|Considering Going to Chiropractic College
By Michael Dorausch, DC
A question from Rebekah regarding chiropractic salaries and schooling... I just read your article and it was very informative and helpful. I am considering going to chiropractic college, however, because of my financial situation I want to research into all the requirements needed in order to graduate successfully and begin a career. Right now I am taking college courses at a community college part-time and working part-time (I am paying for school). I know that I would have to get a school loan to go to chiropractic college, but I thought I should ask you how you paid for it all with no savings, because I am pretty much in the same boat. I have a few grand in the bank, but I'm planning on getting married soon (1-2 yrs) and will have to pay for that as well! Any advice on how to make it financially would be fantastic.
Thank you for the feedback Rebekah, hopfully I'll have some answers for you. The situation you describe is nearly identical to the one I was in when I started chiropractic college. Understanding your financial situation is one of the most important steps you can make towards being successful in practice. It's far better to plan ahead rather than just jump in emotionally and trust that things are going to work out. It's nice to have that trust, but it's far more solid with a well worked out plan, as well as a backup plan, should the situation arise.
I did the same thing, I took courses at a community college part-time and worked part-time, as I was paying for school on my own. I believe community college classes cost more now than they did in the mid-1990s, but it's still a better bet in my opinion, vs. going for a four year bachelors of science degree.
Not all US chiropractic schools require a bachelors of science degree in order to receive a doctorate of chiropractic degree. That being the case, I don't see where it would be essential (except for someone's ego) to invest the extra time and money in getting such a degree. A bachelors of science may come in handy if you plan other postgraduate school training, but that's not our discussion here.
What I would do (and did): Find out precisely what course work is required for entry into the doctor of chiropractic program at the school you're choosing to attend. Complete as many of those courses as possible in a community college program, and work part-time as many hours as you find you can, in order to balance your educational life with your family life. That can be tough, and since you mention a plan to get married in the next couple of years, I'd say it's something you should be discussing with your future spouse and make sure they are on board with your life/educational decisions. You're going to want to revisit those discussions with your significant other regularly throughout the years in order to maintain your relationship. Trust me, I've been through this, and I've seen far too many chiropractic students that were in relationships through chiropractic school, end in divorce or separation at graduation.
I certainly won't try to fool you and say it's easy, but in my practice today, I see numerous students studying to be attorneys, medical doctors, chiropractors or other, and they manage to somehow balance the studying, work, and family life. It's not without stress, but they make it through, and that's the long term goal.
When you enter chiropractic school full time your part-time employment will likely end unless you can find work late nights or on weekends. Either way it's going to be tough because coursework in chiropractic school gets increasingly difficult semester after semester. I've known chiropractic students that have worked in chiropractic offices while going to school, worked as bartenders, worked in restaurants (evening hours), and done a number of other activities for employment. Think weekends and especially think of situations where you could still be studying or learning more about chiropractic while you're working.
How are you going to do it? A lifestyle assessment is in order. I personally wouldn't plan on buying or leasing a new automobiles while attending community college or while in chiropractic school. That's one of the things I've seen far too many students do (in all sorts of career training). I think it's more a result of marketing and wanting to fit in versus anything else. I drove the same car (it was five years old) during chiropractic college, and even for a few years after chiropractic college. It was probably 2002 or 2003 before I bought my next vehicle, and that was at an auction on eBay, rather than buying new from a dealer. As a side note, I sold that same vehicle some four years later, for about $300 less than I purchased it for. What I'm getting at, is be smart and don't just buy stuff for the sake of doing so.
The same goes for going out entertainment wise. Sushi dinners in local Los Angeles restaurants can cost you an arm and a leg if you order lots of Toro tuna. Even buying beer like Heineken or Corona in a restaurant can run you nine dollars per order, when ordering in higher end places. That's not to mention the $14 mixed drinks (that's not really too high, it's more the norm).
I'm not saying you can't go out to dinner whatsoever, but these things should be strongly considered while attending chiropractic school, and during the first couple of years out of school. Going out for Chinese food or Mexican food can be a lot less expensive than going out for sushi or to a steakhouse. It's great to celebrate your wins in school with your significant other, and it's a great idea to set aside some time for each other each week as well. Can you handle going out to dinner once or twice a month? Some people will find that difficult to do while others will have no problem not going out to dinner. I'd find a balance that works for you in your situation, and one that your spouse/significant other is happy with as well.
Spouse support can save the day. My significant other was extremely supportive of me while in chiropractic school. In fact, she's been supportive of nearly everything I've done, even when I've done things that ended up costing me money or setting back my career/education. Support is important, but you have to set clear goals and guidelines for what you seek to accomplish.
Can you work through school? And if so what kind of work can you do that won't interfere too much with your studying? That's a great question to get answered. You may not know the answers now, but you lighten the load by having finances available (even if it's just to cover your rent and food while in school).
Limit Your Travel. It may be easy for some to think that they won't have to travel at all in chiropractic school but I find that to be unrealistic. Again, you are going to want to celebrate your wins, and spend time with your loved ones. Make sure your vacations (they will mostly be short) are affordable and enjoyable.
I know this doesn't answer all of your questions, but if you put things in perspective, and be realistic about your goals/dreams, I think you can do it.