A chiropractor working in a chiropractic clinic in the US may earn an average of about $70,720 a year, but a chiropractor’s salary may be affected by several factors. Where they work, if they work for themselves or with a group of other chiropractors, and additional certifications or specializations they hold can all play a role in their earning potential.
A chiropractor performs manual spinal adjustments and manipulations on patients to non-invasively treat physical pain or ailments involving the body's neuromusculoskeletal system to promote overall health and wellness. Chiropractors do not prescribe medication but instead focus on the self-healing properties of the body achievable through proper alignment of the spine and other joints.
A few common duties and responsibilities of a chiropractor may include:
Administering and interpreting X-rays of the spine as well as other diagnostic tests
Manually adjusting the spine, back, knees, hips, and other joints in the body
Educating patients on nutrition and healthy lifestyle changes to promote health and healing
Putting together non-invasive treatment plans for patients, which may involve techniques beyond manual spinal adjustments such as massage therapy, exercise, or stimulation
Investigating and understanding a patient’s past and current medical history
In the US, chiropractors make an average of $75,000 a year. A chiropractor's salary, on an hourly basis, translates to roughly $36.06 per hour.
Of the 51,400 chiropractors employed as of 2020, the highest 10 percent earned over $128,750 per year, with the lowest 10 percent earning less than $37,400 annually.
Because a chiropractor may work in a chiropractic practice with other doctors or own their own practice, the annual average salary for this profession can have fairly wide gaps. Your years of experience and any specializations, along with any certifications you hold will significantly impact how much you can earn as a chiropractor.
To become a chiropractor, you need to meet the educational requirements necessary for admittance to a Doctor of Chiropractic (DC) degree program. Once you complete the program and pass the national exams, you apply for licensure in your state and begin working as a certified Doctor of Chiropractic.
Here are the steps you should take if you’d like to become a chiropractor:
Get your undergraduate degree or complete the required hours of coursework. The first step will be to earn a bachelor’s degree in exercise science or a related field if you want to apply for chiropractic school. Some schools will accept students who have not yet graduated with their undergrad but have completed at least three years of coursework or a certain amount of coursework hours. This stipulation depends upon the school and your specific undergraduate degree program.
Enroll in chiropractic school. Admittance to a chiropractic school is your next step. Entry requirements vary by school. Expect to spend about three to four years at the school earning your Doctor of Chiropractic degree and passing the required national examinations.
Complete a Doctor of Chiropractic (DC) degree program. Most DC programs include a blend of classroom and clinical experience. Some topics you’ll learn about include nutrition, ethics in patient treatment, neuromusculoskeletal examination, and non-invasive treatments and therapy to treat a wide range of physical ailments.
Pass the National Board of Chiropractic Examiners (NBCE) exams. All prospective chiropractors must pass a series of national exams called the NBCE exams. This four-part exam begins in your second year of chiropractic school and culminates with an exam after graduation from your program. The exams will test proficiency and knowledge in clinical science, clinical competency, and practical skills.
Apply for licensure in your state. After passing the NBCE exams, you’re now eligible to apply for licensure in your state. Remember that each state has its additional state-level requirements or exams beyond the NBCE exams. Some other standard requirements include proof of malpractice insurance, a background check, or specific state law requirements to practice as a chiropractor within the state. You’ll need to keep up licensure by continuing your education per requirements set by your state.
Start your career as a chiropractor. After obtaining licensure in your state, you’re ready to find a job or start your own chiropractic practice.
You must have a license to work as a chiropractor in the US; graduating from chiropractic school or passing the NBCE exams is insufficient if you want to work as a chiropractor.
Your state’s chiropractic regulating board handles licensure and manages license renewal. Individual chiropractic boards have varying requirements for obtaining a license, so there will be variations from state to state. However, all chiropractic boards will require applicants to have completed a four-year chiropractic program and passed the NBCE exams to be eligible for licensure.
You may find varying salary levels for chiropractors based on where they practice, the hours they hold, and their job titles. Since chiropractors may work individually, as part of a group of chiropractors or franchises, or own their own practice, there can be wide swings in salary per year.
Where you work as a chiropractor may affect your annual salary. From a geographical standpoint, some states such as Rhode Island, Tennessee, and Connecticut, are among the highest paying states in the US for chiropractors. Other states like Wyoming, Utah, and Arkansas rank as the lowest-paying states for chiropractors.
Beyond where you work within the US, your place of employment also affects your earnings. Based on surveys conducted by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, most chiropractors working in the US work in chiropractors' offices. Of the 51,400 chiropractors working in 2020, 64 percent worked in a chiropractor’s office and earned an average of $69,650 a year. In contrast, fewer chiropractors worked in physician’s offices, and those who did earn more, with an average of $90,820 a year .
Chiropractic offices may run hours that are different from other medical providers. For example, many practices may hold night and weekend appointments.
Some chiropractors work part-time, full-time, or a mix of both. You may even find some chiropractors who travel to see clients or work more “on the go” than in an office setting. If you own your own practice, you have the freedom to set your hours. All of these factors will likely affect your salary.
Your job title as a chiropractor may impact your yearly earnings. Individuals who hold a DC degree and license to work within a state will likely have quite a few options of career paths to pursue. These paths may hold variations in their job title as well as variations in salary. For example, a sports chiropractic physician earns an average of $99,508 a year, an assistant chiropractor earns an average of $82,559 a year, and a clinical director earns an average of $65,987 a year.
A few examples of job titles a licensed chiropractor may hold include:
Corporate chiropractor for companies/organizations
Integrative chiropractic group practitioner
Sports team chiropractor
Educator or adjunct professor
Owner/operator of a chiropractic practice
You may be able to boost your salary as a chiropractor and expand your overall career options by specializing in a particular area of health and wellness related to chiropractic care or by gaining certifications to better help your patients as a chiropractor. On Coursera, you can find courses and specializations that focus on different non-invasive, natural approaches to preventing chronic pain such as Preventing Chronic Pain: A Human Systems Approach offered through the University of Minnesota.
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After you gain licensure in your state, you may find many career options in chiropractic care, each with varying salary levels. Choose your pathway and get started today.
1. US Bureau of Labor Statistics. “Occupational Outlook Handbook: Chiropractors, https://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/chiropractors.htm” Accessed April 1, 2022.
2. US Bureau of Labor Statistics. “Occupational Outlook Handbook: Chiropractors: Pay, https://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/chiropractors.htm#tab-5” Accessed April 1, 2022.
This content has been made available for informational purposes only. Learners are advised to conduct additional research to ensure that courses and other credentials pursued meet their personal, professional, and financial goals.