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What Chiropractors Do About this section

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

Chiropractors care for patients with health problems of the 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:

  • Assess a patient’s medical condition by reviewing the patient’s medical history and concerns, and by performing a physical examination
  • Analyze the patient’s posture, spine, and reflexes
  • Conduct tests, including evaluating a patient’s posture and taking x rays
  • Provide neuromusculoskeletal therapy, which often 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, nutrition, and sleep habits
  • Refer patients to other healthcare professionals if needed

Chiropractors focus on patients’ overall health. Chiropractors believe that malfunctioning spinal joints and other somatic tissues interfere with a person’s neuromuscular system and can result in poor health.

Some chiropractors use procedures such as massage therapy, rehabilitative exercise, and ultrasound in addition to spinal adjustments and manipulation. They also may apply supports, such as braces or shoe inserts, to treat patients and relieve pain.

In addition to operating a general chiropractic practice, some chiropractors specialize in areas such as sports, neurology, orthopedics, pediatrics, or nutrition, among others. Chiropractors in private practice are responsible for marketing their businesses, hiring staff, and keeping records.

Work Environment About this section

chiropractors image
Chiropractors assess a patient’s medical condition and explain treatment options.

Chiropractors held about 51,400 jobs in 2020. The largest employers of chiropractors were as follows:

Offices of chiropractors 64%
Self-employed workers 30
Offices of physicians 2

Chiropractors typically work in office settings. They may be on their feet for long periods when examining and treating patients.

Work Schedules

Most chiropractors work full time. Chiropractors may work in the evenings or on weekends to accommodate patients. Some chiropractors travel to patients’ homes to give treatment. Self-employed chiropractors 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 and a state license. D.C. programs typically take 4 years to complete and require at least 3 years of undergraduate education for admission.

Education

Prospective chiropractors are required to have a Doctor of Chiropractic (D.C.) degree—a postgraduate professional degree that typically takes 4 years to complete. The Council on Chiropractic Education accredits D.C. programs.

Admission to D.C. programs requires at least 90 semester hours of undergraduate education, and some D.C. programs require a bachelor’s degree for entry. Before applying to a chiropractic program, prospective D.C. students typically earn a bachelor’s degree, often in biology or a healthcare and related field. Schools have specific requirements for their chiropractic programs, but they generally require coursework in the liberal arts and in sciences such as physics, chemistry, and biology. Candidates should check with individual schools regarding their specific requirements.

A D.C. program includes classwork in anatomy, physiology, biology, and similar subjects. Chiropractic students also get supervised clinical experience in which they train in spinal assessment, adjustment techniques, and making diagnoses. D.C. programs also may include classwork in business management and in billing and finance. Most D.C. programs offer a dual-degree option, in which students may 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 and pediatrics. Classes are taken at chiropractic colleges.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

All states and the District of Columbia require chiropractors to be licensed. Although specific requirements vary by state, 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.

Many states also require applicants to pass a background check and state-specific law exams, called jurisprudence exams. All states require a practicing chiropractor to take continuing education classes to maintain his or her chiropractic license. Check with your state’s board of chiropractic examiners or health department for more specific information on licensure.

Important Qualities

Decisionmaking skills. Chiropractors must determine the best course of action when treating a patient. They must also decide when to refer patients to other healthcare professionals.

Detail oriented. Chiropractors must be observant and pay attention to details so that they can make proper diagnoses and avoid mistakes that could harm patients.

Dexterity. Because they use their hands to perform manual adjustments to the spine and other joints, chiropractors should have good coordination to perform therapy effectively.

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 keep clients coming to their practice. Also, because chiropractors frequently touch patients in performing therapy, they should be able to put their patients at ease.

Organizational skills. Self-employed chiropractors may need to schedule appointments, manage employees, bill insurance companies, and maintain patients’ files. Good recordkeeping and other organizational skills are critical in running a successful business.

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

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. Chiropractors may work in the evenings or on weekends to accommodate patients. Some chiropractors travel to patients’ homes to give treatment. Self-employed chiropractors set their own hours.

Job Outlook About this section

Chiropractors

Percent change in employment, projected 2020-30

Healthcare diagnosing or treating practitioners

12%

Chiropractors

11%

Total, all occupations

8%

 

Employment of chiropractors is projected to grow 11 percent from 2020 to 2030, faster than the average for all occupations.

About 1,800 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, 2020-30
Occupational Title SOC Code Employment, 2020 Projected Employment, 2030 Change, 2020-30 Employment by Industry
Percent Numeric

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

Chiropractors

29-1011 51,400 57,000 11 5,600 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

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Chiropractors

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