Job Duties

Chiropractors, sometimes referred to as doctors of chiropractic or chiropractic physicians, work with patients who have muscular, nervous, or skeletal problems. These problems often are related to the spine. Chiropractors base their practice on the belief that interference with the spinal or vertebral systems can adversely affect the normal functioning of the body and that skeletal imbalance can cause various levels of pain. Chiropractors take a holistic approach to healthcare, emphasizing the patient’s entire health and well being as affected by exercise, diet, rest, environment, and heredity. The treatments chiropractors provide is drugless, natural, and nonsurgical, and rely on alterations to a patient’s lifestyle as well as the natural recuperative properties of the human body.

Chiropractors examine a patient’s medical history, examine the patient, take x rays and order tests from laboratories. Once they reach a diagnosis, they often adjust a patient’s spine by hand. Some supplement this therapy with water, light, massage, ultrasound, electric, and heat therapy. Chiropractors may specialize in a number of different fields, such as sports injuries, neurology, orthopedics, pediatrics, nutrition, internal disorders, or diagnostic imaging. Many run their own practices by themselves or with a group of practitioners.

Job Skills

Chiropractors should have excellent manual dexterity, although they do not need to be extraordinarily strong. They must have well-developed observation skills that enable them to detect physical abnormalities. Chiropractors need to be able to work independently and should be self motivated. Empathy, understanding, and a passion for helping other people are also essential qualities.


In 2002, salaried chiropractors earned a median annual salary of $65,330. The middle 50% earned between $44,140 and $102,400 per year. Self-employed chiropractors generally have higher earnings than salaried chiropractors.

Training and Education

All States regulate the chiropractic profession, granting licenses to chiropractors once they pass an examination and meet other requirements. Chiropractors are only allowed to practice in States where they are licensed, although some have agreements making it easy for chiropractors licensed in one State to quickly obtain a license in the another. In order to become licensed, most States require chiropractors to have at least 2 years of undergraduate education. Many are starting to require a bachelor’s degree. All States require applicants to have completed a 4-year program at an accredited chiropractic college leading to the Doctor of Chiropractic degree. In order for chiropractors to maintain their license, most States require them to complete a certain amount of continuing education courses.

About 18 chiropractic programs and institutions are accredited by the Council on Chiropractic Education. Most programs focus on classroom and laboratory work in anatomy, physiology, public health, microbiology, pathology, and biochemistry during the first 2 years. The second 2 years often cover manipulation and spinal adjustment, physical and laboratory diagnosis, neurology, orthopedics, geriatrics, physiotherapy, and nutrition. After they are granted licenses, graduates of these programs can create a partnership with other licensed chiropractors or start their own practice.


In 2002, chiropractors held about 49,000 jobs. Most ran their own practice, while others worked in a group practice, conducted research, or taught chiropractic courses.

Job Outlook

Between 2002 and 2012, employment of chiropractors is expected to increase faster than the average due to a rising demand for alternative healthcare. Chiropractic care is becoming very appealing to Americans because it does not include drugs or surgery. Opportunities will be best for chiropractors who develop a practice in an area with a low concentration of chiropractors.

For more information on becoming an chiropractor, please see our directory of schools offering Medical Training