,150$132,420

CONNECTICUT

Median Salary: 
$70,500
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $50,900
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): Over $187,200

2014-2024 Job Growth: 12%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 10

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Hartford$64,420$71,820$109,500
Bridgeport$54,040$158,280Over $187,200

DELAWARE

Median Salary: 
$117,600
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $67,200
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $158,000

2014-2024 Job Growth: 5%
Projected Annual Job Openings: Fewer than 10

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Wilmington$58,150$117,270$166,710

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA

Salary and Job Growth Data Not Available

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Washington DC$53,440$77,520$149,370

FLORIDA

Median Salary: 
$67,100
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $34,900
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $150,900

2014-2024 Job Growth: 20%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 110

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Miami$40,670$70,560Over $187,200
Orlando$27,500$60,870$125,710
Tampa$52,830$79,750$130,290
Jacksonville$31,430$52,240$133,070

GEORGIA

Median Salary: 
$53,900
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $23,200
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): Over $187,200

2014-2024 Job Growth: 17%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 50

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Augusta$22,190$39,730$133,630

HAWAII

Salary Data Not Available

2014-2024 Job Growth: 7%
Projected Annual Job Openings: Fewer than 10

IDAHO

Median Salary: 
$46,800
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $28,300
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $77,900

Job Growth Data Not Available

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Boise$40,420$46,710$74,060

ILLINOIS

Median Salary: 
$54,000
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $22,900
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $124,000

2014-2024 Job Growth: 6%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 60

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Chicago$21,930$39,510$121,690
Rockford$51,890$75,050Over $187,200

INDIANA

Median Salary: 
$64,900
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $28,800
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): Over $187,200

2014-2024 Job Growth: 14%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 30

IOWA

Median Salary: 
$66,000
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $25,900
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $115,800

2014-2024 Job Growth: 15%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 30

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Des Moines$61,190$74,960$151,960

KANSAS

Median Salary: 
$53,000
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $32,100
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $113,100

Job Growth Data Not Available

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Kansas City$21,960$45,600$90,430

KENTUCKY

Median Salary: 
$56,000
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $18,900
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $96,000

2014-2024 Job Growth: 19%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 20

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Louisville$40,530$50,410$76,120
Lexington$40,230$56,990$67,130

LOUISIANA

Median Salary: 
$67,800
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $35,200
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $103,500

2014-2024 Job Growth: 2%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 10

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
New Orleans$43,970$86,260$101,320
Baton Rouge$33,580$65,300$79,180
Lafayette$31,590$53,450$116,010

MAINE

Median Salary: 
$72,700
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $50,500
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $99,500

2014-2024 Job Growth: 0%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 10

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Portland$55,690$78,810$113,880

MARYLAND

Median Salary: 
$68,200
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $34,900
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $136,800

2014-2024 Job Growth: 24%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 20

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Baltimore$33,680$65,300$117,660
Frederick$52,850$107,130Over $187,200

MASSACHUSETTS

Median Salary: 
$86,300
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $37,100
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $143,900

2014-2024 Job Growth: 6%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 20

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Boston$35,870$87,680$130,050
Worcester$35,660$70,180$119,230

MICHIGAN

Median Salary: 
$60,700
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $38,300
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $120,000

2014-2024 Job Growth: 5%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 40

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Detroit$40,480$61,090$119,920
Grand Rapids$41,630$60,520$100,520

MINNESOTA

Median Salary: 
$55,300
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $30,300
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $103,100

2014-2024 Job Growth: 12%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 40

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Minneapolis - St. Paul$29,450$54,360$97,880
Rochester$29,960$61,410$88,980

MISSISSIPPI

Median Salary: 
$71,300
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $44,900
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $124,400

2014-2024 Job Growth: 7%
Projected Annual Job Openings: Fewer than 10

MISSOURI

Median Salary: 
$53,500
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $20,800
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $118,000

2014-2024 Job Growth: 11%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 30

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
St. Louis$20,040$52,660$98,730
Kansas City$21,960$45,600$90,430

MONTANA

Median Salary: 
$57,500
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $34,200
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $87,300

Job Growth Data Not Available

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Billings$43,090$58,780$82,580

NEBRASKA

Median Salary: 
$59,900
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $27,200
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $128,300

2014-2024 Job Growth: 10%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 20

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Omaha$29,620$59,920$119,840
Lincoln$27,680$110,680$181,250

NEVADA

Median Salary: 
$76,200
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $29,400
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $121,500

2014-2024 Job Growth: 11%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 10

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Las Vegas$28,990$73,080$105,770
Reno$51,440$107,410Over $187,200

NEW HAMPSHIRE

Median Salary: 
$77,300
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $48,700
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $186,300

2014-2024 Job Growth: 15%
Projected Annual Job Openings: Fewer than 10

NEW JERSEY

Median Salary: 
$105,600
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $56,200
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): Over $187,200

2014-2024 Job Growth: 10%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 30

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Newark$54,820$104,380Over $187,200

NEW MEXICO

Median Salary: 
$68,600
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $41,700
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $173,600

2014-2024 Job Growth: 13%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 10

NEW YORK

Median Salary: 
$75,800
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $53,500
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $161,100

2014-2024 Job Growth: 15%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 70

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
New York City$55,060$79,650$167,800
Buffalo$51,520$58,050$80,520
Rochester$51,220$57,650$82,670
Albany$51,250$68,330$91,600

NORTH CAROLINA

Median Salary: 
$77,600
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $64,900
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $146,600

2014-2024 Job Growth: 15%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 30

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Charlotte$35,860$80,430$161,610
Raleigh$66,320$74,700$95,760
Greensboro$71,680$93,140Over $187,200
Winston - Salem$70,720$93,080$120,990

NORTH DAKOTA

Median Salary: 
$58,300
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $22,800
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $129,300

2014-2024 Job Growth: 18%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 10

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Fargo$22,100$51,470$98,410
Bismarck$21,540$54,590$114,270

OHIO

Median Salary: 
$86,700
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $49,000
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $158,600

2014-2024 Job Growth: 15%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 60

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Cleveland$51,910$85,000$130,230
Columbus$52,560$84,230$100,530
Cincinnati$44,940$82,490Over $187,200
Dayton$44,850$61,820$183,220

OKLAHOMA

Median Salary: 
$63,000
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $40,000
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $154,200

2014-2024 Job Growth: 14%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 20

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Oklahoma City$43,330$59,960Over $187,200
Tulsa$40,950$69,400$150,970

OREGON

Median Salary: 
$59,300
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $33,200
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $172,100

2014-2024 Job Growth: 26%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 40

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Portland$32,410$40,810$129,260
Salem$52,630$131,370$181,120

PENNSYLVANIA

Median Salary: 
$64,500
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $29,800
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $124,700

2014-2024 Job Growth: 6%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 50

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Philadelphia$27,080$77,130$173,830
Pittsburgh$33,650$63,390$128,030
Harrisburg$41,460$48,970$80,030
Allentown$61,000$85,530$122,630

RHODE ISLAND

Median Salary: 
$62,200
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $45,300
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $149,600

2014-2024 Job Growth: 0%
Projected Annual Job Openings: Fewer than 10

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Providence$41,070$60,630$159,830

SOUTH CAROLINA

Median Salary: 
$61,900
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $34,200
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $146,400

2014-2024 Job Growth: 15%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 20

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Columbia$40,100$62,230$150,700
Charleston$45,480$59,980$75,830

SOUTH DAKOTA

Median Salary: 
$70,400
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $51,800
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $136,700

2014-2024 Job Growth: 1%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 10

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Sioux Falls$58,450$78,280Over $187,200

TENNESSEE

Median Salary: 
$54,400
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $37,000
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $140,700

2014-2024 Job Growth: 25%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 30

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Nashville$36,720$46,860Over $187,200
Knoxville$40,270$55,150$127,550

TEXAS

Median Salary: 
$54,100
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $21,900
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $90,400

2014-2024 Job Growth: 13%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 90

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Dallas - Ft. Worth$29,280$59,840$77,030
Houston$20,720$24,290$77,390
Austin$39,900$54,160$93,210

UTAH

Median Salary: 
$55,500
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $27,200
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $92,600

2014-2024 Job Growth: 26%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 20

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Salt Lake City$26,490$57,920$94,880
Ogden$36,190$62,010$90,510

VERMONT

Median Salary: 
$48,300
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $34,100
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): Over $187,200

2014-2024 Job Growth: 8%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 10

VIRGINIA

Median Salary: 
$73,900
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $47,100
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $156,300

2014-2024 Job Growth: 20%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 50

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Richmond$43,980$59,870$94,310

WASHINGTON

Median Salary: 
$54,200
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $31,800
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $117,400

2014-2024 Job Growth: 47%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 100

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Seattle$34,880$53,710$80,080
Spokane$42,190$75,620$117,520

WEST VIRGINIA

Median Salary: 
$53,600
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $37,500
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): Over $187,200

2014-2024 Job Growth: -5%
Projected Annual Job Openings: Fewer than 10

WISCONSIN

Median Salary: 
$62,600
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $26,400
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $127,900

2014-2024 Job Growth: -3%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 30

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Milwaukee$17,480$39,910$99,260
Madison$45,910$61,500Over $187,200

WYOMING

Median Salary: 
$55,600
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $31,000
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $96,600

2014-2024 Job Growth: 12%
Projected Annual Job Openings: Fewer than 10

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, chiropractors earn a mean annual wage of $81,210. The lowest-earning 10 percent earned a median salary of $32,380, and the highest-earning 10 percent earned a median of $141,030.

Salary tends to grow with experience and years in practice. Chiropractors can build their clientele by being personable, achieving great results for patients, and taking time to educate themselves about the business side of the profession.

There are many resources available to chiropractors who are looking to start a new practice or manage an existing practice. The ACA maintains an online practice resource center for its members.

Job prospects for chiropractors should be very good over the next ten years. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics expects employment to grow by 17 percent between 2014 and 2024.

In large part, growth will be driven by increased public demand for alternative and complimentary therapies. People of all ages are seeking nonmedical treatments to their health problems. In addition, medical doctors have begun to recognize the value of chiropractic care. As a result, chiropractors are increasingly joining team practices within physician groups and hospitals.

Demand for all health care services is expected to increase over the next decade as the population ages. Members of the Baby Boomer generation are staying active longer and are more engaged in their own health care than previous generations. In many cases, they are choosing chiropractic treatment for arthritis, back pain, and other bone and joint conditions associated with aging.

Finally, federal health care reform and expanded insurance coverage has given more people access to all health care services, including chiropractic care.

The International Chiropractors Association maintains a job board, as do several of the chiropractic specialties.

Compare Salaries by City

New York City NY Median Pay

$79650 Per Year

$38.29 Per Hour

Chicago IL Median Pay

$39510 Per Year

$18.99 Per Hour

Steps to Become a Chiropractor

1

You can start preparing in high school.

High school students interested in a chiropractic career should take as many high-level science classes as possible. Coursework in anatomy, physiology, biology, chemistry, physics and psychology can help to lay a strong foundation for this career path. This is also a great time to learn more about chiropractic philosophy and practice through job shadowing, volunteering, and reading.

2

Earn an undergraduate degree.

Some chiropractic schools admit strong students who have completed two to four years of undergraduate work, but most prefer candidates with bachelor’s degrees. No specific major is required, but students should have a strong background in the natural sciences. A good rule of thumb is to take the same prerequisites required for medical school:

  • One year of biology
  • Two years of chemistry (through organic chemistry)
  • One year of English
  • One year of physics

Show Me Schools »

3

Earn your doctoral degree.

Chiropractors must earn a Doctor of Chiropractic (D.C.) degree, which will require usually 4-5 years of study after undergraduate study. Chiropractic schools are accredited by the The Council on Chiropractic Education. Students receive extensive classroom and lab instruction in anatomy, physiology, rehabilitation, nutrition, and public health. They also complete at least one full year of clinical experience, during which they care for patients under supervision.

4

Consider whether you should do a residency.

In order to become board-certified in some chiropractic specialties (radiology or sports rehabilitation), candidates must complete a three-year residency, or supervised clinical training program.

5

Pursue additional education as desired.

There are several other levels of post-graduate study available to chiropractors:

  • Certificate programs in veterinary, extremity, rehabilitation, sport, and spinal trauma care
  • Three-year post-graduate programs leading to board certification in pediatrics, acupuncture, orthopedics, neurology, radiology, diagnosis and internal disorders, sports medicine, family practice, and clinical nutrition
  • A master’s degree in a related field such as nutrition, rehabilitation, or public health

6

Become licensed to practice in your state.

Chiropractors must be licensed in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. This process is usually administered by the state health department or a specific board of chiropractic examiners.

All states require the following for licensure:

Some states also require:

  • A bachelor’s degree
  • Passage of a state licensure exam
  • Additional requirements

Chiropractic specialists are generally board-certified, which requires additional study and the passage of a specialty-specific exam.

7

Grow your career and pursue new opportunities.

Experienced chiropractors can expand their opportunities by:

  • Starting a private practice
  • Pursuing certification or board-certification in a specialty
  • Learning new techniques
  • Becoming a faculty member at a chiropractic training program, which involves teaching, research, and administrative duties
  • Advancing the profession through involvement in professional organizations

For students interested in becoming leaders within the profession, the Student American Chiropractic Association (SACA) provides a Leadership Apprentice & Mentor Program. This prepares new professionals to serve as state delegates and to head committees and specialty councils within the American Chiropractic Association.

Exploring the Degree Paths

DOCTOR OF CHIROPRACTIC (DC) DEGREE

6-8 years

All states require chiropractors to hold a DC from an accredited program in order to practice.

Most chiropractors start their educational journeys by completing at least 90 hours of undergraduate coursework. (Note that a few states require a bachelor’s degree for chiropractic licensure.) They then spend 3–4 years in chiropractic school earning a DC. Those who wish to specialize or enter academia often go on to complete 1–5 years of additional postgraduate study.

As undergraduates, future chiropractors can major in any subject, but must complete the prerequisites for chiropractic school. These typically include 24 hours in the life and physical sciences with a GPA of 3.0 or higher. At least half of these science classes should have a lab.

Show Me Schools »

Undergrads can apply to chiropractic school at any time, so long as they can demonstrate they’ll have completed their prerequisites before entering the DC program. Some colleges have accelerated 3+3 programs that help students make an early transition to chiropractic school.

DC degree programs are found at private colleges of chiropractic and health professions schools. The Council on Chiropractic Education accredits programs that meet its quality and curriculum standards. In May 2017, 15 schools offered DC programs in 17 locations around the United States.

Chiropractic training blends classroom and hands-on instruction. DC students study:

Neuroanatomy

Learn about the organization and function of the nervous system and its role in human health.

Sublaxation analysis

Use palpitation, postural examination, and diagnostic imaging to diagnose spinal dysfunction.

Physical diagnosis

Practice examining patients and interpreting signs and symptoms.

Business foundations

Gain the skills you need to run a successful practice and serve as a leader in the health professions.

In addition to their classwork, DC students complete at least a year of hands-on clinical education. This might take place at the school’s chiropractic clinic, at an integrated health practice, or even with a government agency like the VA.

After earning a DC, chiropractors have many opportunities for postgraduate education:

  • Certificate courses (1 year) – learn a new skill or modality
  • Residency (3 years) – become eligible for board certification in a specialty like pediatrics or sports medicine
  • Fellowship (1–2 years) – train in a subspecialty, usually with the intention of becoming an academic or researcher

Many chiropractic schools also offer combined DC-MS programs in majors like nutrition or acupuncture.

Keys to Success as a Chiropractor

Necessary Skills and Qualities

Interpersonal and communication skills

Chiropractic is a very social and patient-focused discipline. Chiropractors spend a lot of time listening carefully to their patients, which helps them to determine possible underlying causes of health issues. In addition, being warm and personable helps the chiropractor attract and retain patients. When not working with patients, chiropractors must work well with colleagues, assistants, and office staff.

Empathy and compassion

Chiropractors are drawn to the profession by their desire to promote health and relieve pain. They often care for people who are in physical and emotional distress.

Decision-making

Chiropractors rely on strong clinical knowledge to diagnose complex conditions and create appropriate treatment plans. They must also know when to refer a patient to a medical doctor for treatment.

Detail-oriented

Chiropractic diagnosis depends on the ability to detect small irregularities in the spine and joints. These professionals must also be alert for subtle changes in patients’ conditions that could signal the need for a higher level of treatment.

Dexterity and physical health

Chiropractors need good hand-eye coordination and strength to deliver hands-on therapies. The job can also be quite physical and may involve long periods of standing.

Business management

In addition to providing clinical care, self-employed chiropractors must be comfortable running all aspects of a practice and supervising employees.

Additional Credentials

The National Board of Chiropractic Examiners administers primary board certification testing for chiropractors. Most states require board certification as a condition of licensure.

The American Board of Chiropractic Specialties (ABCS) offers two basic levels of credentialing:

  • Certificate programs require 100–150 hours of post-graduate coursework and an exam. They may serve as a prerequisite or accelerated pathway to a diplomate.
  • Diplomates are board certified in a medical specialty. This credential requires at least 300 hours (about 3 years) of post-graduate training, usually in the course of a residency.

Chiropractic specialties include:

  • Sports medicine
  • Pediatrics
  • Neurology
  • Radiology
  • Rehabilitation
  • Nutrition
  • Clinical nutrition
  • Internal medicine
  • Orthopedics
  • Forensics
  • Occupational health
  • Acupuncture

Neurology subspecialties include:

  • Electrodiagnostic specialties
  • Functional neurology
  • Vestibular rehabilitation
  • Childhood developmental disorders
  • Brain injury and rehabilitation
  • Neurochemistry and nutrition
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