How to Become a Chiropractor

Chiropractor helping patient

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In This Article

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, "Chiropractors treat patients with health problems of the neuromusculoskeletal system, which includes nerves, bones, muscles, ligaments, and tendons."

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
  • Pathology

In addition to classroom requirements, lab and clinical training are required components of chiropractic education. According to the BLS, 18 accredited chiropractic programs are operating 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 7% growth predicted to occur between 2018-2028, according to the BLS. About 50,300 chiropractors were practicing in the U.S. as of 2018, and about one in three of those were 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.

"The aging of the large baby-boom generation will lead to new opportunities for chiropractors because older adults are more likely than younger people to have neuromusculoskeletal and joint problems. Members of the aging population will likely continue to seek treatment for these conditions as they lead longer, more active lives."
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics' Occupational Outlook Handbook.

Income

According to the BLS, the median (mid-point) income for salaried chiropractors is $71,410, as of 2018. The bottom 10% earn less than $35,000, while the top ten percent of chiropractors bring in almost $150,000.

Most chiropractors work full time. Those who are self-employed set their own hours and may have more flexible schedules to accommodate patients.

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

Most chiropractors work in clean, well-lit, comfortable offices.

Skills required for this profession include:

  • Being in good physical condition so they can stand for long periods of time and perform manipulations
  • Strong interpersonal and communication skills to put patients at ease and keep them coming back
  • Strong math and science skills, as with other health careers
  • Ability to collect and analyze information and data, assess a situation and develop a plan of action and treatment
  • Ability 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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  • Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook. Chiropractors. Updated September 4, 2019.