What Does a Chiropractor Do?

Learn About the Salary, Required Skills, & More

Chiropractor adjustments

 Mike Kemp/Getty Images

Chiropractors are medical practitioners who treat patients with an emphasis on overall health. In addition to spinal adjustments and manipulation, their expertise includes treating health problems of the neuromusculoskeletal system including nerves, bones, muscles, ligaments, and tendons.

Because the field of chiropractic medicine is broad, most chiropractors specialize within a certain age group, set of treatment solutions, and/or activities. For example, many chiropractors work in the arena of nutrition or sports medicine. The demand for chiropractors is growing, as patients are increasingly interested in naturopathic treatment options.

Chiropractor Duties & Responsibilities

Chiropractors are specialists in the healthcare industry. Their areas of expertise include the spine, joints, and neck. Here some of the most common duties and responsibilities:

  • Using neuromusculoskeletal expertise to treat a wide variety of symptoms
  • Approaching healing from a holistic and naturopathic point of view
  • Administering diagnostic tests such as x-rays
  • Researching a patient’s medical history
  • Manually adjusting a patient’s spine, hips, knees, and other joints
  • Recommending lifestyle changes and diet as part of a more comprehensive treatment regimen

While many chiropractors operate in much the same way as primary care physicians, they are not fully credentialed, medical doctors. As such, there are limitations to the treatment they can provide. However, they do have the ability to refer patients to other healthcare specialists when necessary.

Chiropractor Salary

While chiropractors make an above-average wage, they are not typically paid as highly as traditional doctors:

  • Median Annual Salary: $71,410
  • Top 10% Annual Salary: $149,170
  • Bottom 10% Annual Salary: $34,990

Education, Training, & Certification

Training to become a chiropractor is rigorous and demanding.

  • Education: Like aspiring physicians, you would need to complete a bachelor's degree in a science- or medicine-related field. Upon graduation, you would need to attend and complete a four-year program at a chiropractor school.
  • Certification: After completing a Doctor of Chiropractic (DC) degree, you would need to take and pass the National Board of Chiropractic Examiners test. Most states also require chiropractors to maintain their license by engaging in chiropractic and healthcare education opportunities.
  • Training: Most chiropractors complete a one-year clinical program focusing on patient care. The chiropractic curriculum includes a minimum of 4,200 hours of training, which is comprised of a combination of classroom, laboratory, and clinical experience.

Chiropractor Skills & Competencies

Like any healthcare professional, chiropractors must be detail-oriented and accurate in their work. Here are some of the most common skills that chiropractors use regularly:

  • Critical Thinking: Because chiropractic medicine often falls within and outside traditional medicine, you would need to think carefully about your patient’s symptoms and recommend the best course of action. Often, patients will be trying to explain symptoms that they do not fully understand, and you must be able to interpret what they are saying and diagnose the cause.
  • Dexterity: One critical area of chiropractic training lies in your ability to feel when something is inflamed or misaligned. As a chiropractor, you will spend many hours adjusting spines (and joints) back into their correct position.
  • Oral Communication: Chiropractors get significant face-to-face time with their patients. Therefore, you will need to be able to listen carefully and respond with complex information in a way that is understandable to the average patient.
  • Organization: From patient records to appointments, organizational skills are important. Hopefully, you will have an assistant to help you with some of the details, but many chiropractors start out on a self-employed basis managing their own practice. As such, you will need to be organized so as to be a reliable healthcare provider for your patients.

Job Outlook

The demand for professionals in non-traditional medicine is growing steadily in the United States. Because chiropractic medicine has greater flexibility than traditional medicine does, it can often provide better solutions at a lower cost to patients.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, chiropractic medicine is becoming more popular with a 12% increase expected by 2026. As healthcare costs continue to rise, more patients are seeking lower-cost and more sustainable naturopathic approaches to symptoms and diseases. 

Work Environment

While some chiropractors make house calls, most work in a doctor’s office by themselves or as part of a chiropractor group practice. Additionally, most chiropractors spend long hours on their feet treating patients.

Work Schedule

Depending upon the kind of practice you’ve set up, you will likely work typical office hours. However, some chiropractors work odd hours or remain on call for their patients, and many chiropractors work a full schedule. However, once established, some chiropractors are able to set their hours to accommodate spending more time with family.

How to Get the Job

Prepare for a Job Search As with other medical and doctor jobs, your education and training are the most important factors. You will need to complete a minimum of eight years of formal training. As you complete your training, be sure to add your degrees and experience to your resume.

Get References It is a good idea to ask for letters of recommendation from teachers and other supervising chiropractors.

Apply for Jobs Once you are trained and licensed, you can launch your own practice. If you prefer to work for a group practice, you can search for open positions through the American Chiropractic Association Career Center or online job boards.

Comparing Similar Jobs

Chiropractic care relates closely to other sports medicine professions and naturopathy. Here are a few such professions with their median salaries: