Chiropractors treat patients with health problems of the neuromusculoskeletal system, which includes nerves, bones, muscles, ligaments, and tendons.
What they do
Chiropractors use spinal adjustments and manipulation, as well as other clinical interventions, to manage patients’ health concerns, such as back and neck pain. They 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.
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
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.
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 2017, 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, and some D.C. programs require a bachelor’s degree for entry. Most students typically earn a bachelor’s degree before applying to a chiropractic program. 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.
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.
The median annual wage for chiropractors was $70,340 in May 2019. 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 $35,290, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $147,480.
Employment of chiropractors is projected to grow 4 percent from 2019 to 2029, about as fast as the average for all occupations. People across all age groups are increasingly becoming interested in integrative or complementary healthcare as a way to treat pain and improve overall wellness. Chiropractic care is appealing to patients because chiropractors use nonsurgical methods of treatment and do not prescribe 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 to healthcare. As a result, chiropractors are increasingly working with other healthcare workers, such as physicians and physical therapists, through referrals and complementary care.
Similar Job Titles
Associate Doctor; Chiropractic Care; Chiropractic Doctor (DC); Chiropractic Neurologist; Chiropractic Physician; Chiropractor; Chiropractor, Sole Practitioner; Doctor of Chiropractic; Doctorate of Chiropractic; Physician
Health Specialties Teachers-Postsecondary, Naturopathic Physician
The trade associations listed below represent organizations made up of people (members) who work and promote advancement in the field. Members are very interested in telling others about their work and about careers in those areas. As well, trade associations provide opportunities for organizational networking and learning more about the field’s trends and directions.
- Academy of Advanced Practice Chiropractic Medicine
- American Chiropractic Association
- Federation of Chiropractic Licensing Boards
- Foundation for Chiropractic Education
- Gonstead Clinical Studies Society
- International Chiropractic Pediatric Association
- International Chiropractors Association
- World Chiropractic Alliance
Magazines and Publications
- Chiropractic Economics
- Chiropractic Wellness Magazine
- The American Chiropractor Magazine
- Chiropractic Products Magazine
Many people depend on the skill of chiropractors to help them heal from injuries and the aches and pains generated from life’s wear and tear. Also called Doctors of Chiropractic, they diagnose and treat problems associated with the muscular, nervous, and skeletal systems, especially the spine. Chiropractors need a combination of physical skill, scientific knowledge, and empathy for patients. They make manual adjustments to the spine and other joints to correct poor alignment. Using their knowledge of anatomy, and diagnostic skills, they review patients’ medical histories and analyze test results to develop treatment plans. As part of the field’s commitment to wellness, they also often advise patients about exercise and nutrition. Chiropractors must earn a Doctor of Chiropractic, or D.C., degree which generally takes four years of full-time study. Students may be admitted to D.C. programs with a bachelor’s degree, or with coursework totaling at least 90 hours that includes physics, chemistry and biology. After completing the D.C. program, they must pass board certification tests, and maintain a professional license to practice. Chiropractors can establish their own practice, purchase or join an established practice, or seek employment at a health care facility. With growing national interest in holistic, preventive medicine, and increased coverage by health insurance, this is a field of medicine that is only expected to expand.
Content retrieved from: US Bureau of Labor Statistics-OOH www.bls.gov/ooh,
CareerOneStop www.careeronestop.org, O*Net Online www.onetonline.org