Chiropractors salary & career outlook

Many individuals suffer from chronic back and neck pain due to accidents, sports injuries, or muscle strains. After struggling to find relief using traditional medicine, patients often turn to chiropractors for alternative treatments. Chiropractors use hands-on spinal manipulation in order to treat problems with the body's musculoskeletal structure, particularly the spine. For patients suffering from debilitating pain, chiropractic treatment can be the difference between living in chronic pain or enjoying a full and normal life.

What chiropractors do

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, chiropractors use a variety of hands-on treatments to treat common musculoskeletal ailments such as back or neck pain (BLS.gov/ooh, 2012). Treatment usually begins with an in-depth assessment of the patient's medical history, as well as a full medical exam. Once an analysis of the patient's condition has taken place, chiropractors use their specific training to manually adjust a patient's spinal column or joints in order to provide relief. In addition to hands-on care, chiropractors may also provide the following services:

  • Conducting diagnostic tests to provide additional information
  • Taking X-rays
  • Providing patients with feedback and advice that may improve their conditions
  • Referring patients to other medical specialists
  • Provide additional treatments such as acupuncture, massage therapy or ultrasound

According to the BLS, chiropractic candidates need to be detail-oriented individuals with strong interpersonal skills and empathy for the patients they serve (BLS.gov/ooh, 2012). Chiropractors also need to have a certain amount of dexterity in order to properly perform the manual adjustments required by patients.

How to become a chiropractor

According to the BLS, chiropractic candidates are required to have a Doctor of Chiropractic (D.C.) degree, which typically takes four years to complete. In order to qualify for a chiropractic program, students must have at least 90 hours of undergraduate education with courses in relevant subjects of study. Chiropractor schools typically offer coursework in anatomy, biology, and physiology, followed by supervised clinical experience.

Due to the structure of the programs, many students may be able to complete their initial chiropractor education online. According to the BLS, some chiropractors choose a specialty or focus and may choose to earn a bachelor's or master's degree in a related field. Some of the common specializations are diagnostic imaging, internal disorders, neurology, nutrition, orthopedics, and sports injuries (BLS.gov/ooh, 2012).

Although state requirements vary, all chiropractors are required to be licensed. Potential candidates can learn more about licensing requirements in their state by visiting the Federation of Chiropractic Licensing Boards (fclb.org) or the American Chiropractic Association (acatoday.org).

Chiropractor salary trends

Chiropractor salaries can vary due to a variety of factors, including education, experience and geographic region. According to the BLS, chiropractors earned a median national wage of $66,160 in 2012 with the top ten percent of earners bringing in $142,950 and the bottom ten percent earning $31,030 (BLS.gov/oes, 2013). These three industries reported the highest mean wage for chiropractors in 2012:

  • Offices of dentists: $124,410
  • Employment Services: $87,340
  • Specialty Hospitals (except Psychiatric and Substance Abuse): $81,760

Where you live can also significantly impact your potential earnings. According to the BLS, these states reported the highest mean wage for chiropractors in 2012:

  • Alaska: $157,420
  • Ohio: $126,060
  • North Carolina: $113,330

Career outlook for chiropractors

Due to the growing acceptance of alternative treatments, the need for chiropractors is expected to surge in the coming years. The BLS reports that employment for chiropractors is projected to grow 28 percent from 2010 to 2020 (BLS.gov/ooh, 2012). This exceptional growth may be due to an aging population, as well as the general public's yearning for treatments that do not require surgery or drugs.

Just like with earning potential, career opportunities for chiropractors may vary due to where you live. In order to gain perspective on the potential career outlook in your area, make sure to research the U.S. Department of Labor's CareerOneStop. According to the most recent data, CareerOneStop projects the highest employment growth for chiropractors in these states from 2010 to 2020:

  • Utah: 37.8 percent
  • Washington: 36.2 percent
  • Alaska: 33.3 percent

According to the BLS, a chiropractor's salary is dependent on his or her patient's ability to pay (BLS.gov/ooh, 2012). In order to enjoy a successful practice, chiropractors must educate the general public on the value of their services, in addition to encouraging health insurance carriers to cover them.