Chiropractic Degree and Career Guide
What Can I Earn as a Chiropractor?
Whether you work on your own or for someone else, a chiropractor’s salary can be rewarding.
How much does a chiropractor make? The answer varies widely, depending on where you practice, how long you have been practicing, and what services you offer. Your earnings also depend on how you structure your work: as an associate in someone else’s practice, an independent contractor, or the owner of your own practice.
The median annual salary for a chiropractor in the U.S. is $75,000 according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).
You’ll want to research what’s common for a chiropractor to earn in the area where you want to practice. New York, Massachusets, Nevada, New Jersey, and Connecticut are home to the highest-paid chiropractors, making between $97,380 and $1116,340 a year, according to the BLS. Geographic-specific costs, such as medical office rents and malpractice insurance, influence take-home pay after expenses, though.
The cost of insurance and office space can affect the take-home pay of a chiropractor who is a sole proprietor.
The type of setting in which you work can also affect how much you can earn as a chiropractor. Practitioners in a hospital or physician’s office tend to make more money than those in other health providers’ offices, for example.
Finally, chiropractors who own their own practices have the potential of growing their income higher than an associate in someone else’s practice. “I make double what some associates make in St. Louis,” explains Danielle Fishel, DC, who owns Fishel Chiropractic, “though opening on my own was slow. I built my business one patient at a time, but I have had more growth than I would have in someone else’s office.”
How Do Chiropractor Salaries Compare?
Medical and natural health providers earn a wide range of incomes. If you’re interested in helping others and supporting their health, you’ll want to consider how much a chiropractor might make compared to related occupations.
Here is how a chiropractic salary compares to a massage therapist and a physical therapist as of May 2021, respectively.
|Career||Median Annual Salary|
Next, explore chiropractor salaries and job growth by state below.
Median Salary: $75,000
Projected job growth: 10.4%
10th Percentile: $37,400
25th Percentile: $50,470
75th Percentile: $98,760
90th Percentile: $128,750
Projected job growth: 10.4%
|State||Median Salary||Bottom 10%||Top 10%|
Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) 2021 median salary; projected job growth through 2031. Actual salaries vary depending on location, level of education, years of experience, work environment, and other factors. Salaries may differ even more for those who are self-employed or work part time.
Is There Demand for This Career?
Experts keeping an eye on the chiropractic field have noticed a steady increase in demand for these services.
“Interest in chiropractic’s holistic, non-drug approach to health care has increased steadily over the years, backed by a growing body of research studies,” says William Lauretti, DC, FICC, FACC, a spokesperson for the American Chiropractic Association. “We also see important trends such as an aging baby boom generation that seeks to live actively into their golden years and the need for more non-drug pain management options in the wake of the epidemic of opioid overuse.”
An aging baby boomer population is contributing to the demand for chiropractic care.
The accumulation of robust research on the effectiveness of chiropractic care, especially for conditions such as back pain and headaches, has also led to more people seeing chiropractors.
Greater acceptance means more health insurance plans are covering the cost of chiropractic and other alternative, non-invasive treatments, particularly for acute, or short-term, problems. For example, the U.S. military’s federal health insurer is extending chiropractic coverage to family members of military personnel and retired members of the military. In addition, several large Medicare Advantage plan providers are expanding coverage for treatment from chiropractors, massage therapists, and acupuncturists.
“People are realizing how important it is to take care of their health,” Fishel says. “They understand that they might need help with that, and chiropractors can help.”
Who Hires Chiropractors and Why?
People experiencing back or neck pain are the patients who most often seek chiropractic care. In fact, 53% of neck and back pain sufferers turn to a chiropractor for relief, according to a national Gallup poll.
Many of these clients are older Americans, who are more likely to have musculoskeletal pain. The popularity of chiropractic care is widening among other age groups, too, even including babies and children.
Clients seek chiropractic care for a whole range of reasons beyond spine-related problems. While pain, from injuries and headaches, are common complaints, Fishel says, others seek care for issues such as constipation or acid reflux. “I also see a lot of people for wellness chiropractic,” Fishel says, to help maintain and support overall health and well-being.
Chiropractors offer hands-on adjustments, including spinal manipulation, to properly align the body and support the nervous system. A chiropractor’s job description varies, as practitioners can offer different treatments, including stretching and muscle work, rehabilitation exercises, and nutrition advice.
Beyond spinal adjustments, chiropractors can also offer muscle work, rehab exercises, and nutrition advice.
Chiropractors work in diverse settings. Some own their own practices; others offer services in medical offices or alongside other alternative healthcare providers; and some provide home health services by making house calls.
How Can I Advance in My Career (and Salary)?
A typical path to becoming a chiropractor is to earn a Bachelor of Science and then complete a Doctor of Chiropractic program, which typically takes four years. You must be licensed in the state in which you practice as well.
That’s not the only road to becoming a chiropractor, though. Some students enter chiropractic school after pursuing other careers or life paths.
The bottom line: It’s never too late to go back to school if you want to help people through chiropractic.
Once you become a chiropractor, the ways to advance your career are limited only by your willingness to explore. Some chiropractors earn certifications and diplomates to demonstrate a specialty, such as in osteopathic medicine or prenatal care.
“One of the cool things about chiropractic is there’s as much career growth as you want,” Fishel says.
Mentorship can also help you move forward. “You can find a coach who has already been successful to teach you what to do,” says Raffaela “Ela” Villella, DC, a chiropractor in Lakewood Ranch, Florida. “You don’t need to reinvent the wheel. Follow what others have done but make it your own.”
Filling an unserved niche can also create new opportunities for your career. Villella began making house calls to treat clients in their homes, for example. Others have found ways to deliver value online, which means they aren’t limited by geography.
“We can help people in different ways,” Villella says. “We’re giving people more options to take care of their health.”
What to Expect if you Go into Private Practice
Chiropractors can work as an associate in someone else’s practice, as an independent contractor, or as the owner of their own practice. As with most career choices, each one offers both benefits and drawbacks.
That said, many chiropractors open their own practices, and many who are associates or independent chiropractors aim to start their own practices.
Owning your own practice involves the greatest risk—and the greatest potential for reward, Fishel says.
Starting out can be challenging, however. An owner of a practice is responsible for:
And the responsibilities don’t stop there. Once your practice is up and running, you’ll also need to consider:
Unlike an associate—who is hired for a set salary or hourly rate—an owner and independent contractor don’t necessarily have consistent income. A profitable month might be followed by a slow one. On the other hand, many chiropractors find a lot of satisfaction in growing their business from the ground up.
“Typically, people start as an associate, then become an independent contractor to get the experience to feel comfortable opening their own practice—but that’s not the only way,” says Fishel, who ran her own practice from the outset. “Some people want a set, promised paycheck, especially when they’re first paying down student loans. Others are ready to open their own practice. It’s a rewarding and challenging job, and you get to grow your career the way you want.”
William Lauretti, DC, FICC, FACC
Spokesman, American Chiropractic Association