If you are wondering how to become a chiropractor, below are tips and advice on training for and beginning careers in this area of alternative therapy, as well as job prospects in the UK.

    The Job Description
    Chiropractors work with clients to relieve joint or back pain by manipulating and aligning the joints and bones, often with particular focus on the spine. They use their hands (rather than medication or surgery) to make adjustments within the client that will improve the relationship between their joint and muscle function and nervous system.

    As a chiropractor, your first session with a client would involve carrying out a number of checks to establish that the client’s condition is suitable for treatment.

    Typical responsibilities:

    discussing in detail their symptoms and health problems
    examining the client, sometimes with the help of x-ray or blood tests
    exploring any previous diagnoses made by a medical practitioner
    designing a specific treatment programme appropriate to the individual needs of the patient.
    As well as physically treating patients, you may also give health promotion advice covering lifestyle, diet and exercise to reinforce recovery.

    You would refer patients on to a specialist or their GP when you identify an underlying condition requiring alternative treatment.

    Person Specification
    The key personal attributes of chiropractors include:

    a genuine desire to help people
    the ability to develop empathy with clients
    good listening skills and the ability to understand a client’s needs
    to be logical with good problem solving skills
    strong observational skills
    good co-ordination and manual dexterity
    an interest in anatomy and physiology
    to know when to refer clients to a qualified medical doctor
    commercial skills to help you run a business.

    How to become a chiropractor
    To work as a chiropractor you need to be registered with the General Chiropractic Council (GCC). To get on to the register you need to complete a GCC accredited degree (or Masters) in Chiropractic. Contact the GCC in Further Information for details of approved courses.

    To get onto an approved degree course you are likely to need:

    at least five GCSEs (A-C) including science-based subjects
    three A levels, preferably including biology, human biology, physics or chemistry.
    Please check with colleges or universities for exact requirements because alternatives, such as an Access to Higher Education qualification, may also be accepted.

    You may be at an advantage when applying for a course if you have paid or unpaid experience of working in a healthcare setting.

    Training and Development
    Whilst training to become a chiropractor on a GCC approved course, you will combine academic study with clinical placements including client contact. You will cover areas such as:

    anatomy and physiology
    pathology and histology
    blood chemistry and blood draws
    biochemistry and biomechanics
    orthopaedics and physiotherapy
    general medicine and internal medicine
    human structure and function.
    You will also develop diagnostic and therapeutic skills.

    When you have completed the degree, your first year in the workplace needs to take place under the supervision of an experienced and qualified chiropractor. You may be able to find work as an associate chiropractor with an existing practice, or alternatively you may be able to arrange supervision whilst working on a self-employed basis.

    As a chiropractor, the GCC require you to continue your professional development (CPD) throughout your career. This involves a minimum of 30 hours of learning each year, which you may be able to use to pursue a specialist area of interest such as sports injuries or working with children.

    The Pay (a rough guide)
    A newly qualified chiropractor can earn around £15,000 to £20,000 a year, depending on the number of clients and location of practice
    When a practice is well established, chiropractors may earn around £30,000 to £50,000 a year
    Many chiropractors are self-employed and charge an hourly or sessional rate usually between £25 and £50 an hour.

    Job Prospects
    Public interest in this area of work is increasing and there are now more than 2,000 chiropractors working in the UK. Almost all are in private practice, however, some patients are referred by an NHS service (such as a GP) and vacancies are occasionally advertised for complementary practitioners to work directly for the NHS (you could contact your local NHS trust about opportunities).

    As a chiropractor you are likely to find most professional opportunities as a self-employed practitioner. You may be able to set-up your practice working alongside other chiropractors or complementary therapists (such as osteopaths and acupuncturists). This may help you build your business, reputation and client list. You may be able to work from more than one clinic or carry out locum work.

    There may be opportunities for work within research, and also overseas (GCC qualifications are recognised as meeting international standards).

    Useful therapies resources:
    General Chiropractic Council (GCC)
    44 Wicklow St
    WC1X 9HL
    Tel: 020 7713 5155

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