A chiropractor could...
|Help adjust an athlete's spinal alignment so he or she can perform at the top of his or her game.||Use x-rays to determine if a patient's back pain is due to misaligned vertebrae.|
|Adjust a patient's spinal alignment to relieve back pain after a car accident.||Help patients stay active and healthy by treating pains and advising proper exercise.|
Key Facts & Information
|Overview||Some patients prefer to treat certain medical problems without the use of medications, surgery, or other traditional therapies. Chiropractors diagnose and treat problems involving the muscles, skeleton, and nervous system using alternative therapies, such as manipulation of the spine and joints, acupuncture, massage, bracing, and heat therapy. They also counsel patients on how to achieve good overall health through diet, exercise, stress management, and rest. They try to treat the patient as a whole.|
|Key Requirements||Highly observant, analytical, precise motor skills, compassionate, good listener, with outstanding communication skills|
|Minimum Degree||Professional degree|
|Subjects to Study in High School||Biology, chemistry, physics, geometry, algebra II, pre-calculus, English; if available, business|
|Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)||Faster than Average (14% to 20%) In Demand!|
Training, Other Qualifications
Chiropractors must be licensed, which requires 2-4 years of undergraduate education, the completion of a 4-year chiropractic college course, and passing scores on national and state examinations.
Education and Training
In 2009, 16 chiropractic programs in the United States were accredited by the Council on Chiropractic Education. Applicants must have at least 90 semester hours of undergraduate study leading toward a bachelor's degree, including courses in English, the social sciences or humanities, organic and inorganic chemistry, biology, physics, and psychology. Many applicants have a bachelor's degree, which might eventually become the minimum entry requirement. Several chiropractic colleges offer pre-chiropractic study, as well as a bachelor's degree program. Recognition of prechiropractic education offered by chiropractic colleges varies among states.
Chiropractic programs require a minimum of 4,200 hours of combined classroom, laboratory, and clinical experience. During the first 2 years, most chiropractic programs emphasize classroom and laboratory work in sciences such as anatomy, physiology, public health, microbiology, pathology, and biochemistry. The last 2 years focus on courses in manipulation and spinal adjustment and provide clinical experience in physical and laboratory diagnosis, neurology, orthopedics, geriatrics, physiotherapy, and nutrition. Chiropractic programs and institutions grant the degree of Doctor of Chiropractic (DC).
Chiropractic colleges also offer postdoctoral training in orthopedics, neurology, sports injuries, nutrition, rehabilitation, radiology, industrial consulting, family practice, pediatrics, and applied chiropractic sciences. Once such training is complete, chiropractors may take specialty exams leading to "diplomate" status in a given specialty. Exams are administered by chiropractic specialty boards.
Chiropractic requires keen observation to detect physical abnormalities. It also takes considerable manual dexterity, but not unusual strength or endurance, to perform adjustments. Chiropractors should be able to work independently and handle responsibility. As in other health-related occupations, empathy, understanding, and the desire to help others are good qualities for dealing effectively with patients.
Nature of the Work
Chiropractors, also known as doctors of chiropractic or chiropractic physicians, diagnose and treat patients with health problems of the musculoskeletal system and treat the effects of those problems on the nervous system and on general health. Many chiropractic treatments deal specifically with the spine and the manipulation of the spine. Chiropractic is based on the principle that spinal joint misalignments interfere with the nervous system and can result in lower resistance to disease and many different conditions of diminished health.
The chiropractic approach to healthcare focuses on the patient's overall health. Chiropractors provide natural, drugless, nonsurgical health treatments, relying on the body's inherent recuperative abilities. They also recognize that many factors affect health, including exercise, diet, rest, environment, and heredity. Chiropractors recommend changes in lifestyle that affect those factors. In some situations, chiropractors refer patients to or consult with other health practitioners.
Like other health practitioners, chiropractors follow a standard routine to get information needed to diagnose and treat patients. They take the patient's health history; conduct physical, neurological, and orthopedic examinations; and might order laboratory tests. X-rays and other diagnostic images are important tools because of the chiropractor's emphasis on the spine and its proper function. Chiropractors also analyze the patient's posture and spine using a specialized technique. For patients whose health problems can be traced to the musculoskeletal system, chiropractors manually adjust the spinal column.
Some chiropractors use additional procedures in their practices, including therapies using heat, water, light, massage, ultrasound, electric currents, and acupuncture. They might apply supports such as straps, tape, braces, or shoe inserts. Chiropractors often counsel patients about health concepts such as nutrition, exercise, changes in lifestyle, and stress management, but chiropractors do not prescribe drugs or perform surgery.
In addition to general chiropractic practice, some chiropractors specialize in sports injuries, neurology, orthopedics, pediatrics, nutrition, internal disorders, or diagnostic imaging.
Many chiropractors are solo or group practitioners who also have the administrative responsibilities of running a practice. In larger offices, chiropractors delegate these tasks to office managers and chiropractic assistants. Chiropractors in private practice are responsible for developing a patient base, hiring employees, and keeping records.
Chiropractors work in clean, comfortable offices. Like other health practitioners, chiropractors are sometimes on their feet for long periods. Chiropractors who take X-rays must employ appropriate precautions against the dangers of repeated exposure to radiation.
Chiropractors work, on average, about 40 hours per week, although longer hours are not uncommon. Solo practitioners set their own hours, but might work evenings or weekends to accommodate patients. Like other healthcare practitioners, chiropractors in a group practice will sometimes be on call or treat patients of other chiropractors in the group.
On the Job
- Diagnose health problems by reviewing patients' health and medical histories, questioning, observing and examining patients, and interpreting x-rays.
- Maintain accurate case histories of patients.
- Perform a series of manual adjustments to the spine, or other articulations of the body, to correct the musculoskeletal system.
- Evaluate the functioning of the neuromuscularskeletal system and the spine using systems of chiropractic diagnosis.
- Obtain and record patients' medical histories.
- Advise patients about recommended courses of treatment.
- Consult with and refer patients to appropriate health practitioners when necessary.
- Analyze x-rays to locate the sources of patients' difficulties and to rule out fractures or diseases as sources of problems.
- Counsel patients about nutrition, exercise, sleeping habits, stress management, and other matters.
- Arrange for diagnostic x-rays to be taken.
- Suggest and apply the use of supports such as straps, tapes, bandages, and braces if necessary.
Companies That Hire Chiropractors
Explore what you might do on the job with one of these projects...
Do you have a specific question about a career as a Chiropractor that isn't answered on this page? Post your question on the Science Buddies Ask an Expert Forum.
- American Chiropractic Association: https://www.acatoday.org/
- Council on Chiropractic Education: www.cce-usa.org
- Federation of Chiropractic Licensing Boards: https://www.fclb.org/
- International Chiropractors Association: https://www.chiropractic.org/
- National Board of Chiropractic Examiners: https://www.nbce.org/
- O*Net Online. (2016). National Center for O*Net Development. Retrieved July 1, 2017.
- American Chiropractic Association. (2009). Your Career in Chiropractic. Retrieved May 16, 2019.
- Jacobs Chiropractic. (2017, March 14). Welcome to Jacobs Chiropractic in Arlington VA | Dr. Wendy Jacobs. Retrieved May 16, 2019.
- Kartch Chiropractic, P.C. (2019). Dr. Karen Kartch - Doctor of Chiropractic. Retrieved May 16, 2019.
- Palmer College. (2007, April 11). Palmer College of Chiropractic. Retrieved May 20, 2010.
Explore Our Science Videos
Build an Infinity Mirror
How to Build a Brushbot
Colorful Melting Ice Ball Patterns - STEM Activity