How to Become a Chiropractor
Becoming a chiropractor requires earning a Doctor of Chiropractic (D.C.) degree and obtaining a state license.
Chiropractors must earn a Doctor of Chiropractic (D.C.) degree and a state license. Doctor of Chiropractic programs typically take 4 years to complete and require at least 3 years of undergraduate college education for admission.
Prospective chiropractors are required to have a Doctor of Chiropractic (D.C.) degree—a postgraduate professional degree that typically takes 4 years to complete. In 2014, there were 15 Doctor of Chiropractic programs on 18 campuses accredited by The Council on Chiropractic Education.
Admission to D.C. programs requires at least 90 semester hours of undergraduate education, with courses in the liberal arts and sciences, such as physics, chemistry, and biology. However, many students earn a bachelor’s degree before applying to a chiropractic program.
Chiropractic education consists of classroom work in anatomy, physiology, biology, and similar subjects. Chiropractic students also get supervised clinical experience, in which they train in spinal assessment, spinal adjustment techniques, and diagnosis. D.C. programs also may include classroom work in business management and billing and finance.
Some chiropractors complete postgraduate programs offered by associations leading to diplomate credentials. These programs provide additional training in specialty areas, such as orthopedics and pediatrics, and classes are taken at chiropractic colleges. Others may choose to earn a master’s degree in a related topic, such as nutrition or sports rehabilitation. Some D.C. programs offer a dual-degree option, in which students may earn a master’s degree in a second topic while completing their D.C.
Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations
All states and the District of Columbia require chiropractors to be licensed. Although specific requirements vary by state, all jurisdictions require the completion of an accredited Doctor of Chiropractic (D.C.) program. Some states require chiropractors to have a bachelor’s degree.
In addition, all jurisdictions require passing the National Board of Chiropractic Examiners exam, which includes basic and clinical sciences, clinical case studies, and a practical exam. Many jurisdictions also require applicants to pass state-specific law exams, called jurisprudence exams. All states require continuing education to maintain a chiropractic license. Check with your state’s board of chiropractic examiners or health department for more specific information on licensure.
Decisionmaking skills. Chiropractors must determine the best course of action when treating a patient. They must also decide when to refer patients to other healthcare professionals.
Detail oriented. Chiropractors must be observant and pay attention to details so that they can make proper diagnoses and avoid mistakes that could harm patients.
Dexterity. Because they use their hands to perform manual adjustments to the spine and other joints, chiropractors should have good coordination to perform therapy effectively.
Empathy. Chiropractors often care for people who are in pain. They must be understanding and sympathetic to their patients’ problems and needs.
Interpersonal skills. Chiropractors must be personable in order to keep clients coming to their practice. Also, because chiropractors frequently touch patients in performing therapy, they should be able to put their patients at ease.