BALTIMORE–Paula Budig, 33, a receptionist at Liberty Heights Chiropractic Clinic since November, confirmed Tuesday that she is seriously considering returning to school to pursue a degree in chiropractic medicine.

Chiropractic secretary Paula Budig.

"When I answered the want ad for this job, I didn't really even know what a chiropractor did," said Budig, straightening the magazines in the patient waiting room. "But after working at the clinic for a few months now, it seems like it would be a really great career."

Budig has already begun researching the possible career move. At lunch Monday, she talked to Dr. Wesley Lamp, one of the four chiropractors at the clinic, about what it's like to be a chiropractor. Upon returning to the office, she logged onto the web site for Baltimore Chiropractic College, Lamp's alma mater.

"They have a program at Baltimore Chiro where I could finish in three and a half years," Budig said. "The first year and a half can be done in night classes, so I wouldn't even have to stop working until my third semester. Best of all, the campus is only 25 minutes from my apartment complex."

According to Budig, working at Liberty Heights Chiropractic Clinic gives her a considerable head start over any future classmates.

"Just being in this office, I've soaked up a ton of knowledge about the field," Budig said. "I mean, all day long, I'm writing down messages from patients regarding the condition of their backs and then relaying them to the doctors. You can't help but learn when you're doing stuff like that."

Though Budig did not continue her education after high school, she said she has "always known that option was there."

"When I graduated, I was offered and accepted a managerial position at the Safeway where I'd been working," Budig said. "I really wanted to buy a new Fiero at the time, so I figured school could wait."

After three years as assistant manager at Safeway and then four years at the Falls Road Roy Rogers, Budig decided to move out of the retail field.

"I felt it was time to get out and explore some other options," Budig said. "I was working in the floral department at Safeway, and for a time I considered becoming a florist, but that never quite came together."

Within three months of leaving Roy Rogers, Budig landed a job as a receptionist at the law firm of Higgins, Damisch & Davis.

The institute of higher learning Budig hopes to attend.

"For a while, I was pretty serious about going into law," Budig said. "I even got some brochures from one of the local law schools. But then I got a job as a secretary at an advertising firm and found that field much better suited to my skills."

After numerous career detours and false starts, Budig believes she has found her true calling.

"I think I'm really well-suited to being a chiropractor," she said. "For example, I give amazing back rubs, so I know I'd be good at working the various spinal bones. I just have, like, a natural aptitude with the human body."

Budig admitted that the lucrative nature of the profession is also a plus.

"Right now, I make $22K per year," she said. "A chiropractor's starting salary is easily $35K. Plus, they get paid vacations and great benefits and all that. I get paid for holidays, but that's it. And I have a 30 percent co-pay for my insurance."

Budig said she would likely be able to do her six-month internship at Liberty Heights Chiropractic Clinic, and that upon graduation, she would have an inside track to a job at the clinic.

"The doctors are always complaining about how they're understaffed," Budig said. "They seriously need more chiropractors working here. Believe me, I should know: I do patient scheduling."