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About Chiropractor Jobs

Statistics currently reveal that there’s only 0.6% unemployment among chiropractors. Needless to say, if you’re considering becoming a chiropractor, this career is clearly an excellent choice in terms of job security. What’s more, it’s a fantastic option for individuals interested in the neuromusculoskeletal and neuromuscular systems.

Chiropractors are healthcare professionals that focus on the diagnosis and treatment of a variety of neuromuscular disorders that concern the muscles, bones, nerves, tendons, and ligaments. Aside from manual adjustments to bones and muscles, they encourage the body to heal itself through recommended exercises and posture. 

Although most chiropractor jobs involve a variety of manual therapies, the majority primarily work with spinal manipulations. In fact, 49% of patient diagnoses concern back problems. With more and more people using technology so regularly and sitting at a desk working on a computer, the demand for chiropractors will continue to rise. 

What Do Chiropractors Do?

Many patients are confused as to what a chiropractor does. They picture a visit to the chiropractor as a painful experience that involves popped muscles and hard stretches, but their duties are more complex than that. Chiropractors work closely with patients by examining and recommending lifestyle changes to improve their pain and discomfort. Furthermore, they must dig deep into each patient’s history and current lifestyle to pinpoint where the problem stems from. 

Repetitive jobs, working at a desk, or heavy lifting are usually the culprits that require a visit to a chiropractor, but the root of the problem may be much deeper. The job of a chiropractor is to find the source and a solution to ease or eliminate the patient’s discomfort.  

Chiropractor Job Description

A chiropractor cares for patients’ physical complaints in the neuromusculoskeletal system. This includes the diagnosis and treatment of problems in the tendons, ligaments, muscles, bones, and nerves. After diagnosis, they treat these complaints through a variety of clinical interventions, physical manipulations, and spinal adjustments, as well as exercises, posture recommendations, therapies, and nutritional counseling. They do not perform surgery or prescribe medication. 

The first step when a patient visits a chiropractor is to have them perform a physical exam, which may or may not include additional tests such as an MRI or an X-ray. Based on the exam and test results, they recommend the best treatment steps to eliminate or reduce the complaint. 

Standard Chiropractor Job Duties

Chiropractors have a number of responsibilities depending on the specific field they’ve chosen. However, their duties typically entail the following:

  • Assessing each patient’s medical condition through careful examination, alongside an overview of their medical history, lifestyle, and work
  • Analyzing patients’ reflexes, spine, and posture during a physical examination
  • Based on their findings during the physical examination, ordering tests including but not limited to X-rays, MRIs, and tests for mineral deficiencies
  • Offering patients neuromusculoskeletal therapy, often by adjusting their spinal column and other necessary joints and muscles
  • As a chiropractor, other requirements include providing patients with additional treatments and therapies such as applying hot or cold compresses to crucial areas of complaint or assisted stretching
  • Providing each patient with advice on how to change their lifestyle and health through better sleep habits, nutrition, and proper exercise
  • Offering referrals to other necessary healthcare professionals if needed

The duties of a chiropractor don’t end at adjusting muscles. They care for the overall health of their patients. They need to be able to recognize when another type of healthcare professional is required. This is because the malfunction of somatic tissues such as spinal joints can result in poor overall health as they interfere with an individual’s neuromuscular system.

A chiropractor’s job description focuses on the use of a variety of procedures such as the manipulation and adjustment of the spinal column, ultrasound, rehabilitative exercises, and massage therapy. If the complaint requires it, a chiropractor may also recommend physical supports to help treat and relieve the patient’s pain. These may include, but are not limited to, shoe inserts, braces, pillows, work chair back supports, and more. 

Many people are confused as to what a chiropractor does and if there are specific types of chiropractors. No two chiropractors are the same—they can specialize in specific areas such as pediatrics, orthopedics, neurology, and sports, just to name a few. 

Types of Chiropractor Jobs

Although there aren’t specific official positions that chiropractors expand into, there are two different schools of chiropractic approaches. Over time, chiropractors have evolved and branched out to either the “mixed” chiropractic approach or the “objective straight” approach. Below we will discuss each in more detail:

Mixed Chiropractic Approach (Wellness Chiropractor)

This type of chiropractor focuses on the overall wellness of the individual and their family. They have a very active strategy for treatment and look toward the future potential and wellbeing of their patients rather than individual complaints and aches. 

The chiropractic job behind the mixed approach is to play the role of coach or partner rather than what you might see in a typical doctor/patient relationship. They focus on ongoing treatment and lifestyle changes rather than episodic problems. 

Objective Straight Approach (Limited Scope Practitioner)

This second approach is more modern. They are non-therapeutic chiropractors that focus on the spine. They stemmed from traditional practitioners upon the realization that patients were confused by the mixed approach, so they defined a single objective of the chiropractic practice

They focus on vertebral subluxation. This is a practice concerning the spinal cord and the communication through the nerve pathways between the cells of the body and the brain. For a chiropractor, this career path focuses more on medical solutions rather than a therapeutic and lifestyle approach. 

The type of approach a chiropractor will have depends significantly on the schooling they’ve gone through. Sometimes there’s agreement between the two branches, while other times they go in opposite directions. An individual looking to become a chiropractor can research both approaches before deciding which fits their beliefs better. 

Both chiropractic approaches cover a range of specialties, so whatever method is chosen, there’s still a variety of options available for specialization. 

Becoming a Chiropractor: Work Environment, Hours, and Risks

With chiropractors holding about 50,300 jobs in 2018, and with its market growth expected to be around 12% between 2016 and 2024, the career is rated as C employability. This means there are moderate employment opportunities. 

Chiropractors work either in their private practice, or they’re employed by a hospital or another private practice. They usually work in an office setting where they do their patient examinations and consultations. Unlike other office settings, though, they tend to be on their feet a lot of the time, with short periods sitting to fill out documentation and patient information.  

Injuries and Illness 

Although there aren’t any direct injuries associated with chiropractic careers, these professionals do experience the typical health complaints of most other healthcare practitioners. Their work requires being on their feet for long periods, thus resulting in a variety of back problems associated with standing. 

Other issues that chiropractors may experience are concerned with being in close proximity with many people throughout the day during examinations. They’re exposed to the potential viruses and bacteria individuals carry. However, nothing extremely hazardous. 

All in all, it’s a relatively safe career choice with little chance of severe injury or illness. 

How Many Hours Do Chiropractors Work?

The majority of chiropractors work full time in a hospital or for a privately owned practice, or they’re self-employed and run their own practice. Although most self-employed chiropractors have the freedom to set their own hours, they generally work longer hours and over the weekends to accommodate working patients and cover their expenses. 

Some chiropractors also don’t work exclusively in an office setting. Some visit their patient’s homes and perform treatments and exercises with them there. The standard work hours for a chiropractor working in an office setting are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., though work over the weekends and after hours is also typical. 

A Chiropractor Career: Pros and Cons

Not all careers are for everyone. Here are several reasons why being a chiropractor is excellent, as well as several that may make you reconsider:

Pros:

  • You’re given the opportunity to aid others and guide them in improving their lifestyles for a healthier and painless future. 
  • Although every career choice is competitive, as a chiropractic specialist you will work in a friendly and less competitive environment. 
  • Work is done in a comfortable setting and requires minimal travel unless you agree to do house visits. 
  • Unless you have your own practice, you’ll work the standard 40 hours per week.
  • The work is stress-free and rewarding. 

Cons:

  • Chiropractor jobs are relatively routine. Even if every patient has a different complaint stemming from a different cause, the steps taken to determine the cause and treatment are similar. 
  • Getting into this career is very difficult. It’s a skill that requires a lot of education, training, and experience, not to mention the early financial drain. 
  • The job requires that you stand for extended periods while doing examinations and delivering treatment. 

As with any other career, there are pros and cons. Each individual has different expectations and requirements for the perfect career choice, and where one element of the occupation may be considered an advantage for someone, it may be a disadvantage for another. 

How Do You Get a Job as a Chiropractor?

The first step to getting a job as a chiropractor is becoming one. To do this you must earn a Doctor of Chiropractic degree, or D.C. degree, and pass a state licensing test to practice. For chiropractic program admission, you must have at least three years of education from an undergraduate college. Once accepted, the program usually takes approximately four years to complete. 

There is much potential for growth, but before you even start, you need to have a particular set of qualities to succeed. 

Essential Qualities for All Chiropractic Jobs

  • A love and passion for the skeletal, muscular, and nervous system is a must
  • Empathy—Chiropractors work with people who are in pain, and compassion is required to understand and care for their patients’ needs
  • A particular set of interpersonal skills—patients need to feel comfortable enough to return for future treatments
  • Dexterity and proper coordination for adjusting the spine, muscles, and joints
  • Chiropractor jobs require the ability to make a proper diagnosis based on attention to the smallest details, from a conversation with a patient to a thorough examination (this is crucial to avoid misdiagnosis and potentially harming your patients)

Education

To become a chiropractor, it’s necessary to have a Doctor of Chiropractic degree. This is a postgraduate professional degree that generally takes four years to complete and requires a prerequisite of at least three years in an undergraduate college. Currently, there are 20 chiropractic schools within the US. The Council on Chiropractic Education had 18 accredited campuses with 15 programs for Doctor of Chiropractic degrees as of 2017.

The first step before choosing among the wealth of chiropractic careers is to be admitted into a program where you can get a D.C. degree. It’s necessary to have 90 hours of undergraduate education for admittance, and some programs even require a completed bachelor’s degree. Today, many students first earn a bachelor’s degree before applying to a D.C. program. It’s essential to consult with your school of choice as to what their requirements are as each school is different.

D.C. programs focus on biology, physiology, anatomy, and other similar subjects to prepare students for the variety that chiropractic jobs offer. Students are also allowed to train in adjustment techniques, make diagnoses, and deliver spinal assessments through supervised clinical experience. 

To give future chiropractors all the tools necessary to succeed, they may also go through classes focused on billing and finance alongside business management. Chiropractic students may also continue into postgraduate programs where they’re given additional training in more specific chiropractic fields such as pediatrics or orthopedics. These postgraduate programs are available in specialized chiropractic colleges. 

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations Necessary Before Looking for Chiropractic Job Openings

Once a student has earned their degree, they’re officially a D.C., but they can’t be formally licensed unless they pass the National Board of Chiropractic Examiners exam. Licensure is required by all states and the District of Columbia.

There are also additional requirements per state. Some have jurisprudence exams and background check requirements before you can start work. Also, all practicing chiropractors are required by all states to continue their education if they want to keep their licenses. Before looking at the various jobs for chiropractors, make sure you’ve done the proper research into the requirements in your state. 

Advancement in This Career

Once you have your D.C. degree, you can choose to advance further through postgraduate education. If you’re looking to pursue advancement, you may get a “diplomate,” or advanced status, in fields such as neurology, orthopedics, radiology, or pediatrics. This requires passing the diplomate program and passing the given specialty exam. 

Advancement Options

  • Chiropractic Neurology – Working in this field evaluates and treats nervous and musculoskeletal system problems. For a chiropractor, positions in this field require completion of a CCE-accredited chiropractic neurology program, and then a certification examination must be passed.
  • Chiropractic Orthopedists – This field focuses on an advanced knowledge of joints, muscles, tendons, and bones, along with a variety of physical conditions. 
  • Chiropractic Radiologist – A chiropractic radiologist concentrates on the use of imaging devices and technology to treat and evaluate abnormal anatomy. This specialist is an expert in writing radiology reports, interpreting radiological images, and offering consultations to other chiropractors based on their experience in using radiology imaging technology. This chiropractic career path requires an extensive focus on the technical side of the chiropractic profession. 
  • Chiropractic Pediatrics – A pediatric chiropractor focuses on the treatment of children from infant to adolescent age, and they also treat pregnant women. 
  • Other Levels of Advancement – There are other opportunities for advancement as a chiropractor. These include, but aren’t limited to, industrial consulting, applied chiropractic sciences, rehabilitation, family practice, nutrition, sports injuries, and more. 

Progressing and advancing to individual branches of chiropractic practice have different requirements. Research each option in depth and check what additional education and certifications will be necessary to proceed.

How Much Does a Chiropractor Make?

In May 2018, a chiropractor’s median annual wage was $71,410 according to the latest updated BLS reports.

Of course, how active the practice is, where the chiropractor is located, and the chiropractor’s average work hours also affect their earnings. The majority of chiropractors work full time and are known to pick up work over the weekends and after hours to accommodate patients who work regular 9–5 jobs. It isn’t uncommon for chiropractors to also visit their patients’ homes for treatment. 

Although self-employed chiropractors set their own hours, most doctor of chiropractic jobs are demanding and require much sacrifice and added hours. Many chiropractors that run their chiropractic practice often pick up side work consulting, working for private companies, and taking on other jobs to add to their finances. 

Over time, as the chiropractor earns a base of patients, and if they demonstrate the necessary skills, knowledge, and professionalism, their earnings will grow considerably. Being a chiropractor is an active job with varying salaries depending on experience, the number of patients, and whether they’re working for themselves or in a physician’s office or chiropractors office. 

The median annual wages for 2018 are as follows:

  • Working in a physician’s office: $86,100
  • Working in a chiropractor’s office: $70,260

After Getting Licensed as a Chiropractor: Job Outlook and Prospects

As per the BLS report, chiropractic employment is expected to grow by 7% from 2018 to 2028. This is faster growth than nearly all other occupations. This is because interest in complementary and integrative healthcare for pain treatment and wellness is growing across all age groups. Also, there’s been continuously increasing demand because chiropractors don’t prescribe drugs and they treat patients without surgery.

Attitudes about chiropractic approaches to healthcare combined with helpful research have made chiropractic treatment more acceptable. This gives chiropractors more room to work with other healthcare providers through complementary care and referrals. 

The chiropractic career outlook continues to look positive as the baby boomer generation ages—as they live longer, they’re more likely to require a chiropractor due to a higher chance of developing joint and neuromusculoskeletal problems. 

Another thing that will affect the demand for chiropractors is whether patients can afford treatment. Currently, the majority of health insurance plans cover services provided by chiropractors, but the coverage varies significantly from plan to plan. It’s expected that more and more plans will include chiropractic services in the future.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is becoming a chiropractor a good career choice? 

Every career comes with its demands, sacrifices, and benefits. If you would like to care for other people’s well-being and help ease their pain, and you’re detail-oriented—perhaps with a fascination for the skeletal, muscular, and nervous systems—then it’s the perfect choice for you. Once licensed, you can take your studies further and advance, giving you plenty of opportunities for growth.

What jobs can you get with a Doctor Chiropractor degree?

One of the popular options is massage therapist, though podiatrist, physical therapist, physician, surgeon, and exercise physiologist, as well as health specialty teachers, are also on the list of possibilities. The thing to remember is that your Doctor of Chiropractic degree may not cover all of them, and additional education, certifications, and licensing will most likely be necessary. 

How many jobs are available for a chiropractor?

With the expected job growth of 12.4% between 2016 and 2024, there is a clear, continuous demand for chiropractors. It is likely that in the next 10 years, over 6,700 chiropractors will be needed. 

How much do chiropractors make? 

According to the BLS, chiropractors make a median wage of $71,410 as of 2018. The highest-paid receive $149,170 annually, but this represents only 10%, and the lowest-paid make $34,990, also 10%.

What are the typical work hours for a chiropractor?

Generally, chiropractors work full-time or approximately 40 hours a week. However, it’s known that some chiropractors, especially those who run their own office, work after hours and weekends to accommodate their working patients. Also, some pick up side jobs consulting and teaching. 

Do hospitals hire chiropractors?

For the most part, you probably won’t see chiropractors in hospitals. Usually they work in private physician offices. They don’t have the required training to do surgeries or prescribe medication, so they’re considered a more holistic approach to treatment. Some military hospital programs may have chiropractors working alongside neurologists and orthopedic surgeons. 

Can you work during chiropractic school?

Working while studying is difficult, regardless of what you study. However, if you find a part-time job in the evenings, you may be able to do it. Unfortunately, the possibility of picking up a position in a chiropractic office may be impossible due to their work hours. 

How do you get hired as a chiropractor?

If you’re looking to get hired as a chiropractor, the job search will be the same as with any other occupation. However, many physicians and chiropractic offices are looking for chiropractors to fill positions. Another option is to open your own chiropractic practice and work for yourself.

There are many job opportunities and possibilities for growth as a chiropractor. The education and time required will continue to pay off as the demand for chiropractors continues to grow. The job is satisfying, and there are many ways to advance and specialize with further education. With so many chiropractor jobs available, it’s the ideal choice for anyone with a desire to help people and a love for the way the human skeletal, muscular, and neurological system works.