wellness-285589_640Snap, crackle, and pop! We all know the stereotype of the chiropractor, but for millions of people all over the world, relief from back and neck pain happens on the chiropractor’s table.

Do you really know what a chiropractor does? They’re experts in the neuromuscular system, meaning they know all about bones, muscles, nerves, and joints. For patients experiencing pain from back or neck problems, a chiropractor provides relief by adjusting and manipulating the patient’s body naturally, without medication.

Maybe you know all that. Maybe you’ve been to a chiropractor, or seen the improvements a chiropractor had made in someone else’s life. And you’ve said to yourself, “I could do that!” Well, if you’ve said it, you may be right. We’ll tell you how to get there.

Education

So, to become a chiropractor, all you need to do is rent an office, set up a table, and get cracking, right?

Well, if you want to go to prison, yes. If you want a long, rewarding career helping people feel better and live more active lives, there’s a little more involved. A Doctor in Chiropractic (D.C.) degree is a post graduate medical degree that usually takes four years after a bachelor’s. The Council on Chiropractic Education, the main regulatory organization, accredits 15 programs on 18 campuses around the US.

Coursework

Students will take courses in biology, chemistry, and physics – the usual gamut of medical courses. More importantly, though, you will need supervised clinical experience, where you will be trained hands-on for diagnosing the causes of spinal pain, learning techniques for adjusting, and practicing good interpersonal skills – what used to be called “bedside manner” when no one chuckled at that term.

Many chiropractors specialize, in fields such as sports, pediatrics or gerontology, or even nutrition, so courses in those particular areas will help you decide what area is right for you. Chiropractors may also use techniques in addition to spinal manipulation, such as massage, and may use specialized equipment such as ultrasound and x-ray – more things to learn. And since most chiropractors go into private practice, some business classes wouldn’t hurt either. You can build it, but that doesn’t mean they will come, or that you can manage money without some guidance.

Licensing

Requirements vary from state to state, but yeah, you’ll need a license to practice medicine. There will be an exam. But by then you know your stuff, right?

Work Environment

Most chiropractors work in private practice, hiring their own staff and assistants, though some work in hospitals or with physicians. But since most work privately, the chiropractor has to be a bit of a Jack or Jill of all trades. You, or your staff, will handle your own marketing (get a billboard with your face on it!), record-keeping, supply purchasing, and so on. There are a lot of hats to wear. For instance, even though chiropractors do not do surgery or prescribe medicine, they do use a range of equipment, such as braces or orthotic shoes, all of which you’ll need expertise in.

Day to day, you’ll meet with patients, perform exams to diagnose problems, analyze posture, provide various treatments, and advise patients on preventative care, especially exercise, nutrition, and sleep (some of the biggest causes of back and neck pain).

Outlook

Like most medical professions, chiropractic medicine is on the rise. The Bureau of Labor Statistics sees a 15% growth in chiropractic services in the next ten years! mostly due to the aging Baby Boomers and their long, active life expectancies. Median pay in 2012 was around $66 thousand; you might make less, but you could also make a lot more. Especially when you get that billboard.