How to Become a Chiropractor

Growth Trends for Related Jobs

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Patient? Empathetic? Caring? Problem-Solver? Multi-Tasker?

A chiropractor practices a natural, or alternative, form of health care to diagnose and treat skeletal and muscular problems. Much of a chiropractor’s work focuses on neck and spinal adjustments in an attempt to relieve pain and improve the function of the nervous system to help the body heal naturally.

Chiropractic work is an interesting field in that all the treatments involve no surgical or pharmaceutical intervention. It’s an ideal career if you’re interested in helping people learn more about their bodies and their health and in providing care on a natural and empathetic level.

Chiropractors are recognized medical professionals and, as such, are subject to stringent educational requirements. A number of academic and professional steps are required during the career journey to become a chiropractor.

Education Requirements

The education pathway toward becoming a chiropractor depends on the state in which you live. Some states require individuals to have completed their undergraduate studies before studying for a doctor of chiropractic degree (D.C.), so check with your state’s requirements. If you decide to earn an undergraduate study first, choose a major that matches the prerequisites of the D.C. degree, such as chemistry, biology or physics.

To practice as a chiropractor, you must first earn the doctor of chiropractic degree from a fully accredited university or college. This is a four-year, intensive degree that provides students with in-depth study in the chiropractic field, including lab work and courses in anatomy, chemistry, chiropractic philosophy and techniques, chiropractic biophysics, and spinal bio-mechanics. Many degrees provide students with an internship throughout their studies, so they can work under the supervision of a licensed chiropractor and practice what they’re learning.

Through a combination of laboratory work, classroom studies and clinical internships, students are required to complete more than 4,200 hours’ worth of study and practice.


Chiropractors work in a variety of settings. A small number work in hospitals and clinics, but many find employment in workplace settings as part of an occupational health program or in community outreach agencies, working within a geriatrics or sports/fitness community.

Once they have established themselves within a certain community and gained years of relevant work experience, many chiropractors set up their own practice. Doing so provides the freedom to choose your own hours and work with clients in different specialty areas. For parents, working as a chiropractor in an independent practice could be a practical long-term career, but keep in mind the amount of work and time it takes to be able to set your own hours.

Years of Experience

As mentioned, most students are provided with opportunities to gain quantifiable work experience during their studies, which helps when transitioning from the educational realm to the workplace.

Once you complete your degree, you also must obtain a license to practice, which requires an exam. Some states require potential chiropractors to gain additional education credits before they are allowed to take the exam.

Contact the National Board of Chiropractic Examiners to find out the requirements necessary to take the exam and where you can take it. Your university also should provide the particular state requirements needed to begin practice. To maintain your licensure, you also must complete yearly professional development requirements.

Salary Expectations

Starting salaries are fairly respectable, beginning at around $31,000 a year, up to a median salary of around $64,000 once you’re established and are maintaining the required ongoing professional development. High-end, senior chiropractors can earn up to $140,000 annually, depending on their particular specialty area. For example, working with specialized sporting injuries is likely to help you earn more money than working in a community outreach program.

Job Growth Trend

This is a growing field, and employment outlook is favorable. Between 2012 and 2014, available jobs increased 1.8 percent in this field.

Working as a chiropractor is a hands-on job that requires good social skills. You often will spend long periods of time on your feet, diagnosing and treating patients. If you have an analytical mind, love to communicate and meet new people, this could be an excellent career choice.

Becoming a chiropractor is a big commitment, and it doesn’t end once you’ve acquired a D.C. degree. But it’s a career that is ultimately rewarding and has many benefits.