CareerExplorer’s step-by-step guide on how to become a chiropractor.
Is becoming a chiropractor right for me?
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Steps to Become a Chiropractor
Becoming a chiropractor requires completing several steps, including education, training, and licensure. Here's a general overview of the steps to become a chiropractor:
- Earn a Bachelor's Degree: Begin by completing a bachelor's degree program from an accredited college or university. While specific undergraduate majors are not usually required for admission to chiropractic school, coursework in biology, chemistry, physics, and other sciences can be beneficial in preparing for chiropractic studies.
- Complete a Doctor of Chiropractic (D.C.) Program: Apply to and enroll in an accredited Doctor of Chiropractic (D.C.) degree program. These programs typically take four years to complete and include coursework in anatomy, physiology, chiropractic techniques, diagnostics, and patient care. Some programs also offer clinical experience through internships or externships.
- Obtain Clinical Experience: Gain hands-on clinical experience by completing internships or externships as part of your chiropractic program. This experience allows you to work with patients under the supervision of licensed chiropractors and gain practical skills in diagnosing and treating musculoskeletal conditions.
- Pass Licensing Exams: After completing your chiropractic degree program, you must pass the licensing exams required by the state or jurisdiction in which you plan to practice. These exams typically include the National Board of Chiropractic Examiners (NBCE) exams, as well as any additional state-specific exams or requirements.
- Obtain State Licensure: Apply for licensure as a chiropractor in the state where you plan to practice. Licensure requirements vary by state but generally include passing the required exams, completing a background check, and fulfilling any additional state-specific requirements.
- Consider Specialization: While not required, some chiropractors choose to pursue additional training and certification in specialized areas of chiropractic care, such as sports medicine, pediatrics, orthopedics, or rehabilitation.
- Maintain Continuing Education: Stay current with developments in the field of chiropractic by completing continuing education requirements as mandated by your state licensing board. Continuing education ensures that chiropractors remain up-to-date on the latest techniques, research, and best practices in the field.
Best Chiropractic Schools in the US
There are many accredited chiropractic schools in the United States, each with its own unique strengths and offerings. The following is a list of some of the best chiropractic schools, based on factors such as academic reputation, clinical training opportunities, research opportunities, and post-graduation success:
- Palmer College of Chiropractic (Davenport, Iowa, and other campuses): Palmer College is the first and largest chiropractic college in the world, with a rich history dating back to 1897. It offers a comprehensive curriculum, state-of-the-art facilities, and extensive clinical experience opportunities through its network of clinics.
- Logan University (Chesterfield, Missouri): Logan University is known for its emphasis on evidence-based chiropractic education and research. Students benefit from hands-on clinical training at the University's Health Centers and gain exposure to a wide range of patient populations and conditions.
- National University of Health Sciences (Lombard, Illinois): National University offers a rigorous chiropractic curriculum grounded in science, research, and clinical practice. The school's integrative approach to healthcare education prepares students to work collaboratively with other healthcare professionals and provide holistic patient care.
- Life University (Marietta, Georgia): Life University is recognized for its philosophy-centered approach to chiropractic education, emphasizing vitalism, holism, and the body's innate ability to heal. The school offers a supportive learning environment, diverse clinical experiences, and opportunities for students to engage in research and community outreach.
- University of Western States (Portland, Oregon): The University of Western States offers a student-centered chiropractic program focused on evidence-informed practice and interprofessional collaboration. Students benefit from hands-on clinical training in the University's health centers and gain exposure to diverse patient populations and healthcare settings.
- New York Chiropractic College (Seneca Falls, New York): New York Chiropractic College is known for its innovative approach to chiropractic education and commitment to advancing the profession. The school offers a dynamic learning environment, cutting-edge research opportunities, and clinical experiences in diverse healthcare settings.
- Southern California University of Health Sciences (Whittier, California): SCUHS is recognized for its integrative healthcare education model, which combines chiropractic, acupuncture, and other complementary and alternative medicine disciplines. The school's emphasis on clinical excellence, research, and community engagement prepares students for successful careers in healthcare.
- Cleveland University-Kansas City (Overland Park, Kansas): Cleveland University offers a comprehensive chiropractic program grounded in evidence-based practice and patient-centered care. The school's strong focus on clinical training, research, and professional development prepares students to excel in the field of chiropractic healthcare.
Licensure is regulated at the state level, and requirements can vary from state to state. However, there are general steps and criteria that chiropractors must typically fulfill to obtain licensure:
- Completion of an Accredited Chiropractic Program: Chiropractors must graduate from a Doctor of Chiropractic (D.C.) degree program accredited by the Council on Chiropractic Education (CCE).
- Passing National Board Examinations: Chiropractors must pass the National Board of Chiropractic Examiners (NBCE) examinations, which consist of four parts covering various aspects of chiropractic practice, including basic science, clinical science, and practical applications.
- State-Specific Examinations: Some states may require chiropractors to pass additional state-specific examinations or jurisprudence exams that assess their knowledge of state laws and regulations governing chiropractic practice.
- Background Check: Chiropractors may be required to undergo a criminal background check as part of the licensure process to ensure they meet the character and fitness requirements for licensure.
- Application Process: Chiropractors must submit an application for licensure to the state chiropractic board or licensing authority, along with the required documentation, examination scores, and fees.
- Continuing Education: Chiropractors are typically required to complete continuing education courses on an ongoing basis to maintain their licensure. Continuing education requirements vary by state but often include a specified number of hours of approved coursework every renewal period.
Once licensed, chiropractors must adhere to the scope of practice and ethical standards set forth by their state licensing board. They may also be subject to periodic license renewal and continuing education requirements to ensure they remain current with developments in the field and maintain their competency as healthcare providers.
Chiropractors have a range of employment opportunities across various settings, including:
- Private Practice: Many chiropractors choose to establish their own private practices, where they provide chiropractic care to patients in a clinical setting. Private practice allows chiropractors to have control over their schedule, treatment approach, and business operations.
- Multidisciplinary Clinics: Chiropractors may work in multidisciplinary healthcare clinics alongside other healthcare professionals such as medical doctors, physical therapists, massage therapists, and acupuncturists. These clinics offer integrated care and collaboration among different healthcare disciplines.
- Hospitals and Medical Centers: Some hospitals and medical centers employ chiropractors to provide chiropractic services to patients as part of a comprehensive healthcare team. Chiropractors in hospital settings may work with patients recovering from injuries, surgeries, or chronic conditions.
- Corporate Wellness Programs: Chiropractors may work in corporate wellness programs or occupational health settings, providing chiropractic care to employees to promote musculoskeletal health, injury prevention, and overall well-being in the workplace.
- Sports Medicine Facilities: Chiropractors with expertise in sports medicine may work in sports medicine clinics, fitness centers, or athletic training facilities, providing chiropractic care to athletes and active individuals to enhance performance, prevent injuries, and support recovery.
- Academic Institutions: Some chiropractors pursue careers in academia and research, teaching chiropractic students, conducting research studies, and contributing to advancements in the field of chiropractic healthcare.
- Government and Public Health Settings: Chiropractors may work in government agencies, public health departments, or community health centers, providing chiropractic care to underserved populations, participating in public health initiatives, and promoting musculoskeletal health in the community.
- Veterans Affairs (VA) Facilities: Chiropractors may work in Veterans Affairs (VA) healthcare facilities, providing chiropractic services to military veterans as part of their healthcare benefits.
Continuing Education and Certifications
Continuing education and certifications are important for chiropractors to stay current with advancements in the field, expand their knowledge and skills, and maintain licensure. Here are some common continuing education opportunities and certifications:
- Continuing Education Courses: Chiropractors are required to complete a certain number of continuing education (CE) hours each year or renewal period as mandated by their state licensing board. CE courses cover a wide range of topics, including clinical techniques, diagnostic methods, patient care, practice management, ethics, and research.
- Diplomate Programs: Diplomate programs offer advanced training and certification in specialized areas of chiropractic practice, such as sports medicine, orthopedics, neurology, pediatrics, rehabilitation, and nutrition. These programs typically involve rigorous coursework, examinations, and clinical experience requirements.
- Fellowships: Fellowship programs provide in-depth training and expertise in specific areas of chiropractic care, allowing chiropractors to become leaders and experts in their field. Fellowship programs may focus on areas such as diagnostic imaging, clinical research, public health, or integrative healthcare.
- Board Certifications: Chiropractors may pursue board certifications in specialized areas of chiropractic practice through organizations such as the American Chiropractic Board of Sports Physicians (ACBSP), the American Chiropractic Neurology Board (ACNB), or the American Board of Chiropractic Orthopedics (ABCO). Board certifications require passing rigorous examinations and meeting specific experience and education requirements.
- Seminars and Workshops: Chiropractors can attend seminars, workshops, and conferences to stay updated on the latest research, techniques, and trends in chiropractic care. These events provide opportunities for networking, professional development, and learning from experts in the field.
- Online Courses and Webinars: Many organizations offer online courses and webinars that allow chiropractors to earn CE credits conveniently from their home or office. These online courses cover a wide range of topics and offer flexibility in scheduling and completion.
- Research Opportunities: Chiropractors can engage in research projects and scholarly activities to contribute to the advancement of chiropractic science and evidence-based practice. Research involvement may include conducting clinical studies, publishing research articles, and presenting findings at professional conferences.