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Do chiropractors earn a good salary?
As you’ll discover in this article, that question isn’t so easy to answer.
The average chiropractic salary is likely close to $75,000…
But that number is highly variable.
For instance, over 75% of practicing chiropractors own an independent practice, and many of these chiropractors take home whatever is left after paying their overhead, which is technically not a “salary” and could vary each month.
By definition, a salary is a “fixed regular payment”, and for many chiropractors, their earnings are anything but fixed!
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Because most chiropractors are small business owners, the amount of money they earn can vary greatly depending on several factors (including their ability to market and attract new patients).
These factors include…
- Fee Structure
- Overhead (staffing, lease, equipment costs, etc.)
- Payor Mix
Metropolitan areas in places like New York and California tend to create higher earnings than in Oklahoma’s rural areas.
Also, the decision to take insurance or to become a cash practice can significantly impact a practice’s collections and doctors’ earrings.
If you search Google, you’ll see data that shows chiropractic salary can range anywhere from $110,000-$260,000 (salary.com) next to an ad from Ziprecuiter with a base pay of $20K!
With that much of a discrepancy, it can be challenging to estimate the exact amount of money a chiropractor makes, but there are a few ways to help you better understand what to expect.
In chiropractic, there are 4 primary ways to practice.
Each has its benefits and challenges, risks and rewards, and differences in compensation.
The 4 Ways to Practice: How to Estimate Your Chiropractic Salary
1. Own a Practice
This is the most common way chiropractors practice, with over 75% of chiropractic docs owning their practice.
The risks are higher owning your own business, but the rewards can also be more significant.
Owning a practice is by far the most lucrative path, with chiropractors routinely taking home over $100,000 per year.
The Chiropractic Economics annual survey indicates that the average salary for a chiropractor who owns a solo practice is approximately $102,000 per year.
These numbers can be somewhat skewed by the length of time in practice, as there is often a direct correlation between how long you’ve been practicing and how much your practice is earning.
For many chiropractors starting their own practice, it’s not uncommon to take a $30,000-$60,000 salary for years before finally collecting over $100,000.
As you can see, the “most lucrative” path is not going to make you a millionaire necessarily, but, with patience, it can provide a comfortable life.
2. Become an Associate in a Practice
An associate is a chiropractor who works for another chiropractor.
Many chiropractors start their career by becoming an associate, but few stay associates for long periods.
The pay is often relatively low, with a bonus structure that is typically based on the collections that the doctors bring into the practice.
Becoming an associate doctor exposes you to far less risk but also a sharp decrease in reward.
For many associates, the starting chiropractic salary is between $25,000-$45,000 (plus bonus).
This is a great way to learn when you come out of school, but very few doctors stay associates for their entire careers because of that lower pay scale.
3. Offer Chiropractic Coverage
Doctors who desire more flexibility may choose to provide coverage work.
Chiropractic coverage can be lucrative, but you may also experience long durations between opportunities.
This is not the best way to earn the most money, but it does provide the most flexibility and opportunity to see different types of practices.
Coverage doctors could make anywhere from $250-$500 per day depending upon the number of patients they see.
With some quick math, you can see that this could equal up to $130,000 per year working five days a week, 52 weeks a year… but the reality is that many coverage doctors don’t earn anywhere near that amount.
If coverage doctors could fill in 50% of their schedule with coverage opportunities, they would be doing great.
Busy coverage doctors could expect to earn closer to $30,000-$60,000 per year in chiropractic salary.
4. Practice within a Larger Healthcare Organization
A growing number of positions have opened up within large healthcare organizations such as the VA, Cleveland Clinic, and smaller orthopedic groups.
These positions are typically highly coveted based upon the high guaranteed salary and benefits packages.
The chiropractic salary at these positions tends to have a starting guarantee closer to $65,000-$85,000.
This is a huge step up from a typical associate position, but the real benefits are in the form of real benefits (pun intended).
Most larger healthcare organizations also can offer things like paid time off, health insurance, 401K match, educational reimbursement, and other perks that are not available in the average chiropractic employment situation.
These benefits and perks could add up to an extra $25,000 or more per year in value.
As you can see, each one of these practice types can dramatically impact your chiropractic salary and earnings.
Unlike a profession like physical therapy, there isn’t an established “job market” for chiropractors, which is why many choose to open their practices.
So if you are looking for a high guaranteed salary with benefits, the chiropractic options are limited.
However, if owning your own business excites and motivates you, chiropractic can provide an excellent foundation for creating a successful career.
One additional thing to keep in mind is student loans.
To become a chiropractor, you’ll need a four-year bachelor’s degree as well as another four years in chiropractic college.
This typically adds up to $150,000-$250,000 in student loans.
Should You Become a Chiropractor?
If you’re looking for an easy route to earn a lot of money, we personally don’t think becoming a chiropractor is the best way to do it.
That said, if you care about people, want to make an impact, and believe there is a better way to achieve health than drugs and surgery, becoming a chiropractor can be a great career choice that can leave you fulfilled while living a comfortable life.