Chiropractors

Summary

chiropractors image
Chiropractors treat patients with health problems of the musculoskeletal system.
Quick Facts: Chiropractors
2012 Median Pay $66,160 per year
$31.81 per hour
Entry-Level Education Doctoral or professional degree
Work Experience in a Related Occupation None
On-the-job Training None
Number of Jobs, 2012 44,400
Job Outlook, 2012-22 15% (Faster than average)
Employment Change, 2012-22 6,500

What Chiropractors Do

Chiropractors treat patients with health problems of the neuromusculoskeletal system, which includes nerves, bones, muscles, ligaments, and tendons. They use spinal adjustments, manipulation, and other techniques to manage patients' health concerns, such as back and neck pain.

Work Environment

Most chiropractors work in a solo or group chiropractic practice. A large number are self-employed.

How to Become a Chiropractor

Chiropractors must get a Doctor of Chiropractic (D.C.) degree and a state license. Doctor of Chiropractic programs typically take 4 years to complete and require at least 3 years of undergraduate college education for admission.

Pay

The median annual wage for chiropractors was $66,160 in May 2012.

Job Outlook

Employment of chiropractors is projected to grow 15 percent from 2012 to 2022, faster than the average for all occupations. People across all age groups are increasingly becoming interested in chiropractic care, because chiropractors use nonsurgical methods of treatment and do not prescribe drugs.

Similar Occupations

Compare the job duties, education, job growth, and pay of chiropractors with similar occupations.

More Information, Including Links to O*NET

Learn more about chiropractors by visiting additional resources, including O*NET, a source on key characteristics of workers and occupations.

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, manipulation, and other techniques 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 their medical history, listening to the patient's concerns, and performing a physical examination
  • Analyze the patient's posture, spine, and reflexes
  • Conduct tests, including evaluating a patient's posture and taking x rays
  • Identify health problems
  • Provide neuromusculoskeletal therapy, which involves adjusting a patient's spinal column and other joints by hand
  • 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 health care professionals, if needed

Chiropractors focus on patients' overall health. Chiropractors believe that misalignments of the spinal joints interfere with a person's neuromuscular system and can result in lower resistance to disease, as well as other conditions of 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 concentrate 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 44,400 jobs in 2012. Most chiropractors work in a solo or group practice. About 37 percent were self-employed in 2012. A small number work in hospitals or physicians' offices.

Chiropractors typically work in office settings that are clean and comfortable. They may be on their feet for long periods when examining and caring for patients.

Work Schedules

Although most chiropractors worked full time, about 1 out of 3 worked part time in 2012. Chiropractors may work in the evenings or on weekends, to accommodate working patients. Self-employed chiropractors set their own hours.

How to Become a Chiropractor About this section

Chiropractors
Becoming a chiropractor requires earning a Doctor of Chiropractic (D.C.) degree and obtaining a state license.

Chiropractors must earn a Doctor of Chiropractic (D.C.) degree and a state license. Doctor of Chiropractic programs typically take 4 years to complete and require at least 3 years of undergraduate college 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. In 2012, there were 15 Doctor of Chiropractic programs on 18 campuses accredited by The Council on Chiropractic Education.

Admission to D.C. programs requires at least 90 semester hours of undergraduate education, with courses in the liberal arts and sciences, such as physics, chemistry, and biology. However, most students earn a bachelor’s degree before going on to a chiropractic program.

Chiropractic education consists of classroom work in anatomy, physiology, biology, and similar subjects. Chiropractic students also get supervised clinical experience, in which they train in spinal assessment, spinal adjustment techniques, and diagnosis.

Following graduation, some chiropractors complete postgraduate programs leading to certification and diplomate credentials. These programs provide additional training in specialty areas, such as orthopedics and pediatrics. Others may choose to earn a master’s degree in a related topic, such as nutrition or sports rehabilitation. Some D.C. programs offer a dual-degree option, in which students may earn a master’s degree in a second topic, while completing their D.C.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

All states and the District of Columbia require chiropractors to be licensed. Although specific requirements vary by state, all jurisdictions require the completion of an accredited Doctor of Chiropractic (D.C.) program. Some states require chiropractors to have a bachelor’s degree.

In addition, all jurisdictions require passing the National Board of Chiropractic Examiners exam, which include basic and clinical sciences, clinical case studies, and a practical exam. Many jurisdictions also require applicants to pass a state-specific law exams. All states require continuing education to keep the license. Check with your state’s board of chiropractic examiners or health department for more specific information on licensure.  

Important Qualities

Decision-making skills. Chiropractors must determine the best course of action when treating a patient. They must also decide when to refer patients to other health care 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 be well-coordinated 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 to keep clients coming to them. Also, because chiropractors frequently touch patients in performing therapy, they should be able to put their patients at ease.

Pay About this section

Chiropractors

Median annual wages, May 2012

Health diagnosing and treating practitioners

$73,410

Chiropractors

$66,160

Total, all occupations

$34,750

 

The median annual wage for chiropractors was $66,160 in May 2012. 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 $31,030, and the top 10 percent earned more than $142,950. 

Chiropractors tend to earn significantly less early in their careers and then earn more as they build a client base and become owners of, or partners in, a practice.

Although most chiropractors worked full time, about 1 out of 3 worked part time in 2012. Chiropractors may stay open in the evenings or on weekends to accommodate working patients. Self-employed chiropractors set their own hours.

Job Outlook About this section

Chiropractors

Percent change in employment, projected 2012-22

Health diagnosing and treating practitioners

20%

Chiropractors

15%

Total, all occupations

11%

 

Employment of chiropractors is projected to grow 15 percent from 2012 to 2022, faster than the average for all occupations. People across all age groups are increasingly seeking chiropractic care, because most chiropractors treat patients without performing surgery or prescribing drugs.

Chiropractic treatment of the back, neck, limbs, and involved joints has become more accepted as a result of research and changing attitudes about additional approaches healthcare. As a result, chiropractors are increasingly working in hospitals and clinics as part of a team-based model of patient care.

The aging of the large baby-boom generation will lead to new opportunities for chiropractors. 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.

Demand for chiropractic treatment is related to the ability of patients to pay, either directly or through health insurance. Although most insurance plans now cover chiropractic services, the extent of such coverage varies among plans.

Employment projections data for chiropractors, 2012-22
Occupational Title SOC Code Employment, 2012 Projected Employment, 2022 Change, 2012-22 Employment by Industry
Percent Numeric

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

Chiropractors

29-1011 44,400 50,900 15 6,500 [XLS]

Similar Occupations About this section

This table shows a list of occupations with job duties that are similar to those of chiropractors.

Occupation Job Duties ENTRY-LEVEL EDUCATION Help 2012 MEDIAN PAY Help
Athletic trainers

Athletic Trainers and Exercise Physiologists

Athletic trainers specialize in preventing, diagnosing, and treating muscle and bone injuries and illnesses. Exercise physiologists develop fitness and exercise programs that help patients recover from chronic diseases and improve cardiovascular function, body composition, and flexibility.

Bachelor’s degree $42,690
Massage therapists

Massage Therapists

Massage therapists treat clients by using touch to manipulate the soft-tissue muscles of the body. With their touch, therapists relieve pain, help rehabilitate injuries, improve circulation, relieve stress, increase relaxation, and aid in the general wellness of clients.

Postsecondary non-degree award $35,970
Occupational therapists

Occupational Therapists

Occupational therapists treat injured, ill, or disabled patients through the therapeutic use of everyday activities. They help these patients develop, recover, and improve the skills needed for daily living and working.

Master’s degree $75,400
Physical therapists

Physical Therapists

Physical therapists, sometimes called PTs, help injured or ill people improve their movement and manage their pain. These therapists are often an important part of rehabilitation and treatment of patients with chronic conditions or injuries.

Doctoral or professional degree $79,860
Physicians and surgeons

Physicians and Surgeons

Physicians and surgeons diagnose and treat injuries or illnesses. Physicians examine patients; take medical histories; prescribe medications; and order, perform, and interpret diagnostic tests. They counsel patients on diet, hygiene, and preventive healthcare. Surgeons operate on patients to treat injuries, such as broken bones; diseases, such as cancerous tumors; and deformities, such as cleft palates.

Doctoral or professional degree This wage is equal to or greater than $187,200 per year.
Podiatrists

Podiatrists

Podiatrists provide medical care for people with foot, ankle, and lower leg problems. They diagnose illnesses, treat injuries, and perform surgery involving the lower extremities.

Doctoral or professional degree $116,440

Contacts for More Information About this section

For information on a career as a chiropractor, visit

American Chiropractic Association

International Chiropractors Association

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

O*NET

Chiropractors

Suggested citation:

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition, Chiropractors,
on the Internet at http://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/chiropractors.htm (visited April 18, 2014).

Publish Date: Wednesday, January 8, 2014