What Is a Chiropractor and How Do You Become One?
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Home > Articles > Chiropractor Careers: How to Get One and Why You May Want One

Chiropractor Careers: How to Get One and Why You May Want One

By Laura Horwitz
Published on December 7, 2009.

Job Duties

Chiropractors help patients who have muscular, nervous, or skeletal problems. Treatments involve the manipulation of the spine since chiropractic medicine is based on the belief that spinal misalignments can interfere with the proper functioning of the nervous system. In other words, they believe a skeletal imbalance leads to pain, so chiropractors adjust the body to fix that imbalance and thus relieve that pain.

It's a holistic approach to health care, meaning chiropractors take into account a patient's entire health and well being. That can include diet, exercise, genetics, sleep patterns, and the patient's environment. Chiropractors do not prescribe medication or do surgeries, but they do run tests to assess a patient's condition, such as X-rays or blood tests. They also do look at any patient's medical history. Along with adjusting the spine by hand, some chiropractors also use massages, ultrasound, or water, light, electric or heat therapy.

Chiropractors can also choose to specialize in one area, such as:

  • Diagnostic imaging
  • Internal disorders
  • Neurology
  • Nutrition
  • Orthopedics
  • Pediatrics
  • Sports injuries

Many chiropractors choose to operate their own practices, while others work with a group of health practitioners.

Job Skills

To succeed as a chiropractor, you need first-rate manual dexterity; however you do not need to be that strong. It's important to have excellent observation skills in order to detect physical abnormalities. You must also have the ability to motivate yourself and work independently. Like all health care practitioners, you need to have a passion for helping people and strong empathy.


As of 2008, chiropractors earned a mean annual salary of $81,340. Chiropractors who work in the offices of other physicians, however, earned far more: $98,410 annually. Overall, the middle 50 percent of all chiropractors earn between $45,540 and $96,700. The bottom 10 percent of chiropractors earn less than $32,380, while the top 10 percent earn over $159,640.

Similar to all independent practices, your earnings may start out relatively low and then increase with time as you gain experience and attract more clients. Self-employed chiropractors often earn more than salaried chiropractors, but ones on salary receive benefits like health insurance and retirement packages.

Training and Education

To qualify for a license, you need either 2- or 4-years of undergraduate education, followed by a 4-year program at an accredited chiropractic college leading to the Doctor of Chiropractic degree. All chiropractors must have a license in order to practice.

The Council of Chiropractic Education has accredited 18 chiropractic programs and institutions. In most of these programs, your first two years of classroom and laboratory work may include core subjects such as:

  • Anatomy
  • Biochemistry
  • Microbiology
  • Pathology
  • Physiology
  • Public health

During your second two years, you focus more narrowly on chiropractic health, covering subjects like manipulation and spinal adjustment, physical and laboratory diagnosis, neurology, orthopedics, geriatrics, physiotherapy, and nutrition.

After receiving your Doctor of Chiropractic degree, you can take the exam to earn your license. You are only allowed to practice in the State in which you receive your license, although some states have reciprocity agreements that make it easy for licensed chiropractors to move their practice to another state. And to maintain your license, many States require chiropractors to complete a certain number of continuing education courses throughout their career.


In 2006, chiropractors held approximately 53,000 jobs. 52 percent of all chiropractors are self-employed, and most work in their own solo practice. Some participate in a group practice or work with other chiropractors. A minority teach, do research at chiropractic institutions, or work in hospitals and clinics.

Job Outlook

Employment for chiropractors is expected to increase by 14 percent from 2006-2016, which is faster than the average for all occupations. This growth is due to an increase in demand for alternative health care. Many Americans find chiropractic care appealing, since it does not require any medications or complicated surgeries.

About the Author
Laura Horwitz has worked as a freelance writer and researcher for five years in both London and the U.S.
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