How To Become A Chiropractor: A Practical Guide To Qualification

How To Become A Chiropractor: A Practical Guide To Qualification
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People who suffer from back pain that impacts their daily lives often seek the help of a chiropractor. These medical professionals use non-evasive techniques to relieve pain and get patients back on their feet and moving freely. They advocate pain relief without medication, which is something that more people than ever are looking for these days. If this career interests you, then you need to take steps to learn how to become a chiropractor.

As you begin to look into this career field, you will find that the process of how to become a chiropractor is fairly straightforward. Since it is a medical profession, you can expect to take some time to get through your education and training. You also have to meet strict regulations. It is essential to understand what you need to do before you start on your journey.

What Does A Chiropractor Do?

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Before you get into how to become a chiropractor, you should learn more about the job. The main duty of a chiropractor is to care for the neuromusculoskeletal system. To determine what is happening with your patient, you will assess him or her by reviewing their medical history and performing a physical exam. You may use X-rays and other kinds of tests to determine the exact issue. You'll provide therapy sessions where you may use ultrasound and massage in addition to making spinal adjustments and manipulating the spine to correct the problems with pain in the back and neck.

The overall approach of chiropractic care is a focus on the whole body. So, you may also discuss lifestyle and nutrition with your patients. It is important to understand that the goal is to avoid surgical intervention or the use of medications and instead use a holistic approach to treatment.

In addition, if you suspect underlying health issues, you may refer patients to other medical professionals for further treatment. You may find some situations where surgery is the only solution due to an injury or severe issue with a patient's body. You will work with other physicians as well to ensure proper care for your patients and to help them get better.

Many chiropractors also choose to specialize in specific areas of care. This allows you to focus on certain types of patients. You may find as you go through the steps of how to become a chiropractor that you get drawn to certain areas within the field. This could lead you to your specialization. You don't have to specialize, though. You can always offer general chiropractic services.

Work Environment

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In this career, you will usually work in a chiropractic office. You may own a business or work with partners. In some cases, you could work in a physician's office or medical facility.

Salary And Job Outlook

Of course, you probably wonder if you take all this time to learn how to become a chiropractor, will it pay off? According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median salary of a chiropractor as of May 2017 was $68,640. The top 10 percent made $144,730. Your salary will depend on various factors, such as where you practice. For example, if you work in a larger city, you can usually charge more for your services. If you own your own practice, you might have more overhead expenses than if you were to work in a medical facility or a practice with other medical professionals.

When it comes to finding work, that also shouldn't be a problem. The job outlook for 2016-2026 is a growth of 12 percent. This is fairly fast compared to other industries. The profession is growing due to more interest in the services offered. People want to get away from surgery and pain medications to treat back issues. In addition, the Baby Boomer generation is getting older and demanding more health care services, which means you'll have a larger base of patients. The only issue is that some patients may have limitations due to insurance coverage. Some insurers may not offer comprehensive coverage for chiropractic services.

How To Become A Chiropractor

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Now that you have a little background, you are ready to jump into how to become a chiropractor. It all begins with getting the proper education so you can learn what you need to properly treat patients and run a good practice.

Undergraduate Degree

Your first step in how to become a chiropractor begins in college where you will complete your undergraduate studies. This coursework should focus on science with courses in psychology, biology, physics, and chemistry.

You do not always have to get a bachelor's degree, but you do need at least three years of undergraduate coursework before moving on to a graduate program. Many people go ahead and get a bachelor's degree, though. Some schools even allow you to start your chiropractic training concurrent with your bachelor's work. You would begin the graduate studies in your third year of your undergraduate studies.

Chiropractic Degree And Practical Training

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Your next step in how to become a chiropractor is to obtain a Doctor of Chiropractic degree. You need to find a chiropractic college to attend to receive this. Note that this does not mean a medical school. Chiropractic degrees come from graduate programs at a chiropractic college.

Getting a D.C. takes four years of schooling. The American Chiropractic Association notes that you have to complete at least 4,200 hours of work in a chiropractic program. This will mean a combination of classwork and practical work in the laboratory and through a clinical internship. You must have at least one year of hands-on training directly with patients as part of your program. However, you will find that most of the time a D.C. program is very hands-on because you have to learn proper techniques to administer chiropractic care.


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To work as a chiropractor, you must hold a license from the state in which you will practice. You should note that a chiropractor is not a medical doctor. You do not attend medical school. However, you are practicing healthcare, so the field does have regulations similar to those medical doctors and other healthcare workers must follow, which is why licensing is a step in how to become a chiropractor.

The first step in getting your license is to pass the exam from the National Board of Chiropractic Examiners, which is a national exam with four mandatory parts and one optional part. The NBCE exam includes tests on your knowledge of science and clinical science, along with a test of your clinical competency. The final exam, which is the National Practice Exam, tests you on performing assessments in the field. The optional part of the exam is over physiotherapy and covers passive and active adjunctive procedures.

You will take the exam before you graduate from your D.C. program. The NBCE sends the results to your state licensing board. You will then have to pass any additional requirements of your state. For example, if you live in Florida, the NBCE also administers the Florida Chiropractic Laws and Rules exam, which you must have to practice in this state. You may have to pass a background check and pass a jurisprudence exam, depending on which state you are in.

License Maintenance

To maintain any licensing, you will also usually need to take continuing education. Typically, this involves having to take courses, attend conferences, or do other things that enhance and refresh your education and training. The exact requirements for licensing and maintaining your license vary by state, so always check with your state licensing board.

Specialization And Certification

After you graduate with your D.C. degree and have your license, you may want to think about specialization. As you know, choosing a specialization is not a requirement, but it can help you to have a leg up on the competition because it allows you to focus on a target market. It can streamline your marketing and might enable you to draw in patients who need specific care. So, it is well worth considering this step in how to become a chiropractor. To specialize, you will usually need to take a postgraduate program. You will study subjects related to the area you want to focus on.

If you specialize, you should consider getting certification in that specialization. Certification helps you to prove your knowledge and skills in that particular area. You can obtain certification from a number of specialty boards in areas that include sports, radiology, rehabilitation, nutrition, orthopedics, neurology, forensics, acupuncture, and pediatrics. You should make sure that you get your certification through a nationally recognized organization. Otherwise, it may not be very helpful. Also, you will typically have to complete continuing education to maintain your certification in addition to the continuing education for your regular certification.

Let The Healing Begin

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Helping people get rid of pain and live a better life is really your main goal as a chiropractor. If you commit to all the steps to become a chiropractor, you should have no trouble making a successful career. There is plenty of demand for this type of holistic health care. You have many opportunities to shape your career into what you want. It all begins with taking the first step on the path to how to become a chiropractor. Once you start the journey, you are on your way to a wonderful career in chiropractic care.

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