Understanding a Chiropractor’s Salary: The Story Behind the Numbers
How much is a chiropractor’s salary? If you’re searching for an easy answer, be warned: You need to evaluate the reliability of each source you find.
It’s also important to consider chiropractor career factors beyond salary, says Trevor Foshang, DC, DACBR, Dean, College of Chiropractic at Northwestern Health Sciences University. “I’m talking about everything from lower stress levels and schedule flexibility to job security, entrepreneurial potential, and overall job satisfaction.”
Below, we’ll take a look at some of those factors. But first, let’s explore the salary question more deeply. We’ll also provide actual chiropractor salary numbers that we believe to be reliable and helpful.
How much is a chiropractor’s salary?
Larry Morgan of the Orion HR Group, a human resources consulting firm specializing in compensation analysis, reports the following average chiropractor salary information for the Minneapolis-St. Paul metro area as of February 2020.
Note that these salaries are for W-2 employees and do not reflect the income of chiropractors who own/operate their own business:
- Graduate to one year of experience: $65,300 annually with data varying from $54,000 to $76,600 annually
- 10+ years of experience: $89,500 annually with data varying from $69,000 to $110,000 annually
Remember, this is information for the Minneapolis-St. Paul metro area. Many variables go into formulating reliable salary estimates. That’s why providing a single nationwide number is not the most accurate way to understand what a chiropractor earns.
Below, we provide information that will help in your salary research and explain a number of factors that go into determining a chiropractor salary.
What to look for in your salary research
There’s no shortage of online sources regarding a chiropractor’s income. But to make the most of your research, consider the following important points.
Rely on the most trusted sources
According to Morgan from the Orion HR Group, the best salary information starts with industry surveys conducted by HR professionals. The results are then compiled and reviewed for accuracy. For any reported data that seems out of place, HR professionals conduct follow-up conversations.
“In addition to having the right expertise, HR professionals have access to resources that will produce the most accurate and unbiased salary information possible,” says Morgan.
Keep these data caveats in mind
When it comes to online sources for chiropractor salaries, Morgan recommends paying attention to factors like the following:
The source of the data. Does the source have bias toward inflated numbers? How is the data collected, and is it “scrubbed” for outliers that can skew results and make them less accurate?
The method of data collection. How was the data gathered? By students, self-reporting, anonymous survey, HR professionals?
Size of the data set. How many participating organizations and how many people does the data represent? The more organizations participating and professionals represented, the more likely the data can be considered accurate.
Date of the salary data. The marketplace is not static. The date the salary survey information was collected is important. The general labor market is trending upward at 3.1% to 3.2% annually. That’s why data should be “aged” to present day numbers.
Know the shortcomings of salary sources
Morgan also says to be aware of the inherent shortcomings of salary sources like the following:
Professional associations and industry magazines. These rely on member- or subscriber-reported data. These data sets may be small, reflect higher end salaries, and could be biased toward favorable numbers.
Salary-specific websites. Popular sites like GlassDoor, Salary.com, and PayScale rely heavily or exclusively on self-reported salary information. The data sets reflecting salary amounts tend to be less accurate.
Government sites. Sites like the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, for example, may reflect data that’s low to market and difficult to review.
However, they can be helpful in providing salary information, especially when considering location and the larger data sets from which their numbers are based.
Keep in mind taxable income for owners vs. employees
The field of chiropractic treatment has been dominated by solo practices. Chiropractors in these cases double as business owners. That means they have a host of overhead tax-deductible business expenses that can lower their reported taxable income.
To understand what a chiropractor truly earns, this is an important point. The reported income for these chiropractors may appear lower than what some would expect (or hope). However, that income, thanks to legitimate tax deductions, may not necessarily reflect the true financial rewards these chiropractors enjoy.
On the other hand, owners need to pay for their own life, health and disability insurance, estimated quarterly taxes, and the employer and employee share of FICA/Social Security.
The income of chiropractors who are associates at private practices or employees at clinics, hospitals, and other settings will not reflect the various kinds of deductions that private practice owner-operators have.
However, don’t forget about the offsetting differentials such as health insurance and other benefits that you receive as an employee.
Remember that geography matters
Not surprisingly, where you practice as a chiropractor will influence how much you make. Keep this in mind as you’re looking at overall “average” salaries. Different locations will have different pay rates based on labor supply and demand, unemployment, inflation, cost of living, etc.
Know that compensation will vary with experience
New graduates will start with lower pay rates than chiropractors with experience. Generally, it takes three to five years for a chiropractor to be considered “fully proficient” in the profession.
Also, the median, or 50th percentile of data, is used to determine market data for fully experienced professionals. This means half of the responding organizations pay above this level and half pay below.
New hires will be lower in a salary, sometimes as low as the 25th percentile, meaning starting wages may be 25% or more below experienced professionals.
Understand that compensation will vary with the work setting
Owning or working at a private chiropractic practice is by no means the only work environment today for chiropractors.
So, if you’re trying to understand what a chiropractor can make, know that your compensation will vary from one setting to another. Chiropractors today can work in a variety of places beyond private practices. Here are a few examples:
- Multidisciplinary clinics
- Integrative clinics
- Primary care clinics
- Corporate settings
- Fitness centers
The size of the organization that employs you can also affect your salary. Generally, the larger the organization, the higher the salary.
Beyond the dollars: the many benefits of being a chiropractor
As you get a better sense of the earning potential for chiropractors, you should also consider a number of other important factors—and attractive features—that are part of being a chiropractor.
Let’s return to Trevor Foshang, DC, DACBR, from Northwestern Health Sciences University to better understand some of them. With 20 years of chiropractic experience, in both academia and the private sector, Foshang has seen the field of chiropractic evolve in exciting ways.
A promising job outlook (to say the least)
For the past decade or so, Foshang says there’s been a lot of talk about what a great time it is to become a chiropractor. “After you’ve heard that a half dozen times, it can start to sound like just another line.”
However, today Foshang says it’s anything but that.
“I can honestly say for the first time in my professional career, I actually do think it’s never been a better time to become a chiropractor.”
And there’s plenty of evidence to back up his optimism:
- The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates a 7% job growth rate between 2018 and 2028.
- Today, most insurance plans include coverage for chiropractic care. In fact, it’s estimated that up to 87% of insured Americans have plans covering chiropractic care.
- Recent legislation has expanded Veteran Administration (VA) services to include chiropractic care for veterans. “When things happen in the VA, over time large hospital and health systems often follow suit,” says Foshang.
- Given the painkiller/opioid abuse crisis, a chiropractor’s non-invasive services are becoming a popular and effective approach for pain management.
- Closely related, influential entities like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and The Joint Commission support the importance of non-pharmacological approaches for pain relief. Developments like these serve to further strengthen the future of chiropractic care.
A rewarding healthcare career helping others – but with less stress
What about the day-to-day life of a chiropractor? Foshang says that being a chiropractor means being in the people business.
“If you think you’d enjoy connecting with people in the process of providing treatment, helping them heal, and giving guidance to promote their overall health, then chiropractic could be a great fit.”
Along with the satisfaction that comes with helping people, Foshang says that chiropractic offices are low stress environments for both doctors and patients.
“Yes, you’re treating people who need care for a range of musculoskeletal problems. The work is definitely serious and demanding, but it’s certainly not an ER.”
A professional path with the potential for a lot of freedom
Chiropractors enjoy a high degree of autonomy, especially compared to other healthcare practitioners. Self-employment—being an owner-operator of your own practice—is a highly popular option for chiropractic graduates.
Foshang says that with your own chiropractic practice, you have considerable freedom to shape your own daily schedule, work fewer days a week, choose your office location, and create the kind of work environment you may have always dreamed of.
And for the especially creative and entrepreneurial in spirit, he points to the “tremendous opportunities” that exist today for chiropractors—both to better serve patients and develop a competitive business within the healthcare marketplace.
Here are some examples:
- Create a multidisciplinary integrative clinic by offering massage, acupuncturist, medical, or nutritional consulting to your practice.
- Develop an expertise that allows you to focus on a specific patient population such as children, expectant moms, the elderly, or athletes, to name just a few possibilities.
- Add services like health coaching or rehabilitation expertise.
Freedom in other ways
If being a business owner isn’t for you, you have more freedom than ever to choose from a wide range of work settings, says Foshang.
Chiropractors today can work in a variety of environments, from hospitals and primary care clinics to fitness centers and corporate settings.
Take the next step toward becoming a chiropractor
Are you interested in a career as a chiropractor? Then take the next step and learn how to become a chiropractor.
Want to talk to someone right away about becoming a chiropractor? Contact Northwestern Health Sciences University today!