Are Chiropractors Doctors? The Essential Guide to a Career in Chiropractic


Chiropractors have extensive training, but they take a less invasive approach to diagnosing and treating patients.

What is a Chiropractor?

A chiropractor cares for patients with health problems of the neuromusculoskeletal system, which is made up of nerves, bones, muscles, ligaments, and tendons.

They use spinal adjustments and manipulation, as well as other clinical interventions, to manage patients’ health concerns, such as back and neck pain.

Is a Chiropractor a Doctor?

Chiropractors do not hold a medical degree. They do have extensive training in chiropractic care and are licensed practitioners.

Chiropractors do many of the same things a medical doctor does including:

  • Assess a patient’s medical condition by reviewing the patient’s medical history and concerns, and by performing a physical examination
  • Analyze the patient’s posture, spine, and reflexes
  • Conduct tests, including evaluating a patient’s posture and taking x rays
  • Provide neuromusculoskeletal therapy, which often involves adjusting a patient’s spinal column and other joints
  • Give additional treatments, such as applying heat or cold to a patient’s injured areas
  • Advise patients on health and lifestyle issues, such as exercise, nutrition, and sleep habits
  • Refer patients to other healthcare professionals if needed

Chiropractors focus on patients’ overall health. Chiropractors believe that malfunctioning spinal joints and other somatic tissues interfere with a person’s neuromuscular system and can result in poor health.

Some chiropractors use procedures such as:

  • massage therapy
  • rehabilitative exercise
  • ultrasound
  • spinal adjustments and manipulation
  • braces or shoe inserts

Some chiropractors specialize in areas such as:

  • sports
  • neurology
  • orthopedics
  • pediatrics
  • nutrition

Chiropractors in private practice are responsible for marketing their businesses, hiring staff, and keeping records.

What is Chiropractic?

Chiropractic is a pseudoscientific complementary and alternative medicine that is concerned with the diagnosis and treatment of mechanical disorders of the musculoskeletal system.

The main chiropractic treatment technique involves manipulating the spine, other joints, and soft tissues. Treatments also include exercises and health and lifestyle counseling.

Chiropractic is popular in the United States, Canada, and Australia.  

It overlaps with other manual-therapy professions such as osteopathy and physical therapy. Most people who seek chiropractic care want to relieve back pain. 

Back and neck pain isn’t the only ailment that chiropractic doctors treat. Many chiropractors consider themselves as primary care providers.   

A Brief History of Chiropractic

Chiropractic was founded in the 1890s, when D. D. Palmer claimed he received it from “the other world.”

Later his son expanded the acceptance of Chiropractic. The practice has had Its share of controversies since it is often seen as an alternative to mainstream medical practices and is not supported by science.

Where They Work

Chiropractors are not medical doctors but they do treat patients.
Offices of chiropractors63%
Self-employed workers30
Offices of physicians4

Chiropractors typically work in office settings.

They may be on their feet for long periods when examining and treating patients.

Work Schedules

Most chiropractors work full time. Chiropractors may work in the evenings or on weekends to accommodate patients.

Some chiropractors travel to patients’ homes to give treatment.

Self-employed chiropractors set their own hours.

Licensing and Education

Chiropractors must earn a Doctor of Chiropractic (D.C.) degree and a state license.

How Long Does it Take to Become a Chiropractor?

Doctor of Chiropractic programs take about 4 years and require at least 3 years of undergraduate college education for admission.


Prospective chiropractors are required to have a Doctor of Chiropractic (D.C.) degree—a postgraduate professional degree that typically takes 4 years to complete.

Accredited Doctor of Chiropractic Schools

These are the Doctor of Chiropractic Programs accredited by The Council on Chiropractic EducationOpens in a new tab..

Cleveland UniversityOpens in a new tab. – Kansas City, College of Chiropractic

Location: 10850 Lowell Avenue, Overland Park, KS

Cost: Per trimester – $11,785

D‘Youville College Doctor of Chiropractic

Location: 320 Porter Avenue, Buffalo, NY 14201

Cost: Per Semester, $13,993

Keiser University – College of Chiropractic Medicine

Location: 2085 Vista Parkway, West Palm Beach, FL 33411

Cost: Tuition estimate based on Florida residency: $43,240.00

Life University – College of Chiropractic

Location: 1269 Barclay Circle, Marietta, GA 30060

Cost: Tuition per Year * $28,425 (average 25 credits hrs) Tuition per program length $129,618.

Logan University, Logan College of ChiropracticOpens in a new tab.

Location: 1851 Schoettler Road, Chesterfield, MO 63017

Cost: Tuition is $11,715 per trimester (Flat rate 12 hours or greater), $975 per credit hour (less than 12 credit hours). Fees included $75, for activity and technology, a first trimester $1,330 (Doctor’s Bag fee including Diagnostic Kit and White Coat

Southern California University of Health SciencesOpens in a new tab.

Location: 16200 E. Amber Valley Drive, Whittier, CA 90609

Cost: Fixed Rate Tuition: $12,920/trimester (10 trimesters)

National University of Health SciencesOpens in a new tab.

Locations: 200 East Roosevelt Road, Lombard, IL 60148
7200 66th Street North, Pinellas Park, FL 33781

Cost: Estimated tuition and fees: $13,114 per trimester (program is 10 trimesters)

New York Chiropractic CollegeOpens in a new tab.

Location: 2360 State Route 89, Seneca Falls, NY 13148

Cost: $25,216 per two trimesters or $129,480

Northwestern Health Sciences UniversityOpens in a new tab.

Location: 2501 West 84th Street, Bloomington, MN 55431

Cost: $12,850, per trimesters 1-9 and $6,000 for trimester 10. A total of $134,500

Palmer College of ChiropracticOpens in a new tab.


  • 1000 Brady Street, Davenport, IA 52803
  • 90 East Tasman Drive, San Jose, CA 95134
  • 4777 City Center Parkway, Port Orange, FL 32129


  • Main Campus: $11,978 per term, $119,780
  • Florida Campus: $9,093 per term for 13 terms, $118,209
  • West Campus (Calif.)  $8,963 per term for 13 terms, $116,519

Parker UniversityOpens in a new tab.

Location: 2540 Walnut Hill Lane, Dallas, TX 75229 

Cost: $125,800 total for 10 terms.

Sherman College of ChiropracticOpens in a new tab.

Location: 2020 Springfield Road, Spartanburg, SC 29306

Cost: $35,300 annual tuition.

Texas Chiropractic CollegeOpens in a new tab.

Location: 5912 Spencer Hwy, Pasadena, TX 77505

Cost: $10,893 per trimester, 10 trimesters.

University of Bridgeport University of Western StatesOpens in a new tab.

Location: 126 Park Ave, Bridgeport, CT 06604

Cost: $14,635, per 14 credit hours for 8 semesters.

D.C. Program Admissions

Admission to D.C. programs requires at least 90 semester hours of undergraduate education.

Some D.C. programs require a bachelor’s degree for entry.

Most students typically earn a bachelor’s degree before applying to a chiropractic program.

Schools have specific requirements for their chiropractic programs, but they generally require coursework in the liberal arts and in sciences such as physics, chemistry, and biology.

Candidates should check with individual schools regarding their specific requirements.

D.C. Degree Coursework

A D.C. program includes classwork in anatomy, physiology, biology, and similar subjects.

Chiropractic students also get supervised clinical experience in which they train in spinal assessment, adjustment techniques, and making diagnoses.

D.C. programs also may include classwork in business management and in billing and finance.

Most D.C. programs offer a dual-degree option, in which students may earn either a bachelor’s or a master’s degree in another field while completing their D.C.

Some chiropractors complete postgraduate programs that lead to diplomate credentials.

These programs provide additional training in specialty areas, such as orthopedics and pediatrics. Classes are taken at chiropractic colleges.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

All states and the District of Columbia require a chiropractor to be licensed.

Although specific requirements vary by state, all require that you complete an accredited Doctor of Chiropractic (D.C.) degree program and pass all four parts of the National Board of Chiropractic ExaminersOpens in a new tab. (NBCE) exam.

Many states also require applicants to pass a background check and state-specific law exams, called jurisprudence exams.

All states require a practicing chiropractor to take continuing education classes to maintain his or her chiropractic license.

Links to How to Get a Chiropractic License for 50 States

Which Personality is the Best for Being a Chiropractor?

16Personalities Verdict: It’s a Career for INFP

If you took the Meyers-Briggs based 16Personalities test, this occupation is a great fit for the INFP. Here’s a quick overview video.

The INFP personality is known as the healer or mediator is someone who is a true idealist. They want to make things better.

Some INFPs prefer a career with a personal touch, one that serves another and improves their quality of life. Chiropractic would fit that niche.

Other career options include massage therapy, physical rehabilitation counseling, social work, psychology and some teaching jobs.

O-NET Interest Profile:

If you’ve take the U.S. Department of Labor’s O-NET Interest Profiler, and you come up as someone who wants a social job, being a chiropractor could appeal to you.

The job is classified as SIR which means it is social, investigative and realistic.

  • Social — Social occupations frequently involve working with, communicating with, and teaching people. These occupations often involve helping or providing service to others.Opens in a new tab.
  • Investigative — Investigative occupations frequently involve working with ideas, and require an extensive amount of thinking. These occupations can involve searching for facts and figuring out problems mentally.Opens in a new tab.
  • Realistic — Realistic occupations frequently involve work activities that include practical, hands-on problems and solutions. They often deal with plants, animals, and real-world materials like wood, tools, and machinery. Many of the occupations require working outside, and do not involve a lot of paperwork or working closely with others.

Soft Skills You Need

Decisionmaking skills. Chiropractors must determine the best course of action when treating a patient. They must also decide when to refer patients to other healthcare professionals.

Detail oriented. Chiropractors must be observant and pay attention to details so that they can make proper diagnoses and avoid mistakes that could harm patients.

Dexterity. Because they use their hands to perform manual adjustments to the spine and other joints, chiropractors should have good coordination to perform therapy effectively.

Empathy. Chiropractors often care for people who are in pain. They must be understanding and sympathetic to their patients’ problems and needs.

Interpersonal skills. Chiropractors must be personable in order to keep clients coming to their practice. Also, because chiropractors frequently touch patients in performing therapy, they should be able to put their patients at ease.

Organizational skills. Self-employed chiropractors may need to schedule appointments, manage employees, bill insurance companies, and maintain patients’ files. Good recordkeeping and other organizational skills are critical in running a successful business.

Chiropractor Salary

The median annual wage for chiropractors was $71,410 in May 2018.

The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $34,990, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $149,170.

In May 2018, the median annual wages for chiropractors in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:

Offices of physicians$86,100
Offices of chiropractors70,260

Earnings vary with the chiropractor’s number of years in practice, geographic region of practice, and hours worked.

Chiropractors tend to earn more as they build a client base and become owners of, or partners in, a practice.

Most chiropractors work full time.

Chiropractors may work in the evenings or on weekends to accommodate patients. Some chiropractors travel to patients’ homes to give treatment. Self-employed chiropractors set their own hours.

Job Outlook is Bright

Employment of chiropractors is projected to grow 7 percent from 2018 to 2028, faster than the average for all occupations.

People across all age groups are increasingly becoming interested in integrative or complementary healthcare as a way to treat pain and improve overall wellness.

Chiropractic care is appealing to patients because chiropractors use nonsurgical methods of treatment and do not prescribe drugs.

Working With Healthcare

Chiropractic treatment of the back, neck, limbs, and involved joints has become more accepted as a result of research and changing attitudes about additional approaches to healthcare.

As a result, chiropractors are increasingly working with other healthcare workers through referrals and complementary care.

Aging Population

The aging of the large baby-boom generation will lead to new opportunities for chiropractors because older adults are more likely than younger people to have neuromusculoskeletal and joint problems.

Members of the aging population will likely continue to seek treatment for these conditions as they lead longer, more active lives.

Demand for chiropractic treatment is related to the ability of patients to pay, either directly or through health insurance. Although most insurance plans now cover chiropractic services, the extent of such coverage varies among plans.

More Information For a Chiropractor Career

American Chiropractic AssociationOpens in a new tab.

International Chiropractors AssociationOpens in a new tab.

Discover ChiropracticOpens in a new tab.

National Board of Chiropractic ExaminersOpens in a new tab.

O*NET in-itOpens in a new tab.

Tracey Lamphere

Tracey Lamphere, M.S. IMC is the editor of Job Affirmations, a publication that provides information and ideas to use mindfulness, positive affirmations, and visualizations to transform your career.

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