Chiropractic Assistant Careers: Salary Info & Job Description

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What are the pros and cons of a chiropractic assistant's career? Get real job descriptions, career outlook and salary info to see if becoming a chiropractic assistant is right for you.
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Pros and Cons

Chiropractic assistants help chiropractic doctors treat and manage patients. Read on for more of the pros and cons of this career.

Pros of Being a Chiropractic Assistant
May enter this field with just a high school diploma or 1-2 years of formal training*
29% expected growth in the field from 2012 through 2022*
Opportunities to interact with patients**
Can work in administration or hands-on patient care**

Cons of Being a Chiropractic Assistant
May be required to take state-required exams to perform some duties*
Hours may include weekends or evenings*
Jobs could require specialized training and use of electronic health records software*
Exposure to high-stress situations when patients are in pain*

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **Iowa Health Careers.

Essential Career Info

Job Description and Duties

Chiropractic assistants provide direct assistance with patient care, such as passing equipment to the chiropractor, obtaining a patient's vital signs, explaining treatment procedures or helping patients move from one location to another. Administrative duties may include making notes in patients' charts, calculating billing, scheduling patients or answering and making phone calls. Chiropractic assistants with special training or certification can also perform specialized duties, such as positioning patients for and taking x-rays.

Job Prospects and Salary Info

Chiropractic assistants, who fall into the medical assistant category, can expect a 29% growth rate in the 2012-2022 decade, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). These assistants will be needed to meet the growing need for services required by an aging population and can expect to potentially perform tasks that higher-paid employees may have handled in the past.

The BLS data on wages for medical assistants showed an annual mean wage of about $31,220, as of May 2014. Most assistants earned between $21,540 and $42,260 during that time period. Top-paying states in May 2014 included Alaska, Massachusetts and Washington, according to the BLS.

Career Skills and Requirements

The BLS reports that there are no national standards regarding training and credentialing in this profession, although certain states may have laws that govern the practice of medical assistants. Chiropractic assistants can begin their careers by working with a licensed chiropractor who is willing to provide on-the-job training. However, employers may prefer a chiropractic assistant who has had formal training. You can find training programs at both a certificate and an associate degree level. In these programs, you can learn about filing insurance claims, meeting safety regulations, assisting with exams and educating patients.

These programs also provide the training you need to prepare for state-regulated exams in areas such as taking x-rays or assisting with therapy. After getting approved to perform these tasks by your state, it may be necessary to take continuing educational units of training to maintain licensed or certified status.

Useful Skills

Having a working knowledge of medical terminology, anatomy and physiology, medical billing and appointment scheduling are important qualities that a chiropractic assistant needs to have. You'll also need familiarity with patient care equipment and customer service skills.

What Employers Look for

Generally speaking, employers of chiropractic assistants want team players who are able to take direction from licensed staff and who have a pleasant personality when interacting with patients. The postings below are a snapshot of what employers were looking for in April of 2012.

  • A chiropractic office in Florida was willing to train a front office assistant. The candidate needed to be energetic, love helping others and be able to multitask. Computer skills were required.
  • A Pennsylvania office was seeking a full-time chiropractic assistant to work directly with patients helping them with exercises and traction. The incumbent would also perform administrative duties. The employer was willing to train but preferred a candidate with experience.
  • A health center in Texas was seeking a part-time chiropractic assistant. This position involved both hands-on patient care and administrative duties. Applicants needed the ability to work on their feet and perform frequent bending and stair climbing. The employer preferred someone with experience, but was willing to train. Bilingual candidates were preferred.

How to Stand Out

Chiropractic assistants who wish to stand out in their field might want to consider the benefits of certification. Chiropractic assistants have the option of earning credentials as a medical office assistant from the National Center for Competency Testing. To become a certified medical office assistant, you'll need to take an exam on basic medical office procedures and clinical tasks.

Chiropractic assistants looking to make themselves and their skills known and improve their professional knowledge base might want to consider joining state chiropractic organizations. Membership in these organizations can keep you abreast of changes in your field, and you may be able to take advantage of educational opportunities or career advancement advice. Another way for chiropractic assistants to increase their knowledge base is to attend professional conferences. At these gatherings, you may be able to attend seminars, speak with colleagues and other influential people in the field about advancements in chiropractic care and receive news and information on professional opportunities.

Alternative Career Paths

Occupational Therapy Assistant

If you want to pursue a career helping people with injury or illness but being a chiropractic assistant doesn't feel like the right fit, you can consider becoming an occupational therapy assistant. Occupational therapy assistants work with ill, disabled or injured patients under the direction of a licensed occupational therapist. Their job is to help patients learn or improve upon skills needed for everyday living, such as learning how to use adaptive devices to compensate for limited or lost mobility.

Occupational therapy assistants can also be involved in the clerical aspects of a treatment center or doctor's office. Becoming an occupational therapy assistant generally involves earning an associate degree, and you may also have to acquire a state license. According to the BLS, the expected job growth rate for this field is 43% between 2010 and 2020.

Medical Records Technician

If you're more drawn to the clerical aspects of a medical assistant's job, consider becoming a medical records technician. Also known as health information technicians, workers in this profession are charged with managing, organizing and maintaining the integrity and confidentiality of a patient's medical record. You can find employment in hospitals, clinics and doctor's offices. You'll need to be knowledgeable about federal and state laws regarding privacy and the proper handling of confidential information and must understand how to perform billing and coding tasks.

To work in this field, you'll need a postsecondary certificate or an associate degree. The BLS reports that employers look for professionally certified technicians. You can get certified through professional organizations, such as the American Health Information Management Association. The BLS estimates faster-than-average job growth for this profession, at 21%, between 2010 and 2020.