How to Become a Chiropractor

by Thomas Broderick
• 6 min read
TheBestSchools.org

thebestschools.org is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

Are you ready to discover your college program?

How to Become a Chiropractor

People experiencing back or neck pain turn to chiropractors for help. These professionals create treatment plans and provide therapy in an office. Chiropractors use their physical dexterity to perform spinal adjustments. They use their interpersonal skills to understand patients' unique needs and concerns.

Becoming a chiropractor helps workers earn a high median salary and explore jobs nationwide. This page explains how to become a chiropractor, including education and licensure requirements. The last section features links to outside resources.

Questions About Chiropractors

What's the difference between a chiropractor and a physical therapist?

Workers in both jobs help patients reduce stiffness and improve motion. Chiropractors focus on the head and neck. Physical therapists work on all body systems.

What should you major in to become a chiropractor?

Aspiring chiropractors should earn an undergraduate degree in kinesiology, exercise science, or a related subject. Doctoral programs may admit applicants with an unrelated degree as long as they completed specific prerequisites.

Do chiropractors specialize?

Many chiropractors specialize. Options include neurology, internal disorders, and pediatrics. Aspiring chiropractors specialize in their doctoral program by taking upper-division electives.

How long does it take to become a chiropractor?

Learners first need a four-year bachelor's degree. They can then pursue an advanced degree. Doctoral programs may last 3.5-5 years. These programs require at least 4,200 instructional hours. Graduates must pass examinations to earn a license.

What Do Chiropractors Do?

Chiropractors interview new patients in an office setting. They learn about patients' medical histories and issues. Chiropractors then complete a physical exam to identify problems. An exam may include taking X-rays and photographs. These and other materials go into patients' medical files.

Chiropractors treat patients by massaging muscles and adjusting the spinal column. They may also use heat or cold on affected areas. Chiropractors discuss things patients may do at home to improve their condition, such as exercising, getting a better mattress, or changing their diet. They refer patients with specialized needs to other medical professionals.

Chiropractors with a private practice can attract new patients in many ways. For example, they can earn diplomate credentials online or in person. A credential requires chiropractors to take advanced classes within their specialization. Other chiropractors advance their career by earning an additional master's or doctorate.

How to Get Hired as a Chiropractor

Aspiring chiropractors need strong organizational and decision-making skills. They also need a doctorate from a program accredited by the Council on Chiropractic Education (CCE). As of April 2022, 18 U.S. and Canadian universities offer a CCE-accredited program. Graduates who pass licensure exams can pursue jobs at established chiropractic offices. In addition to a license, employers want applicants with strong organizational and decision-making skills.

Doctoral students with an impressive resume can set themselves apart from other job-seekers. Options include selecting an in-demand specialization and joining a professional organization. The latter offers members helpful career-planning resources, such as networking events. Degree-seekers should also maintain good grades. This helps them when asking professors for a reference.

Individuals with a criminal record may want to reconsider a chiropractor career. State licensure requirements involve fingerprinting and a background check. Please check a state board website for more information on disqualifying offenses. Some employers also require drug tests. Banned substances vary by state.

What Are the Education Requirements for Chiropractors?

Becoming a chiropractor requires a doctoral degree. Learners in an associate, bachelor's, or master's program can prepare for doctoral admissions by taking specific prerequisites and maintaining good grades. These programs also help students develop the academic skills necessary to succeed in a doctoral program. Please note that not all schools offer the programs below.

An associate degree offers many advantages to future chiropractors, such as letting them complete general education classes at an affordable junior college. Options include an AA for transfer with a specialization in kinesiology. Students take core classes like introduction to kinesiology, human anatomy, and introductory physiology. Schools may provide electives, such as cross-training and restorative yoga.

Students attending in-state, public schools usually pay the most affordable tuition. Graduates with a kinesiology degree may work as personal trainers, fitness consultants, or fitness instructors.

Many bachelor's-level majors qualify aspiring chiropractors for graduate school admissions. Some colleges offer a pre-chiropractic track for dedicated learners. Degree-seekers take classes in general chemistry, biomechanics, zoology, and microbiology. Like associate programs, bachelor's programs require classes in the humanities and social sciences. This requirement helps students gain transferable skills.

Many schools charge a higher per-credit tuition rate to bachelor's students than associate degree-seekers. Bachelor's degrees cost an average of $35,330, according to EducationData.org. Learners lower their out-of-pocket costs by applying for scholarships and grants.

Many bachelor's degree-holders go directly into a doctoral program. However, a master's offers an advantage for students who lack the prerequisites necessary for doctoral admissions. One option includes a two-year master's in kinesiology. Degree-seekers take core classes before selecting relevant electives.

Master's degrees cost an average of $66,340, according to EducationData.org. Some master's students reduce their tuition burden by working as teaching or research assistants. Many employers also offer tuition-reimbursement programs. Like undergraduates, master's degree-seekers may qualify for federal financial aid programs.

A doctor of chiropractic program offers students the education and hands-on training required for licensure. A typical core curriculum features classes in neuroscience, foundations of professional development, and spinal radiology.

Top programs also require clinical rotations in different healthcare settings. Working under licensed professionals helps learners meet their state's experience requirement. Some programs let degree-seekers customize their education with electives.

Doctoral degrees cost an average of $114,300, according to EducationData.org. Fortunately, most degree-seekers receive institutional, private, or federal financial aid. Doctoral students may find part-time employment on campus, as well. Work-study opportunities vary by school.

Career and Salary Outlook for Chiropractors

Chiropractor salary levels depend on professionals' employer, experience, and geographic location. Chiropractors earn a median $70,720 annually, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). This figure exceeds the median $41,950 annual salary for all workers. Chiropractors working in physicians' offices make much more than their peers in a private practice. Top-paying states for chiropractors include Connecticut, New Jersey, and Nevada. The BLS projects jobs for chiropractors to grow 11% from 2020-2030. A high growth rate may mean more open positions for newly licensed professionals.

Certifications and Licensure for Chiropractors

All states task a licensure board with regulating the chiropractic profession. As a result, licensure requirements vary by state. In New York, aspiring chiropractors need a doctorate from an accredited chiropractic program. These programs feature the coursework and hands-on experience the state requires. New York considers graduates of unaccredited programs on a case-by-case basis.

Licensure candidates meeting the education and experience requirements take the four-part National Board of Chiropractic Examiners (NBCE) exam. NBCE Parts I and II cover basic and clinical sciences. Parts III and IV require test-takers to show their skills on a simulated patient. Out-of-state licensed chiropractors may need to retake part of the NBCE to transfer their license.

New York chiropractors must complete 36 continuing education hours every three-year renewal period. At least 24 hours must come from formal in-person or virtual classes. Chiropractors may earn the remaining 12 hours through self-study programs. As of April 2022, New York charges a $224 renewal fee.

Resources for Chiropractors

ACA advocates for the chiropractic profession at the federal level. Member benefits for doctoral students include financial planning advice, networking resources, and career guides. The organization also provides recent graduates with affordable liability insurance. Practicing chiropractors and students visit this website for a list of many U.S. and international research journals. Special sections cover nutrition, alternative medicine, and acupuncture. These and other resources may charge fees. The ICA website features the latest news impacting the chiropractic profession. Resources for students include scholarship opportunities and career advice. The association also helps patients find a chiropractor. WFC offers students and licensed professionals a suggested reading list covering typical conditions, professional ethics, and safety best practices. WFC updates the reading list regularly to provide chiropractors and patients with the latest research.

Popular with our students.

Highly informative resources to keep your education journey on track.

Take the next step toward your future with online learning.

Discover schools with the programs and courses you’re interested in, and start learning today.

woman in an office