Chiropractic Degrees: Doctorate, Training & Online Course Info

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What kind of job can you get with a doctorate in chiropractic? Find out program requirements, online options, and info on courses and chiropractic professional degrees.
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Doctor of Chiropractic (D.C.) at a Glance

Chiropractors are primary healthcare providers who work with patients with ailments of the musculoskeletal system. They treat people through manipulation of the bones, ligaments, muscles, and tendons. Specifically, they manipulate the spine and perform related work to relieve pain in the neck and back.

Because chiropractors are considered primary healthcare providers, no referral is generally necessary for those in managed health plans to go to a chiropractor. Becoming a chiropractor requires completion of a 4-year professional degree in an accredited chiropractic program, an internship, and professional licensing at the state level. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicts that during the years 2010-2020, chiropractor jobs will increase 28% (www.bls.gov).

Doctor of Chiropractic Post-doctorate Residency
Who is this degree for? Doctor of Chiropractic degree programs offer professional degrees that prepare people to work as healthcare providers who use non-invasive musculoskeletal manipulations to improve health and relieve symptoms of pain Chiropractors looking to specialize in certain areas may choose to attend formal residency programs for further training beyond the D.C.
Common Career Paths (with approximate median annual salary) - Chiropractors ($66,000)* May specialize in a number of areas of treatment:
- Sport chiropractor
- Wellness chiropractor
- Pediatric chiropractor
Residency may be available for certain specialties, such as:
- Diagnostic imaging
- Family practice
- Chiropractic research
Time to Completion 4 years full-time 2-3 years full time
Common Graduation Requirements - Varies depending on institution type; can be roughly 80-90 graduate-level courses or about 4,000-5,000 clock hours
- Generally includes clinical course-hours
- Completion of the program coursework and practice-hours
- Completion of additional coursework that may be required for required concurrent master's degree programs
Prerequisites Generally a minimum of 90 credits of undergraduate classes
Increasingly, completion of a bachelor's degree
Completion of a Doctor of Chiropractic (D.C.) program
Online Availability Online options are available only for continuing education credits No

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (May 2011 figures).

Doctor of Chiropractic

A Doctor of Chiropractic degree program is the basic professional degree for licensed chiropractors. These programs generally take four years to complete and prepare the chiropractor for both licensing requirements and opening and maintaining their own practices.

Pros and Cons Subsection

Pros

  • Many chiropractors run their own practices. As small-business owners, they set their own hours.
  • A successful chiropractor has significant income potential.
  • Good chiropractors will gain the benefit of the satisfaction from helping people.

Cons

  • Committing to the years of schooling as an out-of-pocket expense is a serious hurdle to those interested in the field.
  • Chiropractors lack the social standing of medical doctors or doctors of osteopathy.
  • Earning a Doctor of Chiropractic degree is no guarantee of a successful practice.

Courses and Training Requirements

The training requirements for completing a D.C. degree program are extensive. Students take a broad range of courses, studying topics such as anatomy and physiology, pathology, biochemistry, public health, pharmacology and herbology, and chiropractic physical manipulation techniques, as well as courses that prepare chiropractors to run their own businesses, such as marketing, finance, and ethics. Because chiropractors can act as the first contact point for the medical system, they're trained to have some understanding of pathology so that they will be able to refer those who need it to other doctors or specialists. Additionally, students are required to perform clinical hours, during which lessons are solidified and put into practice.

Online Degree Options

At this time, there are no accredited Doctor of Chiropractic degree programs available online. Because of the hands-on nature of chiropractic programs, it seems unlikely that such programs will develop. In these programs, students study both anatomy and therapeutic manipulation techniques requiring demonstration and practice in intensive programs throughout their training. Advanced students are required to attend clinic hours as part of their coursework.

As part of continued licensing, chiropractors in some states are required to earn a number of continuing education credits. These credits can be earned online through some schools.

Getting Ahead with This Degree

If you're looking to excel as a professional chiropractor, you can take a number of steps during and after your program. Developing relationships with mentors and colleagues who teach in your school can create opportunities for growth beyond coursework, practice, and clinical hours. Finding positions working in the chiropractic field, whether before enrolling or during the program, can provide valuable experience and skills, even if the positions are entry-level. Success as a chiropractor is a combination of professional ability and business skills, and these early formative experiences can create a sound understanding of what is needed not only to help people, but also how to run a successful practice. Developing these skills before opening your own practice means not making learning mistakes during the critical period when you're developing your practice and professional reputation.

Chiropractic Residency

If you're interested in going beyond the standard Doctor of Chiropractic degree, there are some programs that allow for a residency of several years after completion of the initial program. These residency programs are designed to develop students in a number of subspecialties. Programs are generally full-time, and they can take from two to three years to complete. Specialties include sports medicine, diagnostic imaging, family practice, and research. Some of these programs require concurrent enrollment in an appropriate master's degree program, as dictated by the school.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Chiropractors develop a subspecialty as well as deeper clinical experience early in their careers.
  • Compared to general practice chiropractors who might choose to specialize in certain areas of the profession, these specialists have more extensive formal training.
  • Completing a residency in chiropractic exposes students to more advanced techniques, and it may allow for careers outside of private practice, in areas such as research.

Cons

  • As chiropractors in general must pay for their own professional educations, delaying opening a practice by several years for further training extends the period of debt.
  • Additional years of training out-of-pocket may or may not pay off financially.
  • As with the basic chiropractic degree, completion is no guarantee of financial success in the long-run.

Common Courses and Requirements

The course requirements for residency programs will vary greatly by specialty. Nonetheless, students should expect to take courses both in chiropractic and in associated fields. A degree in chiropractic research, for instance, may require public health courses, while a radiology program would require more advanced physics as well as specific anatomy courses. The concurrent master's degree program may, as with many master's degree programs, require specific research or projects as part of completion requirements.

Online Degree Options

There are no online residency programs available in chiropractic. Post-graduate residency programs in chiropractic, unlike some other medical fields, aren't required for licensing except in the field of diagnostic imaging. Even non-online programs are thus fairly rare.

Getting Ahead with This Degree

The Doctor of Chiropractic is a professional degree with only one outcome: become a chiropractor. Developing a successful chiropractic practice is a combination of effective training and careful management. In order to successfully compete in the chiropractic market, you should be able to pull three sets of skills should together. The first, of course, is chiropractic proficiency. In order to prepare yourself for opening a practice, getting hands-on clinical experience beyond what is required by the program can be helpful. Second, business skills are necessary for succeeding as an independent business owner. Some business or practice management coursework will be available in chiropractic programs, but any other experience you can gain will be to your benefit. Third, skills in interacting with people, including but not limited to excellent listening skills, will benefit the chiropractor. In developing a new practice, networking with both colleagues and potential clients may be beneficial to your chances of success.

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Regent University

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