As you contemplate a career in chiropractic,
you may be wondering about the benefits and drawbacks of this profession.
Here are some things to consider as you weigh
the pros and cons:
ON THE DOWNSIDE
You must be able to work independently. And you need to
be able to juggle many projects at the same time.
In other words, you’ll need to have
the characteristics of any small business owner. Starting a chiropractic
practice, just like any other kind of business, involves dedication
and hard work.
• You must have a supportive
family and friends. You have have occasion to ask them
to pitch in and help. One young chiropractor needed to ask family
and friends to lend a hand to turn a former gas station in Iowa
into a clinic. Without the joint effort of many people, she would
have paid much more to build her office and begin in practice.
• You will need to sell
your chiropractic services. Your audience will be many
different kinds of people, so you’ll need to be able to make
public presentations, relate to people, and be able to communicate
your passion for chiropractic.
Some people will not listen to you; others
will disagree; and still others may even be rude. As Bob Levoy stated
in a (November 2004) Chiropractic Economics column, “3
unrealistic expectations in managing your practice,” “Accept
that you have a limited ability to change people.”
If you are thick-skinned, you’ll need
to develop a thicker skin or suffer.
• You will have to contend
with the bad press. Chiropractic and chiropractors do not
always get a “fair shake” from the popular press. Although
chiropractors are no longer being jailed as they were as recently
as the 1970s, chiropractic still is under fire. In Connecticut in
2005, for example, a billboard carried warnings about the purported
danger of neck manipulations, and a court case in Canada has caused
many in that country to question the efficacy and safety of chiropractic.
• You’ll need to
hunt down start-up money. When you graduate from chiropractic
college, you will likely have a large student loan debt, and then
you will probably need to take out a business loan to start your
Some banks will turn you down flat; others
will string you along for months and then tell you they can’t
help. You’ll need to be able to lower your expectations and
keep going until you find a bank who will work with you.
• You will have a limited
ability to collect money from your patients. Many chiropractors
have “cash” practices (in which they collect money from
the patient directly rather than from an insurance company), because
many insurance companies and HMO organizations do not cover chiropractic
You also may be limited in the number of chiropractic
visits you may charge to an insurance company or Medicare/Medicaid
in a period of time. That restriction is changing, and Medicare
and Medicaid are reviewing their coverage, but many chiropractors
find their ability to get paid is limited to directly charging the
patients for care.
ON THE PLUS SIDE
Before you get discouraged, however,
look at all the positives about this profession. Of all the careers
available in the health profession, chiropractic is a great choice.
Here are some benefits of chiropractic over
other health care professions:
• Shorter training period.
Although the learning time is long (over three years from the time
you start in chiropractic college and when you attain your degree),
and the study is rigorous, it doesn’t take as long as becoming
a medical doctor or dentist. You may also need a bachelor’s
degree, either before you start in chiropractic school or before
you graduate, so check out state licensing requirements.
• Scope and focus are
up to you. You can choose the scope and focus of your practice.
For example, you may decide to add other natural healing methods
such as acupuncture or nutritional supplementation to your practice
portfolio, or you may decide that “straight” chiropractic
provides you with enough satisfaction.
Be aware that your ability to practice different
chiropractic techniques is in great measure dependent on the state
in which you practice. Some states, such as Illinois, have a wide
“scope of practice” that allows chiropractors broad
latitude in the types of services they can perform.
Other states limit your scope to spinal adjustments.
Do your research by going to the Web site
of the chiropractic licensing board in the state where you wish
• Regular work hours.
With some exceptions, chiropractic is a “9 to 5” profession.
Rarely will you get called out to treat someone at 2 a.m.
Once you have established your practice, you
can set your hours and find a comfortable lifestyle without being
a slave to a pager or being awakened at all hours of the night with
medical emergencies. Certainly people may be in pain and in need
of a chiropractor at odd hours, but in most cases you can count
on reasonable hours of practice.
• Reasonable malpractice
insurance rates. Your malpractice insurance is substantially
lower than insurance for medical doctors. Some medical specialties
(obstetricians, for example) spend tens of thousands of dollars
on malpractice insurance; the “typical” chiropractor
spends less than $5,000 a year on malpractice insurance.
• Painless licensing process.
Like other health care professions, chiropractors are licensed,
but the licensing process is relatively painless. The process includes
a four-part examination that is taken during your time as a student.
Then, most states require an additional jurisprudence or ethics
examination, but usually students can become licensed within a six
months after graduation.
• Help for those who have
despaired. Finally, chiropractors get a lot of satisfaction
with treating people who have given up on the medical system and
are looking for a drug-free way to health and pain-free life. There’s
no better feeling that providing people with hope and health.