Chiropractors play a vital role in the healthcare world, providing relief to patients suffering from neuromuscular and musculoskeletal ailments. As a chiropractor in Chicago, you can enjoy a rewarding career with a flexible work environment and a strong focus on the patient’s overall well-being. In this comprehensive guide, we will take you through the step-by-step process of becoming a chiropractor, from high school to earning a Doctor of Chiropractic (DC) degree and getting licensed.
Chiropractic is a healthcare profession that focuses on the diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of disorders related to the musculoskeletal and nervous systems. Chiropractors use non-invasive, hands-on techniques to perform adjustments that help reduce pain and inflammation. They also provide advice on exercise, nutrition, and lifestyle changes to promote overall wellness.
To demonstrate your interest in chiropractic early on, take plenty of upper-level science courses in high school, such as AP courses in biology, chemistry, and physics. Additionally, strong communication skills are essential for chiropractors, so take English, writing, and communication courses to develop these abilities.
Participating in activities like community service, tutoring, student government, and volunteering in healthcare-related facilities will help you develop essential skills such as leadership, problem-solving, and communication.
While there are no specific undergraduate chiropractic programs, many future chiropractors major in related disciplines like biology, exercise science, kinesiology, or health science. Most chiropractic programs require a bachelor’s degree for admission, although some may accept three years of undergraduate education.
Make sure to complete the required courses in life and physical sciences, as well as humanities, social sciences, and communication and languages, to fulfill the prerequisites for chiropractic school admission.
Chiropractic schools expect you to have shadowed practicing professionals as an undergraduate. This not only demonstrates your interest in the field but also helps you gain the knowledge needed for becoming a chiropractor. Arrange for a shadowing opportunity with a healthcare professional to observe a typical day in the life of a chiropractor.
Once you have completed your undergraduate degree and fulfilled the prerequisites, apply for a Doctor of Chiropractic (DC) degree program. These programs typically last four years and include clinical training, lab work, and coursework in anatomy, diagnostic skills, neuroscience, and more.
Research the entry requirements for various chiropractic schools, and ensure that you meet their specific criteria. Some programs may require the GRE or SAT/ACT scores, while others may have different requirements.
Chiropractic colleges offer DC degree programs that combine classroom learning, clinical experiences, and hands-on practice. During your time in chiropractic school, you will cover topics such as anatomy, microbiology, radiology, functional kinesiology, and principles of chiropractic care.
In addition to your coursework, you will also begin taking a series of exams offered by the National Board of Chiropractic Examiners (NBCE), which all chiropractors must pass to become licensed. These exams consist of four separate tests, taken at different times of your journey to becoming a chiropractor:
- Part I: Taken during your second year of chiropractic school, this exam covers six basic science area domains, including spinal anatomy and microbiology.
- Part II: Taken during your third year, this exam delves deeper into clinical science topics like diagnostic imaging and principles of chiropractic.
- Part III: Taken when you are at least nine months away from graduating, this exam focuses on clinical-based content such as diagnostic imaging, chiropractic techniques, and case management.
- Part IV: Typically taken after obtaining your degree (but can be taken as early as six months before graduation), this final exam involves hands-on assessments of chiropractic technique and case management.
After passing all four parts of the NBCE exams and graduating from chiropractic school, you are ready to apply for a license to practice as a chiropractor in your state. Each state has its own unique requirements for licensure, which may include additional exams, background checks, proof of malpractice insurance, or personal references. Ensure that you meet all the necessary requirements and maintain your license according to state guidelines, including completing continuing education units (CEUs).
Although not required, specializing in a specific area of chiropractic care can enhance your expertise and competitiveness in the field. Popular specializations include pediatrics, sports, and acupuncture. Earning specialized certifications typically involves attending postgraduate programs approved by certifying organizations and passing an exam.
Once you have obtained your license to practice as a chiropractor, consider joining an existing practice, starting your own, or working as an independent contractor. Each path offers unique benefits and challenges, so weigh your options carefully and choose the one that best aligns with your long-term career goals.
With years of experience in the field, some chiropractors choose to transition into research, education, or administration roles. This can involve publishing studies, teaching at a chiropractic college, or taking on leadership positions within professional organizations.
Becoming a chiropractor is a rewarding career path that allows you to make a difference in the lives of your patients while enjoying a flexible work environment and a strong focus on overall wellness. By following the steps outlined in this guide, you can confidently work your way toward this impactful medical profession.