Lifestyle changes, accidents, aging and poor nutrition have resulted in an increased number of people who suffer pain on their backs, necks and other muscles. In addition, more people today prefer alternative therapies to treat these conditions. The results are an increasing demand for chiropractors. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statics estimates that job opportunities as a chiropractor will grow by 15 percent between 2012 and 2022.
Duties and Responsibilities of a Chiropractor
Chiropractors use a variety of non-surgical treatment methods to treat patients with neuromusculoskeletal – bones, joints and muscles –system disorders. They base their practice on the intimate relationship between the spine and nervous system. Through manipulation of the spine and joints, chiropractors restore the structural cohesion of the spine and adjust pressure on the neurological tissues.
Your day-to-day activities as a chiropractor may include the following:
- Examine a patient’s neuromusculoskeletal system to determine its condition
- Observe, examine and interpret a patient’s complaints
- Recommend diagnostic procedures such as imaging and blood tests.
- Diagnose bones, nerves, muscles, tendons and ligaments-related disorders using a patient’s medical histories, x-rays and other diagnostic systems
- Advise patients on most favorable course of treatment for their cases
- Treat neck, shoulder and back pain using manipulation adjustments
- Study and treat the effects of neuromusculoskeletal complications on the patient’s general health where possible
- Counsel patients about lifestyle choices such as nutrition and exercise
- Consult with other health practitioners where necessary
Most chiropractors in the United States are self-employed and work in solo or group practices. You might need to work in someone else’s practice as you start your career to gain experience and understand the dynamics of the industry. Once you establish your clinic, the number of people you see determines your earnings.
Hourly Rates (median)
Academic qualifications for chiropractics are among the toughest in the U.S. health care profession. Like any other doctors, chiropractors spend a significant amount of time studying clinical subjects on how to evaluate, treat and care for patients. Academic requirements are as follows;
High School: Graduate from high school with good grades, particularly in science subjects like biology, chemistry and physics. You can use your General Education Development Exam (GED) score to apply to college.
Bachelor’s Degree: In order to become a chiropractor, you need to obtain a chiropractic degree. However, you must first earn at least three years of undergraduate college education and at least 90 semester hours. While you don’t need to complete your bachelor’s degree to earn admission in a chiropractic school, some states require you to have it in order to be licensed. Choose a major that offers science and art courses such as biology and psychology in order to meet chiropractic college requirements. Because the profession requires close personal contact with patients, you will need to have taken social science and humanities courses such as sociology and communication.
Chiropractic College: The United States of America requires that aspiring chiropractors earn a Doctor of Chiropractor degree from an accredited chiropractic college. After admission into college, the requirements are equally demanding. It will take you four to five academic years of professional studies. Because it is a hands-on profession requiring very intricate skills, aspiring chiropractors spend a significant amount of time in clinical training. Students spend a lot of time on internship at chiropractic clinics where they practice under professional supervision.
Licensing: American chiropractors must hold a Doctorate in Chiropractic (DC) following a minimum of seven years of studying. The first two years of the program include a rigorous study of anatomy, physiology and other subjects. The two years that follow entail clinical training in the diagnosis and use of manipulation techniques under the supervision of a professional chiropractor.
In addition to completing the DC program, you must pass a three-part certification exam by the National Board of Chiropractic Examiners before the state can allow you to begin your career. Most states accept the exam and certification, but some states will require you to sit additional exams before you can practice.
Consider enrolling for a residency program such as animal or sports chiropractic after your DC program in order to gain specialty in your area of interest. Most chiropractors in the U.S. specialize in pediatrics, geriatrics or sports injuries. A number of them choose to combine chiropractic procedures and neuropathy to treat nervous disorders without using drugs or surgery.
You can also choose to pursue a Ph.D degree in other healthcare disciplines including neurophysiology and epidemiology and focus on research. There are other credentials and memberships in chiropractors’ organizations that may or may not be recognized by major healthcare institutions, but can go a long way in improving your professional reputation. In the United States, the two chiropractors’ national bodies are the American Chiropractic Association and the International Chiropractors Association.
Becoming a chiropractor takes a long time and requires a heavy financial investment. Patience and hard work are paramount for you to complete the journey. During your practice years, dexterity, empathy and interpersonal skills are critical skills to have a fulfilling career.