Becoming a Chiropractor: Job Description & Salary Information

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What are the pros and cons of a chiropractor career? Get real job descriptions, career outlook and salary information to see if becoming a chiropractor is right for you.
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Pros and Cons of Becoming a Chiropractor

A career as a chiropractor is an attractive choice for individuals interested in treating people with chronic back and neck pain through the use of musculoskeletal therapy and possibly acupuncture and ultrasound. While a career as a chiropractor can be a fulfilling occupation, it's important to understand the pros and cons of the job to make an educated career decision.

Pros of a Chiropractor Career
High job-growth field (17% predicted growth between 2014-2024)*
Opportunity to specialize (such as neurology, diagnostic imaging, nutrition)*
Self-employed chiropractors can set their own work schedule*
Chiropractic visits covered by most insurance plans, which can mean a larger client base**

Cons of a Chiropractor Career
Requires 4-5 years of postgraduate education to complete a Doctor of Chiropractic*
Median annual wage is low, relative to length of training and education required ($66,720)*
Chiropractors have some of the most rigorous education requirements in the health care field**
Often on their feet for long periods of time*

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **American Chiropractic Association (ACA)

Career Information

Job Description and Duties

Chiropractors treat people with back and neck injuries, as well as advise patients on health and lifestyle routines. Many chiropractors are self-employed, while others find positions working for hospitals or private group practices. Chiropractors closely review a patient's medical history to understand the area of discomfort. They then provide treatment using musculoskeletal therapy techniques to relieve pain. Treatment can also include taking x-rays, using ultrasound and applying acupuncture.

In some cases, the chiropractor may refer patients to medical specialists for further diagnosis. Specializations within chiropractic practice include pediatrics, sports injuries, and orthopedics, among others.

Career Prospects and Salary Information

According to the BLS, the predicted job growth for chiropractors was 17% over the 2014-2024 decade, which is much faster than average. Much of this expansion is attributed to meeting the demands of the aging baby-boomer population. Additionally, as more insurance companies cover chiropractic treatment, it can draw in patients seeking a hands-on therapy approach.

In 2014, the BLS reported that the annual median wage for chiropractors was around $66,720. Considering the length of schooling and other requirements - 4-5 years of post-graduate education to receive a Doctor of Chiropractic (D.C.), plus attaining state licensure - this wage is relatively low. While demand exists nationwide for chiropractors, those working in New Jersey and Connecticut enjoy the highest annual mean wages at approximately $129,010 and $108,630, respectively.

What Are the Requirements?

Chiropractors need to obtain a Doctor of Chiropractic (D.C.) before they can practice. The Association of Chiropractic Colleges recognizes 20 D.C . programs located in New Zealand, Canada and United States, and the Council on Chiropractic Education only accredits 15 of them. To enroll in one of these programs, students must have completed at least three years of an undergraduate degree. Classes in a chiropractic degree program typically include spinal analysis, nutrition, pathology, anatomy and orthopedics. After earning a D.C. degree from an accredited school, chiropractors must pass state and/or national examinations to obtain licensure in the state where they intend to practice. Most states also have continuing education requirements that chiropractors must meet to maintain their licenses.

Useful Skills

While enrolled in a Doctor of Chiropractic program, students get to work on their dexterity. This skill, along with being detail oriented, helps them effectively execute the procedures. Interpersonal skills and empathy are additional traits that benefit chiropractors in order to work well with staff and patients.

What Employers Are Looking for

In addition to the educational and licensure requirements, common qualifications sought in chiropractors include demonstrable listening and problem-solving skills. Experience is also commonly sought. The following job postings, listed in April 2012, indicate some of the skills for which employers are looking:

  • A healthcare center in Massachusetts is hiring a chiropractor to work part-time under the direction of the medical director. Applicants must hold a D.C., be licensed to practice in Massachusetts and be comfortable working with people of various races, cultures and ethnicities. The employer also prefers candidates with at least two years of clinical experience.
  • A private practice is Montana is seeking a success-oriented chiropractor to join its team of massage therapists, physical therapists and chiropractors. The role is a partner track position and provides mentoring to assist with the transition.
  • A healthcare services company in Georgia is looking for a chiropractor to treat occupational pains. Applicants must be licensed to practice in Georgia. Successful applicants need to be willing to attend continuing education workshops and identify cost-saving measures.

How to Make Your Skills Stand Out

The BLS predicts that the aging baby boomer generation will create an influx of job openings for chiropractors. Therefore, gaining familiarity with ailments and treatment specifically geared to the elderly can help chiropractors stand out. Chiropractors may also benefit from joining professional associations, such as the International Chiropractors Association, to enhance networking and educational opportunities.

Many chiropractors are self-employed and therefore need to possess solid business skills, such as managing and mentoring staff, marketing to attract clients, keeping proper financial records and planning strategies for future growth. Business skills can be developed through elective courses while in school, seminars, workshops and certificate programs. Chiropractors can also benefit from familiarity with medical specific computer software, such as ChiroSoft, as well as accounting software, like EZClaim.

Other Careers to Explore

Occupational Therapist

If the chiropractic approach to helping people appeals to you but you're hesitant to pursue a D.C., consider a career as an occupational therapist. Occupational therapists help the ill, disabled and injured find practical workarounds for their difficulties or recover their everyday functionality using therapeutic techniques. A master's degree in occupational therapy is the typical entry-level requirement for this field. The BLS predicted that job growth for this career would be 33% for the 2010-2020 decade. Additionally, the annual median wage of an occupational therapist was nearly $74,000 as of May 2011, which was slightly higher than that of a chiropractor.

Athletic Trainer

Individuals looking to enter the field of therapeutic treatment with a bachelor's degree can consider a career as an athletic trainer. Similar to a chiropractor and an occupational therapist, an athletic trainer treats people of all ages. These individuals evaluate injuries and help athletes with recovery and treatment initiatives. The BLS projected a healthy job growth of 30% for athletic trainers over the 2010-2020 decade, which is in between the growth predicted for chiropractors and occupational therapists. Unlike the other two career options, however, athletic trainers earn a much lower average salary. As of May 2011, the BLS reported that athletic trainers earn an annual median wage of about $42,000.

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