Why do people choose to become a chiropractor?
People frequently choose the field of chiropractic because they love the idea of helping people achieve health naturally, without the use of drugs and surgery.
People who make successful chiropractors usually possess qualities such as:
- an affinity for wellness and a healthy lifestyle
- an entrepreneurial spirit and an enthusiasm for being your own boss
- an enjoyment of meeting and spending time with people
- a personal drive to help people and make a difference
- a willingness to be different and say something new and important
How do you become a Doctor of Chiropractic?
The Doctor of Chiropractic Program at Life West is a professional program which typically takes three and a half years (14 quarters) to complete. The program is entered after the student has completed a bachelor degree or at least 90 semester hours of undergraduate work, with significant specific (see pre-requisites) preparatory coursework completed in the health sciences.
A chiropractic professional education provides the doctoral candidate with a core of knowledge in the basic sciences, clinical sciences, and many related health subjects. A chiropractor is a gatekeeper who provides direct access to the health delivery system and has responsibilities as a primary clinician. In practice, a chiropractor may offer services in wellness promotion, and health assessment, as well as the chiropractic management of the patient’s health care needs. A doctor of chiropractic will consult with, co-manage, or refer to other health care providers when appropriate.
What do you need to do after you graduate to become licensed as a chiropractor?
After earning your Doctor of Chiropractic degree you will need a few more things to get licensed.
- National Boards: In order to practice in the US you will need to complete all four parts of the national boards which are independently administered by the NBCE (National Board of Chiropractic Examiners link). Most students take the boards as they go through school and while the information is freshest in their minds.
- State license to practice: Every state has slightly different requirements for licensure, ranging from requirements prior to beginning school to specific educational coursework while in chiropractic school.
You will need to familiarize yourself with the requirements of any state you think you might be interested in being licensed in. You can do this research at the Federation of Chiropractic Licensing Boards’ website. Ultimately, it will be your responsibility to make sure that you can become licensed in the state of your choosing.
Each step on your way to becoming a chiropractor has its challenges.
I asked three recently-graduated chiropractors to share their advice for navigating and surviving the complex world of applications, school and starting your career as a chiroractor.
Dr. Joy Arciaga graduated from the University of Alberta with a Bachelor of Science in Science Psychology and graduated from Canadian Memorial Chiropractic College (CMCC) in 2011.
Dr. Joe Pratile obtained an Honours Bachelor of Arts in Kinesiology at Western University and also completed his studies at CMCC in 2011.
Both Joe and Joy have each been practising for one-and-a-half years and currently work at Vita Integrative Health Clinic in Toronto.
Dr. Stephanie Anisko earned a Bachelor of Science in Kinesiology degree with high honour from Michigan State University, where she competed on an athletic scholarship for springboard diving. She has been practising for five years since graduating from CMCC in 2007, and now works at AIM Health Group in Mississauga. She is also the team chiropractor for the Canadian National Springboard and Platform Diving team.
Applications and preparation
Writing applications and waiting for answers from schools is always a stressful part of pursuing a career. What is your advice to students writing applications and hoping to get into chiropractic?
Joy: When you’re writing your applications, just be honest. If chiropractic is right for you, then you really have no reason to be anything other than honest. It’s easy to say the things that the board wants to hear, but at the same time, it has to be congruent with what you really believe in.
I completely agree on the waiting part. It is probably the most nerve-wracking part of the application process and it feels like you’re waiting forever.
There is no concrete advice I can offer here except be positive. You’ve done all the work. All the T’s are crossed and the I’s have been dotted. The interview is done. It’s out of your hands.
Joe: Does it allow you to always be learning? Second, does it allow you to always be dreaming? Third, does it always allow you to always be taking risks to live up to your full potential? Fourth, does it allow you to find a cause higher than yourself and devote yourself to it?
These [questions] will help you simply and help you build clarity in a complex situation. Fear has no place in a focused mind.
Any advice on preparing yourself for pursuing a career in chiropractic?
Joe: Take these three ideas into consideration. First, do you like school? Buckle up, it’s four more years. Second, read some chiropractic literature, magazines and books on the topic to see if the natural healing philosophy and paradigm is right for you. Third, be prepared to study the business side of chiropractic as well, like marketing, advertising and so on.
You will have options coming out, but ultimately if you want to be your own boss, run your own clinic or at least be a part of one, you will have to know how to streamline office procedures and build a clinic atmosphere.
Customer and patient satisfaction and loyalty will always come from the tone you set and the care you take in your office protocols. In today’s world of efficiency, people demand it these days and you will want to hit the ground running if possible.
My advice, learn from a current chiropractor or health practitioner who, as close as possible, embodies how you would like to be in practice. Success leaves clues, now all you have to do is ask great questions that build clarity and take action steps! If you want anything in this world bad enough, you’ll make it work.
On being a chiropractic student
Not too long ago you were chiropractic students yourselves. Do you have any tips for people who are in chiropractic school right now?
Stephanie: School can be a very overwhelming experience with the volume of homework, studying, exams and projects.
Sometimes it is very easy to lose sight of the big picture – that you will soon be in an amazing profession with skills that will help people improve their quality of life and live without pain!
Find a chiropractor who can help mentor you during the process and go and visit their office to shadow them. That will help get you past some of the hurdles in school, and also prepare you for when the exams are over and it will be time to start working in the field.
It is also helpful to take courses outside of school to add chiropractic techniques and skills to broaden your perspective in order to maximally help your future patients. This can include practice management and business courses as well.
Joy: There is a light at the end of the tunnel even if it doesn’t seem like it. I’m not going to sugar coat it: the first three years are tough, but put your nose to the grindstone and before you know it you’ll be in clinic. That’s where it all begins to come together. It’s a long road, but at the end it’s worth it.
Learn as much as you can, obviously. What you learn in school is extremely important, but at the same time realize that your real education begins after you graduate. School provides you with an exceptional knowledge base, but nothing prepares you to be a chiropractor except actually being a chiropractor.
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Photo credit: Michael Dorausch