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Chiropractic Job Outlook: Good Career Growth, Big Student Debt

As I was doing research for this article, my thoughts wandered to a major event from my childhood:

When my brother was 11 years old, he suffered a spinal injury that caused him to be paralyzed in one leg and have a loss of sensation in the other. It was a scary time for our family. Thankfully, through the help of a chiropractor, he was eventually able to regain full mobility and has since led a normal life.

If you’re a chiropractor, or training to become one, you live for stories like mine. One of my good friends is currently in chiropractic school, and he genuinely can’t wait to start helping and healing people.

But, as I’ve discussed with my friend, chiropractic careers are still … careers. And like any other career, you need to make sure that you’ll be able to get a job after you graduate.

You also want to know that you can earn a healthy enough salary to repay your student loans. Let’s take a look at the chiropractor job outlook and the growth potential for chiropractor careers.

Chiropractor job outlook

Overall, the chiropractor job outlook is strong. Take a look at a few of these stats from the Bureau of Labor and Statistics (BLS):

  • Number of jobs: 50,300
  • Number of new jobs expected: 3,700 expected to be created over the next 10 years
  • Growth rate: 7% over the next 10 years (faster than average)

All of these numbers are positive. It also should be noted that the American Chiropractic Association says 2,500 new chiropractors enter the field each year. This is only approximately 5% of the 50,300 total jobs available.

That’s a reasonable rate — much better than what we’re seeing in other professions. For example, in Student Loan Planner®’s review of the pharmacist job outlook, we found that 15,000 pharmacists graduate each year with basically no new jobs being created.

Bethany Raudenbush, the founder of Focus Forward Chiropractic, graduated from Palmer College of Chiropractic in 2017. She said that her personal experience aligns with the BLS data. “There were lots of clinics looking to hire new graduates,” Raudenbush said. “None of the classmates from my cohort had a very difficult time landing a job.”

Growth potential for chiropractor careers

I asked Raudenbush to give her honest opinion about the chiropractor job outlook and direction chiropractic careers are moving. And I was happy to hear that she firmly believed the field is growing.

I asked her to identify changes in the medical community (or the culture at large) that would cause such growth. She mentioned that chiropractors are becoming an important solution to the opioid crisis.

“In 2017, the American College of Physicians (ACP), changed their guidelines for how to treat back pain,” Raudenbush explained. “Now, they’re recommending that physicians avoid surgeries or drug treatment until patients have explored chiropractic measures first.”

Upon further investigation, I found that Raudenbush was absolutely correct. This was also confirmed by the ACP’s new protocols. These changes could provide a serious boom to chiropractic businesses in the years ahead.

Is a chiropractor’s salary worth the student debt?

According to the BLS, the median pay for chiropractors in 2018 was $71,410. That’s not a bad salary. But you have to remember that most chiropractors are typically required to spend four years in graduate school to earn their Doctor of Chiropractic degree.

And that can lead to massive student debt.

Over 100 chiropractors have consulted with Student Loan Planner® so far. Here's what their student loan situation looks like:

  • Over 90% had more than $100,000 of student loans
  • Over 65% had more than $200,000 of student loans
  • Nearly 1 in 5 had over $300,000 in student loans

And one of our chiropractor clients had over $500,000 in student loans!

Thinking about a chiropractor’s salary from this perspective changes things. Also, keep in mind that the average med school student graduates with $200,000 of student loans. So many chiropractors are graduating with as much debt (or more) as doctors — despite the fact that their median pay is nearly three times lower.

And to make matters worse, the average chiropractor salary is in a strange no man’s land for income-driven repayment plans. The typical chiropractor pay is high enough to require some payment, but the payment may not be enough to cover interest charges.

Our Student Loan Planner® consultants have seen this over and over again. For example, one chiropractor originally graduated with $181,000 in student loans. But since graduation, over $154,000 of interest has accumulated, increasing the total balance to over $300,000.

Related: The Ultimate Guide to Income-Driven Repayment (IDR) Plans

Beating the odds by starting your own chiropractic clinic

Travis Hornsby, founder of Student Loan Planner®, has explained in detail why opening your own clinic can be the key to succeeding financially in your chiropractor career and paying off your student loans. In addition to the higher income potential, there are a number of tax advantages and retirement savings options that only business owners can access.

Yet despite these opportunities, Raudenbush said that the majority of chiropractic graduates start out as chiropractic associates. Out of a 60-student graduating class, Raudenbush said that only three went on to start their own clinics (including herself).

She also said that starting salaries for chiropractic associates can vary widely. Before deciding to open her own clinic, Raudenbush responded to a few chiropractic associate job openings. She said that one clinic offered a starting salary of $35,000 plus commissions while another offered $65,000 plus commissions. That’s a huge swing!

Looking back, Raudenbush couldn’t be happier that she decided to launch her own clinic. In just two years, she’s built a six-figure chiropractic clinic. And she’s even looking to start paying extra towards her student loans.

This kind of quick financial success is virtually unheard of in the chiropractic space. But Raudenbush’s example proves that if you want to beat the odds when paying down your student loans, opening your own chiropractic business may be the key.

Chiropractors need a student loan repayment strategy

If you’re just starting your career as a chiropractor, you need a comprehensive student loan repayment strategy. And that begins with the type of student loans you take out.

Though federal loans are typically superior to private loans, that may not be the case for chiropractors. Once you’ve hit your Direct Unsubsidized Loans borrowing limit, Grad PLUS Loans are your only federal loan option. They come with a high interest rate of 7.08% and a whopping 4.236% loan fee.

If you’re not planning to pursue Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF), a private loan could be a better choice — especially if you can find one with a low interest rate and no origination fee.

If you’ve already taken out student loans, you’ll want to make sure you’re in the right repayment strategy. Choosing the wrong repayment plan could literally cost chiropractors thousands of dollars.

If you’re not sure which plan is best, our Student Loan Planner® consultants can help. How much money could you save by choosing the right repayment strategy? Book an appointment with a Student Loan Planner® certified consultant today to find out.


  1. Tony Wheeler November 21, 2019 at 4:54 PM

    Just started Chiropractic school. Thanks for this!

    • Travis at Student Loan Planner December 13, 2019 at 10:42 AM

      Sure Tony

  2. Ali November 21, 2019 at 7:25 PM

    There are plenty of jobs for chiropractors but most of them are actually independent contractor positions where you can work at a chiropractic office but you have to bring your own patients. You get a commission % (usually below 50%) and no benefits/starting salary. If there is a starting salary it will be actually made of future commission when and if applicable and not in addition to the commission %. There are actually more similar to sells jobs than to other medical profession positions. The associate positions described in the article seem the exception to the rule and are great compared to whats on offer.
    Most chiropractors don’t open their own practices right after graduation because they are already in a high debt position and are not willing to take another loan to make that happen. Many of the chiros that do open they own practice after graduation come from families that can provides some sort of support to start up.

    • Travis at Student Loan Planner December 13, 2019 at 10:45 AM

      That explains why median income numbers were around 28,000 per year for recent grads.

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