Chiropractor: Job Duties, Employment Outlook, and Educational Requirements

Explore the career requirements for chiropractors. Get the facts about job duties, education, licensing requirements and job growth to determine if this is the right career for you. Schools offering Allied Health degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is a Chiropractor?

A chiropractor manipulates or adjusts the spine and other skeletal joints to correct misalignments that can cause health problems in the musculoskeletal and nervous systems. Like medical doctors, they need to assess a patient's medical history and conduct medical interviews to assess a patient's condition. They must also be able to assess the placement of the spine and other joints to find misalignments and then adjust them by hand. These doctors may also use x-rays. The following chart provides an overview about a career as a chiropractor.

Degree Required Doctor of Chiropractic (D.C.)
Training Required Minimum of one-year supervised clinical-based patient care
Licensure All states require chiropractors to be licensed
Key Responsibilities Perform physical examination and evaluate patient's spine, posture and reflexes to arrive at diagnosis; take and analyze patient x-rays; perform neuromusculoskeletal therapy and manipulation as well as heat and other treatments; counsel patients on nutrition, exercise and healthcare
Projected Job Growth (2018-2028) 7%*
Median Salary (2018) $71,410*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)

What Job Duties Might I Have as a Chiropractor?

Your primary duty as a chiropractor will be providing natural and non-invasive treatments to improve the health of your patients. You'll examine patients, perform laboratory tests and order x-rays in order to analyze the position of the spine. Such methods of examination help you ascertain whether your patients suffer from any diseases or spinal fractures. When a patient's medical problems are caused by a maladjusted spinal column, you will realign the spinal joints to alleviate or reduce back and neck pain, headaches and other conditions. You may use braces or tape to provide extra support for patients.

Typically, you'll use a variety of therapies when treating your patients, including those utilizing water, heat, acupuncture, ultrasound and massage. Another aspect of your job will involve counseling your patients on matters such as stress management, exercise, nutrition and healthy lifestyles. When appropriate, you may refer patients to other health care providers. Some areas you might specialize in as a chiropractor include pediatrics, internal disorders and neurology.

What is the Employment Outlook?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), chiropractors expected a 7% increase in hiring between 2018 and 2028, and job prospects were projected to be favorable. Reasons for such rapid growth included an increased demand for alternative health care among Americans who were concerned with health and fitness. Additionally, more insurance policies began covering chiropractic care, making it more accessible and affordable. Jobs were expected to be especially plentiful for chiropractors specializing in pediatric and geriatric care.

What Educational Requirements Must I Satisfy?

Chiropractors must meet strict educational requirements. As you pursue chiropractic educational training, you will first need to obtain either an associate's or a bachelor's degree. According to the BLS, 4-year bachelor's degrees may become the minimum standard for chiropractors. Some colleges may have pre-chiropractic programs of study. Otherwise, ensure that your undergraduate education encompasses topics such as chemistry, psychology, physics, English and humanities.

Once you have earned an undergraduate degree, you'll need to enroll in a 4-year chiropractic program. As of 2016, the Council on Chiropractic Education accredited approximately 15 chiropractic programs in the U.S. Chiropractic programs consist of about 4,200 hours of education.

The first two years of your chiropractic program will focus on both laboratory and classroom training, and you'll study subject such as physiology, microbiology, biochemistry and public health. During the third and fourth years, your classes might include clinical experience in the areas of geriatrics, nutrition, laboratory diagnosis and orthopedics. Upon completion of your studies, you will receive the Doctor of Chiropractic (D.C.) credential.

Will I Need to Be Licensed?

According to state laws, prior to becoming a practicing chiropractor, you must become licensed. Depending on the state you reside in, licensing may be awarded by the National Board of Chiropractic Examiners (NBCE), or states may give their own examinations according to their requirements. The NBCE licensing examination consists of three written parts, along with a practical section. The NBCE also offers optional sections that cover acupuncture and physiotherapy.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Some related careers include those of athletic trainers, exercise physiologists and physical therapists. Athletic trainers are responsible for helping their clients prevent muscle and bone injuries and illnesses. In the event of an injury or illness, they are responsible for diagnosing and treating it. Exercise physiologists help patients develop exercise routines that promote recovery from a chronic disease, while improving cardiovascular functions, body composition and flexibility. Physical therapists have a similar task, but focus on rehabilitating movement and reducing pain. While exercise physiologists and athletic trainers only need to earn a bachelor's degree, physical therapists typically hold a doctoral degree.

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