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What Chiropractors Do About this section

Chiropractors
Chiropractors perform manual therapy to help patients with back and neck pain.

Chiropractors evaluate and treat patients' neuromusculoskeletal system, which includes nerves, bones, muscles, ligaments, and tendons. They use spinal adjustments and manipulation, as well as other clinical interventions, to manage patients’ health concerns, such as back and neck pain.

Duties

Chiropractors typically do the following:

  • Review a patient's medical history and listen to their concerns
  • Perform a physical examination to analyze the patient's posture, spine, and reflexes
  • Provide neuromusculoskeletal therapy, which involves adjusting a patient’s spinal column and other joints
  • Give additional treatments, such as applying heat or cold to a patient’s injured areas
  • Advise patients on health and lifestyle issues, such as exercise and nutrition
  • Refer patients to other healthcare professionals if needed

Chiropractors treat a variety of problems related to the neuromusculoskeletal system. They focus on pain in the back, neck, and joints and how relieving this pain can improve patients’ overall health. The goal is to improve the body’s motion and function.

In diagnosing a patient's condition, chiropractors often use both external and internal assessments. For example, a chiropractor may observe the patient's range of motion related to shoulder pain and then follow up with x rays to provide more detailed information.

Some chiropractors treat patients using procedures such as massage therapy, rehabilitative exercise, and electrical muscle stimulation in addition to spinal adjustments and manipulation. They also may apply supports, such as braces or tape, to treat patients and relieve pain.

In addition to operating a general chiropractic practice, chiropractors may specialize in areas such as sports, neurology, or nutrition. Chiropractors who are self-employed or work in private practice may have additional responsibilities that include marketing their business, hiring staff, and keeping records.

Work Environment About this section

chiropractors image
Chiropractors typically work in office settings.

Chiropractors held about 53,200 jobs in 2021. The largest employers of chiropractors were as follows:

Offices of chiropractors 64%
Self-employed workers 31
Offices of physicians 2

Chiropractors typically work in office settings. They may need to stand for long periods and lift or turn patients.

Work Schedules

Most chiropractors work full time, but part-time work is common. Work schedules may vary and include evenings or weekends to accommodate patients. Self-employed chiropractors may have the flexibility to set their own hours.

How to Become a Chiropractor About this section

Chiropractors
Chiropractors must earn a Doctor of Chiropractic (D.C.) degree and get a state license.

Chiropractors typically need a Doctor of Chiropractic (D.C.) degree. Completing a D.C. program typically takes about 4 years, in addition to at least 3 years of undergraduate study. Every state requires chiropractors to be licensed.

Education

Chiropractors must have a Doctor of Chiropractic (D.C.) degree from an accredited chiropractic college. A D.C. degree usually takes years to complete. Chiropractic colleges are accredited by The Council on Chiropractic Education.

Admission to D.C. programs requires at least 3 years of undergraduate education, although applicants commonly have a bachelor’s degree. Typical bachelor’s degrees for prospective D.C. students include biologyhealthcare and related fields, or kinesiology, exercise physiology, or other subjects focusing on physical movement. Chiropractic programs generally require applicants to have completed coursework in sciences such as physics, chemistry, and biology, as well as general education studies.

A D.C. program includes coursework in anatomy, physiology, biology, and similar subjects. Courses in business management, such as marketing and finance, also may be included. Chiropractic students gain supervised clinical experience in areas such as diagnosis, spinal assessment, and adjustment techniques. D.C. programs may offer a dual-degree option, in which students earn either a bachelor’s or a master’s degree in another field while completing their D.C.

Some chiropractors complete postgraduate programs that lead to diplomate credentials. These programs provide additional training in specialty areas, such as orthopedics, acupuncture, and pediatrics.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

All states require chiropractors to be licensed, although requirements vary by state. At a minimum, all require the completion of an accredited Doctor of Chiropractic (D.C.) degree program and passing all four parts of the National Board of Chiropractic Examiners (NBCE) exam. States also may require candidates to pass a background check and state-specific law exams, called jurisprudence exams.

All states require practicing chiropractors to earn a specified number of hours of continuing education credits to maintain a chiropractic license. Contact your state’s board of chiropractic examiners or health department for more specific information about licensure.

Important Qualities

Communication skills. Chiropractors must listen to patients and explain procedures clearly both orally and in written reports.

Decision-making skills. Chiropractors must evaluate each patient’s needs and recommend treatment based on those needs. They must also decide when to refer patients to other healthcare professionals.

Detail oriented. Chiropractors must pay attention when diagnosing and treating patients to avoid mistakes that could harm them.

Dexterity. Chiropractors must have good coordination when performing manual adjustments to a patient's spine and other joints.

Empathy. Chiropractors often care for people who are in pain. They must be understanding and sympathetic to their patients’ problems and needs.

Interpersonal skills. Chiropractors must be personable in order to put patients at ease and expand their practice.

Pay About this section

Chiropractors

Median annual wages, May 2021

Healthcare diagnosing or treating practitioners

$81,270

Chiropractors

$75,000

Total, all occupations

$45,760

 

The median annual wage for chiropractors was $75,000 in May 2021. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $37,400, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $128,750.

In May 2021, the median annual wages for chiropractors in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:

Offices of physicians $79,810
Offices of chiropractors 73,990

Wage data do not cover self-employed workers or owners and partners of unincorporated businesses.

Earnings vary with the chiropractor’s number of years in practice, geographic region of practice, and hours worked. Chiropractors tend to earn more as they build a client base and become owners of, or partners in, a practice.

Most chiropractors work full time, but part-time work is common. Work schedules may vary and include evenings or weekends to accommodate patients. Self-employed chiropractors may have the flexibility to set their own hours.

Job Outlook About this section

Chiropractors

Percent change in employment, projected 2021-31

Chiropractors

10%

Healthcare diagnosing or treating practitioners

9%

Total, all occupations

5%

 

Employment of chiropractors is projected to grow 10 percent from 2021 to 2031, faster than the average for all occupations.

About 2,100 openings for chiropractors are projected each year, on average, over the decade. Many of those openings are expected to result from the need to replace workers who transfer to different occupations or exit the labor force, such as to retire.

Employment

Demand is expected to increase for chiropractic services as a nonsurgical, drug-free way to treat pain and improve overall wellness. Rising interest in integrative or complementary healthcare has led to more acceptance of chiropractic treatment of the back, neck, limbs, and involved joints. As a result, chiropractors are increasingly working with other healthcare workers, such as physicians and physical therapists, through referrals and complementary care.

Opportunities for chiropractors also will be created by the continued aging of the large baby-boom generation. Older adults are more likely than younger people to have neuromusculoskeletal and joint problems, and they will continue to seek treatment for these conditions as they lead longer, more active lives.

Employment projections data for chiropractors, 2021-31
Occupational Title SOC Code Employment, 2021 Projected Employment, 2031 Change, 2021-31 Employment by Industry
Percent Numeric

SOURCE: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Employment Projections program

Chiropractors

29-1011 53,200 58,700 10 5,500 Get data

Contacts for More Information About this section

For more information on a career as a chiropractor, visit

American Chiropractic Association

International Chiropractors Association

Discover Chiropractic

For a list of chiropractic programs and institutions, as well as for general information on chiropractic education, visit

Association of Chiropractic Colleges

The Council on Chiropractic Education

For information on state education and licensure requirements, visit

Federation of Chiropractic Licensing Boards

For information about licensing exams, visit

National Board of Chiropractic Examiners

CareerOneStop

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