How to become a chiropractor (with skills and salary)

Updated 16 August 2023

Chiropractors typically facilitate the diagnosis, treatment, management and prevention of muscular, joint and skeletal disorders and a number of conditions associated with the nervous system. Becoming a chiropractor takes a considerable amount of time, energy and commitment, and can be an incredibly rewarding profession. To become one, having the relevant educational background and considerable field experience can help when pursuing this type of work. In this article, we discuss what a chiropractor does, how to become a chiropractor and professions that are similar to being a chiropractor.

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How to become a chiropractor

If you're wondering how to become a chiropractor, you can follow these steps:

1. Obtain a university or college qualification in chiropractic care

To work as a chiropractor, you can take an academic course that covers everything about chiropractic work. There are many courses that are suitable for this career path. Before enrolling in a course, review the recognising body to ensure it's approved by the General Chiropractic Council (GCC). Entry requirements are flexible, but the following are desirable:

  • 5 GCSE grades nine to four (or the equivalent) including mathematics, English and science

  • 3 A levels (or the equivalent), preferably with a science subject

A 4-year degree or a postgraduate master's course is necessary for this career path. If you've chosen to take on a postgraduate course, it's ideal if your previous undergraduate degree relates to the sciences or medicine in some capacity. Biology is an excellent choice, but any course that touches on human anatomy and healthcare can help give you good foundational knowledge before starting your chiropractic course. If you choose an undergraduate degree, the requirements include three years of full-time study, followed by one year of working in a clinical setting.

Related: 15 skills you need as a doctor

2. Complete work experience

In addition to academic courses, you're going to require at least one year of supervised work experience with a chiropractor. During this time, you have the opportunity to assist the chiropractor, which allows you to learn on the job. This requires you to work in a clinical environment, where you can grow your experience and understanding of how to perform chiropractic care on patients.

You may also benefit from learning about patient examinations, diagnosis and treating symptoms. This can include how to make chiropractic adjustments along joints and the spine. Other duties might include reading blood tests and speaking with patients about their concerns.

3. Register with the General Chiropractic Council

To work as a practising chiropractor, you're required to register with the General Chiropractic Council. This includes a series of tests and interviews to ensure that you're competent as a chiropractor. You may also pay your associated fees in advance, including your £2,000 test fee. The examination itself is rigorous, so it's important to make sure that you spend an adequate amount of time revising. In addition to testing, filling out an Evidence of Practice questionnaire is necessary to become a chiropractor. This covers the following:

  • a profile of your existing caseload as a chiropractor

  • a presentation of a neuromusculoskeletal case that you've worked on

  • a case that outlines a patient that was unsuitable for chiropractic care

  • a case that outlines certain techniques that were unsuitable for the patient

  • definitions of any acronyms used

  • patient management application and assessment

  • a general overview of your learning experience over the past three years

4. Look into specialising

There are many specialist fields found within chiropractic care that may be of interest to you. Learning to become a chiropractor creates a lot of overlap with other medical and healthcare-related jobs. If you're passionate about helping athletes, for example, sports medicine is an excellent field that would allow you to offer care to patients with a wide range of sports-related injuries. Other specialist fields include:

  • acupuncture

  • nutrition

  • occupational health

  • radiology

  • neurology

  • paediatrics

  • forensics

To specialise in these areas, you're going to need sufficient experience working in that particular field. You can prepare for this by tailoring your clients so that you're working towards your specialist area. This allows you to grow and gain experience while making a living.

Related: How to become an occupational therapist

5. Secure a position as a chiropractor

Once you have successfully registered as a chiropractor with the GCC, you can start practising as a chiropractor on your own. You can either set up your own practice, work with a partner or join another clinic to become part of a larger team. To find the best position for you, study your surrounding area and research what chiropractors near you are currently practising. You can try reaching out if you find a practice that matches your skills and interests. Once you have found a practice or fellow chiropractor you'd like to work with, you can negotiate a contract.

If you plan to start your own business as a chiropractor, you may want to spend time securing office space, staff and the various pieces of equipment that you need. This can be an expensive and time-consuming process, so be prepared to invest a significant amount of time and money into your new clinical space. As you're going to be working with patients in this environment, make sure that it adheres to all of the health and safety guidelines required for clinical settings.

What does a chiropractor do?

A chiropractor is a practitioner who specialises in neuromuscular and neuroskeletal disorders. Chiropractic care is based on the idea that a wide range of health conditions and concerns stem from problems with our muscles and bones. A chiropractor offers a number of treatments to manipulate the spine and joints of patients to relieve various different symptoms. Patients visit a chiropractor for a variety of conditions, including asthma, depression and muscular or skeletal issues. A chiropractor works closely with patients to address their individual needs and health problems. Some of their primary duties include:

  • arranging consultations with patients to discuss treatment plans

  • inspecting posture issues and spine abnormalities

  • creating in-office treatment plans

  • performing adjustments on patients

  • creating routines for patients, including stretching, exercise, diet plans and sleep techniques

  • using alternative medicine and treatments such as acupuncture and massage therapy

  • referring patients to specialist doctors for help with complex issues

Related: How to become a massage therapist

Where do chiropractors work and how much do they earn?

A chiropractor usually runs a private practice on their own, but they can also be part of a team of professionals or work in an academic setting such as a university. Although chiropractors' training includes performing examinations and medical tests such as x-rays, they're not medical doctors. They aren't able to prescribe drugs and typically avoid recommending medication. The average base salary for a chiropractor is £36,194 per year. This salary can vary based on their employer, whether they privately operated and if their location. Also, consider your training, time of practice and patient type when reviewing chiropractor positions.

Salary figures reflect data listed on Indeed Salaries at time of writing. Salaries‌ ‌may‌ ‌‌vary‌‌ ‌depending‌ ‌on‌ ‌the‌ ‌hiring‌ ‌organisation‌ ‌and‌ ‌a‌ ‌candidate's‌ ‌experience,‌ ‌academic‌ background‌ ‌and‌ ‌location.‌

What skills and knowledge does a chiropractor have?

Working as a chiropractor is a client-facing role that requires extensive knowledge of human anatomy. Some skills that a chiropractor benefits from include:

  • empathy, understanding and sensitivity to a patient's needs

  • patience and a calm demeanour to de-escalate stressful situations

  • good rapport-building skills

  • solid understanding of human anatomy and how the body works

  • a keen eye for detail

  • excellent verbal communication skills

  • critical thinking skills

  • computer literacy

Besides these skills, you're going to require a background check before working on any patients, as you're likely to be working with vulnerable people. This allows patients to have full confidence in you when coming to you for treatment.

Related: 10 valuable soft skills that you need to succeed in your career

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Jobs that are similar to being a chiropractor

Besides working as a chiropractor, there are several related fields and similar occupations that you can pivot towards. Here is a list of jobs that include some similar responsibilities and duties to chiropractors:

  • sports therapist

  • podiatrist

  • personal trainer

  • physical therapist

  • massage therapist

  • medical assistant

  • homoeopathic practitioner

  • respiratory therapist

  • acupuncturist

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