Bureau of Labor Statistics

Chiropractors

chiropractors image
Chiropractors treat patients with health problems of the neuromusculoskeletal system.
Quick Facts: Chiropractors
2017 Median Pay $68,640 per year
$33.00 per hour
Typical Entry-Level Education Doctoral or professional degree
Work Experience in a Related Occupation None
On-the-job Training None
Number of Jobs, 2016 47,400
Job Outlook, 2016-26 12% (Faster than average)
Employment Change, 2016-26 5,900

Summary

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 and manipulation, as well as other clinical interventions, 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 earn a Doctor of Chiropractic (D.C.) degree and get 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 $68,640 in May 2017.

Job Outlook

Employment of chiropractors is projected to grow 12 percent from 2016 to 2026, faster than 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 to improve overall wellness. Chiropractic care is appealing to patients because chiropractors use nonsurgical methods of treatment and do not prescribe drugs.

State & Area Data

Explore resources for employment and wages by state and area for chiropractors.

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

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 and manipulation, as well as other clinical interventions, 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 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.

Work Environment

chiropractors image
Chiropractors assess a patient’s medical condition and explain treatment options.

Chiropractors held about 47,400 jobs in 2016. The largest employers of chiropractors were as follows:

Offices of chiropractors 63%
Self-employed workers 30
Offices of physicians 3

Chiropractors typically work in office settings. They may be on their feet for long periods when examining and treating patients.

Work Schedules

Although most chiropractors worked full time, about 1 in 4 worked part time in 2016. 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
Chiropractors must earn a Doctor of Chiropractic (D.C.) degree and get 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 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.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

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.

Important Qualities

Decisionmaking skills. Chiropractors must determine the best course of action when treating a patient. They must also decide when to refer patients to other healthcare 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 have good coordination 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 in order to keep clients coming to their practice. Also, because chiropractors frequently touch patients in performing therapy, they should be able to put their patients at ease.

Organizational skills. Self-employed chiropractors may need to schedule appointments, manage employees, bill insurance companies, and maintain patients’ files. Good recordkeeping and other organizational skills are critical in running a successful business.

Pay

Chiropractors

Median annual wages, May 2017

Health diagnosing and treating practitioners

$79,480

Chiropractors

$68,640

Total, all occupations

$37,690

 

The median annual wage for chiropractors was $68,640 in May 2017. 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 $34,550, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $144,730.

In May 2017, the median annual wages for chiropractors in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:

Offices of physicians $78,710
Offices of chiropractors 67,710

Earnings vary with the chiropractor’s number of years in practice, geographic region of practice, and hours worked. Chiropractors tend to 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 in 4 worked part time in 2016. 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.

Job Outlook

Chiropractors

Percent change in employment, projected 2016-26

Health diagnosing and treating practitioners

16%

Chiropractors

12%

Total, all occupations

7%

 

Employment of chiropractors is projected to grow 12 percent from 2016 to 2026, faster than 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.

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.

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, 2016-26

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

Occupational Title

Chiropractors

SOC Code29-1011
Employment, 201647,400
Projected Employment, 202653,300
Percent Change, 2016-2612
Numeric Change, 2016-265,900
Employment by Industryemployment projections excel document xlsx

State & Area Data

Occupational Employment Statistics (OES)

The Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) program produces employment and wage estimates annually for over 800 occupations. These estimates are available for the nation as a whole, for individual states, and for metropolitan and nonmetropolitan areas. The link(s) below go to OES data maps for employment and wages by state and area.

Projections Central

Occupational employment projections are developed for all states by Labor Market Information (LMI) or individual state Employment Projections offices. All state projections data are available at www.projectionscentral.com. Information on this site allows projected employment growth for an occupation to be compared among states or to be compared within one state. In addition, states may produce projections for areas; there are links to each state’s websites where these data may be retrieved.

CareerOneStop

CareerOneStop includes hundreds of occupational profiles with data available by state and metro area. There are links in the left-hand side menu to compare occupational employment by state and occupational wages by local area or metro area. There is also a salary info tool to search for wages by zip code.

Similar Occupations

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

Occupation Job Duties ENTRY-LEVEL EDUCATION 2017 MEDIAN PAY
Athletic trainers

Athletic Trainers

Athletic trainers specialize in preventing, diagnosing, and treating muscle and bone injuries and illnesses.

Bachelor's degree $46,630
Massage therapists

Massage Therapists

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

Postsecondary nondegree award $39,990
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, improve, as well as maintain the skills needed for daily living and working.

Master's degree $83,200
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 the rehabilitation, treatment, and prevention of patients with chronic conditions, illnesses, or injuries.

Doctoral or professional degree $86,850
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 $208,000 per year.
Podiatrists

Podiatrists

Podiatrists provide medical and surgical 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 $127,740

Exercise Physiologists

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 $49,090
Dentists

Dentists

Dentists diagnose and treat problems with patients’ teeth, gums, and related parts of the mouth. They provide advice and instruction on taking care of the teeth and gums and on diet choices that affect oral health.

Doctoral or professional degree $158,120
Optometrists

Optometrists

Optometrists examine the eyes and other parts of the visual system. They also diagnose and treat visual problems and manage diseases, injuries, and other disorders of the eyes. They prescribe eyeglasses or contact lenses as needed.

Doctoral or professional degree $110,300

Contacts for More Info

For more information on a career as a chiropractor, visit

American Chiropractic Association

International Chiropractors Association

Discover Chiropractic

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

Last Modified Date: Friday, April 13, 2018

Suggested citation:

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Chiropractors,
on the Internet at https://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/chiropractors.htm (visited May 26, 2018).

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