The thought of becoming a chiropractor is exciting for many people. After all, it means making a living helping improve the lives of those needing preventative health care and pain relief. But, often, the first question arises – how long does it take to become a chiropractor?
Luckily, there’s an answer!
The process typically includes four years of undergraduate school followed by another three or more years at an accredited Chiropractic College. That timeline can vary depending on your educational focus throughout college, but we’ll discuss that further below. Let’s look into what goes into becoming a certified and licensed chiropractor in the U.S.
How Long Does It Take to Become a Chiropractor?
Chiropractic care, a natural and drug-free approach to health, has gained popularity as people seek alternatives to traditional medical treatments. Chiropractors specialize in diagnosing and treating musculoskeletal disorders, primarily focusing on the curved spine and nervous system.
If you’re considering a career in chiropractic care, you might be wondering about the time and cost of becoming a chiropractor.
Below, you’ll find the answer: How long does it take to become a chiropractor?
Earning Your Bachelor’s Degree
Let’s begin with the educational requirements to become a chiropractor.
You must earn a bachelor’s degree before you embark on your chiropractic journey. This typically involves about four years of full-time study.
You can choose your major, but you must complete specific prerequisite courses in biology, chemistry, physics, and anatomy. Some colleges offer pre-chiropractic programs that include these required courses to streamline your path.
Once you’ve secured your bachelor’s degree, the next step is enrolling in a chiropractic college, which adds another four years of full-time study to your educational journey.
During the initial two years, your focus will be on classroom learning. You’ll delve into anatomy, physiology, pathology, biochemistry, and chiropractic philosophy.
The final two years will see you engaging in clinical internships and working with patients under the guidance of licensed chiropractors.
Passing the Licensing Exam
After completing your chiropractic education, you must pass a licensing exam to practice as a chiropractor. This exam, administered by the National Board of Chiropractic Examiners, comprises four parts: written, practical, clinical, and ethical.
Once you successfully navigate this hurdle, you can apply for a license in your state of practice. Licensing requirements vary significantly by state, so thorough research is crucial to ensure compliance with local regulations.
Chiropractors also have the option to specialize in various areas, such as sports chiropractic, pediatric chiropractic, or neurology. These specializations typically require additional training and education beyond the standard chiropractic degree. If you have a specific interest, be prepared to invest extra time and resources in your education.
It’s worth noting that the duration of your journey may vary depending on individual circumstances, so it’s essential to research the specific requirements in your state and plan accordingly.
Prerequisites for Becoming a Chiropractor
Becoming a chiropractor can be a rewarding career path for anyone with a passion for holistic healing. By focusing on the body’s natural ability to heal itself through manipulation and other means, chiropractors help patients reduce pain and improve overall well-being. But before you can join this profession, there are several prerequisites and qualifications that you should be aware of. So, let’s explore some basic steps to become a chiropractor.
1. Education and Training
Begin by earning a bachelor’s degree, preferably in a science-related field like biology, anatomy, or physiology. Some institutions may also accept degrees in general science or health-related disciplines.
Following your bachelor’s, complete a four-year Doctor of Chiropractic (DC) program accredited by the Council on Chiropractic Education (CCE). This program combines classroom instruction, lab work, and supervised clinical experience to teach you chiropractic techniques, diagnosis, and treatment.
In most states, chiropractors must obtain a license to practice. This typically involves passing a national board examination, such as the National Board of Chiropractic Examiners (NBCE) exam. The exam covers topics like anatomy, spinal anatomy, diagnosis, chiropractic techniques, patient care, and ethics.
Some states may have additional exam requirements or clinical experience prerequisites. Additionally, chiropractors must pass a jurisprudence exam to demonstrate their understanding of state laws governing chiropractic practice.
3. Continuing Education
After obtaining your chiropractic license, your learning journey continues. Many states mandate that chiropractors complete continuing education courses to maintain their license and stay updated on the latest advancements in chiropractic care. These courses typically range from 12 to 24 hours per year, with some states requiring specific subjects like radiology or acupuncture.
4. Soft Skills and Personal Qualities
Being a successful chiropractor isn’t just about technical knowledge; it also requires strong, soft skills and personal qualities, including:
- Communication: Communication with patients, colleagues, and healthcare professionals is vital. You should be able to explain complex medical concepts in understandable terms and actively listen to patients’ concerns.
- Empathy: A compassionate and empathetic approach is essential when working with patients in pain or health issues.
- Business Acumen: If you plan to own or manage your practice, understanding business fundamentals like budgeting, marketing, and financial planning is crucial.
- Manual Dexterity: Chiropractic treatment involves precise manual manipulation of joints, so good hand-eye coordination and agility are essential for accurate and safe techniques.
State Licensing Requirements for Chiropractors
In the United States, chiropractors are required to have a license to practice. However, each state has different licensing requirements.
Below, you’ll find information on the licensing requirements in some major states for chiropractors.
- Alabama: Chiropractors in Alabama must graduate from an accredited chiropractic school and pass the National Board of Chiropractic Examiners (NBCE) exam. They need to complete 30 hours of continuing education every two years, and they can practice acupuncture after completing additional training.
- Alaska: Chiropractors in Alaska must have a Doctor of Chiropractic degree and pass the NBCE exam. Continuing education is required every two years, but no specific subjects need to be taken.
- Arizona: The Arizona Board of Chiropractic Examiners oversees chiropractic licensing in Arizona. Chiropractors must have their Doctor of Chiropractic degree, pass the NBCE exam, and complete a chiropractic physiotherapy program. In addition, they need to complete 20 hours of continuing education every year.
- Arkansas: Chiropractors in Arkansas must have graduated from an accredited chiropractic school and pass the NBCE exam. They also need to complete 40 hours of continuing education every year.
- California: Chiropractors in California must have a Doctor of Chiropractic degree, pass the NBCE exam, and complete 24 hours of continuing education every two years. The state also requires chiropractors to carry malpractice insurance.
As you can see, each state has different licensing requirements for chiropractors. A chiropractor must research licensing requirements before starting their career or moving to a different state. Licensing requirements ensure that the professionals have received the proper education and training to provide patients safe and effective chiropractic care.
Average Time to Become a Fully Licensed Chiropractor
Becoming a fully licensed chiropractor in the United States typically involves several years of education and training. While the minimum requirements vary by state, most demand at least four to five years of college-level coursework, including an accredited chiropractic program completion.
Additionally, all states mandate passing a national board examination and completing a clinical practice period.
Most students enrolled in chiropractic programs complete their studies in three to four years. Courses cover anatomy, physiology, nutrition, radiology, pathology, and biochemistry. After graduation from an accredited school, aspiring chiropractors must pass the National Board of Chiropractic Examiners (NBCE) exam and a clinical internship before receiving a chiropractic care license.
The duration can fluctuate significantly based on your qualifications and the state you intend to practice. Individuals with prerequisite college-level coursework may complete the program in two years or less, while others might need additional coursework before chiropractic school enrollment.
The Benefits of Becoming a Chiropractor
Choosing a career as a chiropractor offers numerous advantages:
- High Demand: Chiropractic care is a rapidly growing field with increasing demand for holistic health services. Patients seek alternatives to traditional medicine, leading to a high demand for chiropractors, especially among athletes, pregnant women, and the elderly with chronic pain and mobility issues.
- Employment Opportunities: Chiropractors have diverse employment options, including self-employment. Owning your practice can provide independence and fulfillment. Some chiropractors establish their practices, while others work in hospitals or collaborate with other healthcare professionals.
- Holistic Approach: Chiropractors treat patients holistically, considering the entire person rather than just physical issues. They offer personalized nutrition and lifestyle recommendations, ensuring overall health and well-being.
- Competitive Salaries: Chiropractors earn competitive median salaries, with average annual earnings of around $85,000 in the United States. Self-employed chiropractors can potentially earn more. Income varies based on location, experience, and qualifications, with the potential for substantial growth through dedication and hard work.
- Continuous Learning: Chiropractic is a field of constant learning and growth. No two experiences or techniques are the same. The more you practice, the broader your knowledge base becomes, creating a perpetual learning process. It’s a fulfilling career that allows you to make a positive impact by helping others achieve balance, health, and peace.
Conclusion: How Long Does It Take to Become a Chiropractor?
In conclusion, becoming a chiropractor is a lengthy and rewarding process. Depending on your chosen route, it can take three to five years to become fully licensed and gain the skills necessary to practice chiropractic professionally. But at the end of your journey, you will know how to help clients move toward optimal health. Consider researching more information about becoming a chiropractor or speaking with one in person—You may be surprised by what you learn!
Additionally, exploring what it takes to advance from an undergraduate degree in chiropractic can be valuable for future aspirations in pursuing more specialized areas of this field. If you enjoy this blog content or are curious about chiropractic care, read our other articles for a more informative discussion.
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