How to Become a Chiropractor

Chiropractor helping patient

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Chiropractors, also known as doctors of chiropractic, use natural healing methods and manual manipulations of the spine, neck and back to treat a variety of maladies in patients, particularly of the musculoskeletal system. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics "chiropractic is based on the principle that spinal joint misalignments interfere with the nervous system and can result in lower resistance to disease and many different conditions of diminished health.

In addition to the manual manipulations, chiropractors treat patients with a combination of diet, exercise and other lifestyle methods, according to the BLS.

Training and Education

Chiropractors typically graduate from an accredited chiropractic school. They do not have an MD or DO degree from a medical school; instead, they earn a D.C. (Doctor of Chiropractic) degree. Currently, chiropractic candidates are not required to have a bachelor's degree before entering chiropractic school. However, many students do complete a bachelor's program, and a minimum of 90 semester hours of undergraduate coursework is required for acceptance into a chiropractic program.

The chiropractic course is typically a total of four years, but some programs vary in length. The focus of the classroom coursework, like many other health careers, entails courses in the sciences such as anatomy, physiology, biology, biochemistry, and pathology. In addition to classroom requirements, lab and clinical training are required components of chiropractic education. According to the BLS, there are 16 accredited chiropractic programs nationwide.

Licensure is required on a national level and is obtained by passing a four-part test by the National Board of Chiropractic Examiners. As with most health careers, continuing medical education (CME) is required to keep licensure current. Some state boards require additional testing, but most recognize the national test.

Job Outlook

The outlook for chiropractors is projected to be "faster than average", with about 14 percent growth predicted to occur between 2016-2026, according to the BLS. There are about 47,400 chiropractors practicing in the U.S. as of 2016, and about one in three of those are self-employed in a solo practice.

The extent to which insurers cover chiropractic care also impacts the demand for chiropractors. Coverage varies by plans. Also contributing to increased demand is the aging of the U.S. population. "Older adults are more likely to have neuromusculoskeletal and joint problems and they are seeking treatment for these conditions more often as they lead longer, more active lives," according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics' Occupational Outlook Handbook.


According to the BLS, the median (mid-point) income for salaried chiropractors is $71,410, as of 2018. According to a survey of chiropractors cited by the BLS, the mean income (average) for chiropractors is $94,454, and the top ten percent of chiropractors earn almost $150,000. About 25 percent of chiropractors work part-time, in which case they would earn a lower income than average, which is based on full-time workers.

Chiropractors working in the offices of physicians earned an average of $16,000 more per year than those working in the offices of chiropractors, according to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics.

Work Environment and Required Skills

Chiropractors often have to stand for long periods of time. Chiropractors should be in good physical condition. Most chiropractors work in clean, well-lit, comfortable offices.

Chiropractors must enjoy working with people and have strong communication and interpersonal skills. The profession requires strong math and science skills, as with other health careers. Chiropractors must be able to collect and analyze information and data, assess a situation and develop a plan of action and treatment. Then they must be able to evaluate the progress of the patient and make any necessary adjustments accordingly.

Related Careers

If you are interested in a career as a chiropractor, you may also be interested in physical therapy careers, athletic trainer, physiatrist, massage therapist, or podiatrist. These careers have some similarities in educational requirements and job duties.

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Article Sources

  • Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2016-17 Edition, Chiropractors.