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How Long Does It Take to Become a Chiropractor: 5 Common Steps

October 4, 2021

This article has been approved by an Indeed Career Coach


Before you decide to become a chiropractor, you should know how much time, energy and money achieving your goal will take. That way, you can make sure that you have the resources you need and be more prepared to enter the profession. Becoming a chiropractor is hard work, but it can be profitable and rewarding.

In this article, we will give you some more information about how long it takes to become a chiropractor and the steps usually involved.

What is a chiropractor?

A chiropractor is a doctor who provides care to patients by adjusting their spines to treat neuromuscular disorders. Chiropractors believe that many health problems come from issues with muscles and bones in the body. They manipulate the spines of patients to relieve pain and other symptoms. People use chiropractors to treat back issues or joint pain, and many visit them for help with allergies, digestive disorders and other problems.

Common duties include:

  • Meeting with patients to discuss symptoms
  • Evaluating posture and spine to identify any issues
  • Developing an in-office treatment plan
  • Suggesting stretches, exercises, sleep techniques and diet choices for patients
  • Using techniques such as acupuncture or massage therapy
  • Referring patients to doctors for additional treatment as needed

A chiropractor can run a private practice, join a business with other professionals or even teach at a college or university. Chiropractors can order tests such as X-rays, but they are not medical doctors. They cannot prescribe prescription drugs, and most avoid recommending over-the-counter medications, believing that they can alleviate most symptoms with physical treatment. Chiropractors in the United States earn $65,260 per year on average, and some professionals can make up to $148,000 per year.

Related: Learn About Being a Doctor

How long does it take to become a chiropractor?

For most people, becoming a chiropractor takes about eight years. Here are the steps to take to become a chiropractor:

  1. Get a college degree.
  2. Attend a chiropractic school.
  3. Obtain a license.
  4. Consider a specialty.
  5. Find and start a job as a chiropractor.

1. Get a college degree

Before you can start attending a chiropractic school, you'll need to earn a bachelor's degree. A degree in biology, exercise science, kinesiology or a similar subject helps show admissions officers that you have a foundational knowledge of science and can memorize large amounts of information. Chiropractors must have detailed knowledge about anatomy and many other topics.

You should check the admissions requirements for chiropractic schools and make sure you complete all the courses required. If you have a degree in an unrelated field, you may be able to transfer some of your class credits to your new major. Some chiropractic schools also admit people who have taken the classes they need but have not graduated yet. They often let individuals who still need a few prerequisites take these classes while working on chiropractic school. Most people take four years to get ready for chiropractic school, but some students can apply in three years.

Related: Best Jobs for College Students

2. Attend a chiropractic school

For most people, obtaining a Doctor of Chiropractic or D.C. degree takes three and a half to four years. You will attend more than 4,500 hours of intensive classes and clinical training to increase your knowledge of the human body. For most programs, the first two years are lab- and classroom-based. Then, you will spend the next two years in clinics. You will read textbooks, listen to lectures, study cadavers in a lab and learn about how people's bodies work at a microscopic level.

You will also learn how to examine a patient, treat symptoms and look for the cause of a problem. Then, you will find out how to make chiropractic adjustments to the backs and necks of patients. In addition, you'll learn how to read blood tests and take courses in nutrition and radiology. During clinical instruction, you'll work with many patients who have a variety of problems. That way, you can learn how to make diagnoses and communicate with patients clearly.

3. Obtain a license

To become a practicing chiropractor, you will need to pass a series of exams from the National Board of Chiropractic Examiners or NBCE. You will take Part I during your second year of chiropractic school which includes questions about general anatomy and physiology, spinal anatomy, pathology, chemistry, microbiology and similar subjects.

You'll take Part II during your third year which covers chiropractic practice, general diagnosis, diagnostic imaging, neuromusculoskeletal diagnosis and other specialized topics.

You can take Part III and Part IV six to nine months after you graduate. Part III covers case history, case management, clinical exams and chiropractic techniques. Part IV tests more advanced case management and chiropractic techniques.

After you pass these national tests, you can apply for a license in your state. Most states require proof of your graduation from a chiropractic college and your scores from the National Board or Chiropractic Examiners. In some states, you will need to take an additional test about your chiropractic skills and the state laws that you'll follow. You may need to submit electronic fingerprints, provide proof of malpractice insurance, give a list of personal references, complete a personal interview, pay a licensing fee or meet yearly continuing education requirements as well.

4. Consider a specialty

Certifications in many chiropractic specialties are available, including occupational health, acupuncture, radiology, clinical nutrition, neurology, developmental disorders, pediatrics, forensics and sports medicine. Most specializations require 300 to 400 hours of additional training, and they can make you more appealing to patients and your fellow health care professionals.

Related: What Is Occupational Therapy?

5. Find and start a job as a chiropractor

You can start and run your own business, become a partner in a practice or take a job with a larger chiropractor's office. You can start working with an existing company more quickly than starting your own business. However, you will need at least a few months to research the practices of chiropractors in your area and find someone who is willing to work with a new chiropractor. Many employers in this field require contracts or non-compete agreements. Signing an agreement could keep you from working with any other practice for several years.

When you start your own business, you will need to invest money for office space, employees, medical equipment and other costs. Setting up a new office could take longer than working with another chiropractor, but you will not need to sign a contract. You'll need to build a patient base that could also take some time. However, you should consider how owning your own business will change the way you pay your taxes.

Jobs similar to chiropractors

If you're interested in becoming a chiropractor or working in a related field, there are several job options you might consider. Here's a list of 10 jobs similar to chiropractors:

1. Physical therapist
2. Podiatrist
3. Athletic trainer
4. Medical assistant
5. Nurse practitioner
6. Medical massage therapist
7. Naturopathic physician
8. Exercise physiologist
9. Acupuncturist
10. Respiratory therapist


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