BlogCareersWhat Does a Chiropractor Do?

What Does a Chiropractor Do?

Like a lot of people, you may have asked yourself the question: What exactly does a Chiropractor do?

Lucky for you, we have all the answers to help you envision your own career.

Let’s take a look!

Meet Michael
What is a Chiropractor?
Steps to Becoming a Chiropractor
Future Outlook
Best Thing & Worst Thing
Advice for Aspiring Chiropractors

Meet Michael

How did you end up in this role? 

Michael is the Director of his own self-titled company, Michael Hobbs, and he also has a running/coaching company with his sister called, Runner’s Playground.

“In terms of how I ended up working in this career field, I went to Macquarie University and, in Australia, it’s a 5-year degree,” he said.

Studies and Experience

To become a chiropractor, Michael studied a 3-year undergraduate degree which was then followed by a 2-year post-graduate clinical degree. As part of his studies, he also completed an internship which involved many clinic hours in order to actually be licensed.

Chiropractor - Interviewee Quote

“Because it is a long and quite challenging degree with a lot of contact hours, you have to really love it!” Michael said.

What made you want to work in this industry?

My own history of sporting injuries. I used to race middle and long-distance competitively and then just kept getting injured. So, it was my own history, battles with injuries and going through the rehab process for myself that ultimately set me on this path!” Michael explained.

“But I think another big draw was actually the autonomy of the work and, of course, you’re working in health and making a difference in people’s lives,” he added.

What is a Chiropractor?

In general terms, a Chiropractor is a healthcare professional that diagnoses and treats conditions related to the body’s structure, most often neuromuscular or musculoskeletal disorders.

Treatment for their patients does not involve prescribing drugs or doing surgery. Instead, treatment is provided through the manual adjustment and/or manipulation of the spine, allowing for the body to re-align into the right position.

A Chiropractor’s primary goal is to ultimately relieve pain and improve body function!

Roles and Responsibilities 

Michael told us, “A large proportion of my week is spent in consultations, so one-on-one with clients. That includes treatment but it also includes doing rehab with people. I work a lot with runners, so we do a lot of running assessment on the treadmills. I also have a lot of clients overseas, so there will be online consults going on.”

He also does workshops with run clubs, gyms and some online coaching for his runners as well, so it’s a mix of face-to-face and online.

His hours of private practice in the clinic can vary — some days can be quite big. “For example, today I was in at 7.30am and I left at 7pm. My other clinic days would be about 9-6 but then, if I have online clients, I’ll squeeze them in so I might be up at 6am for a session with someone overseas,” he explained.

Michael also works every other Saturday in clinics, but the benefit of being his own boss is being able to choose his own hours. He said, “Wednesdays I have off and that becomes my admin day and Mondays I can do a half day.”

Which industries can this career be found in?

A chiropractor works within the chiropractic industry, which is a part of the allied healthcare industry. Chiropractic is generally categorised as alternative medicine or complementary medicine. 

Fun (well-known) Fact: Jobs that people often confuse chiropractors with are physical therapists, exercise physiologists, occupational therapists and podiatrists!

Characteristics and Qualities 

Chiropractor - Skills

What skills do you develop throughout your career?

“A lot of interpersonal skills, I would say. Lot’s of emotional intelligence, so learning how to interact with people and read people. Also, knowledge of the science behind health and fitness, which is definitely key. Other things for me personally have been learning how to set boundaries and self-discipline,” Michael said.

According to JobOutlook, the top 5 knowledge, skills, abilities and activities relevant to the job are as follows.

KnowledgeSkillsAbilitiesActivities
- Customer and personal service
- Psychology
- Education and training
- Clerical
- English language
- Reading comprehension
- Active listening
- Critical thinking
- Social perceptiveness
- Speaking
- Oral comprehension
- Problem spotting
- Deductive reasoning
- Inductive reasoning
- Oral expression
- Helping and caring for others
- Making decisions and solving problems 
- Looking for changes over time
- Doing physically active work
- Collecting and organising information

Steps to Becoming a Chiropractor 

It takes 5 years to become a licensed chiropractor. In order to qualify, you can follow this 3-step study guide:

Step #1: Complete your undergraduate studies

Enrol in a 3-year undergraduate degree or 5-year double degree at one of these universities. This degree will give you a strong scientific foundation to prepare you for a rewarding career in one of the largest primary health professions!

You will gain comprehensive knowledge and an understanding of the structure and function of the human body, the dynamics of biological change and variability, and the exploration of human interaction in states of both health and disease.

In terms of skills, the degrees offer training in a wide range of diagnostic and chiropractic manipulative skills in the context of anatomical, physiological and biomedical sciences. You’ll learn the basics of how to use diagnostic tools, including patient interviews and physical examination!

The undergraduate degree also provides the prerequisite academic background to allow you to achieve Step 2.

Step #2: Undertake your post-grad studies

If you only undertook a 3-year undergraduate degree in step 1, apply for and enrol in a 2-year postgraduate degree. This is required for professional registration within Australia as a licensed Chiropractor.

In your post-grad studies, you will gain clinical expertise and therapeutic skills, whilst developing a sound knowledge of biomechanics, electrophysiological therapeutics, rehabilitation, chiropractic techniques and soft tissue modalities. On top of this, you will participate in case-based scenarios and learn strategies that will help you make clinical decisions regarding patient prognosis, management and referral.

Just like Michael, you can also learn how to run your own practice, operate X-ray equipment and practice spinal manipulation!

Step #3: Apply or launch!

With your accreditation and education, you can now apply to work in whatever environment you desire. Choose to work in a clinic or launch your own!

You can even become a researcher if that’s your cup of tea. If you wish to continue learning, apply for another postgraduate degree that will allow you to specialise in a more specific field. 

Industry Knowledge

In terms of industry knowledge, we asked Michael if there were any specific softwares/programs that you need to use as a Chiropractor:

“Not necessarily. I use a patient management system as a lot of clients book online. That’s the main one I can think of and then you have social media platforms, which are very important,” he said.

What will this career look like in the future?

How in-demand is this career?

When someone experiences back or neck pain, they have the choice to visit a traditional health facility, which could end up in surgery, or choose the chiropractic way of life. More recently, there has been higher demand for the latter as it offers a safe, natural and holistic approach to treating pain. 

According to Career Planner, employment of chiropractors is projected to grow 10 percent from 2016 to 2026. Chiropractic treatment has become more accepted due to research and changing attitudes to alternative methods.

Due to this shift, chiropractors are becoming reputable practitioners and are now beginning to work collaboratively with other healthcare workers in order to achieve even better results! 

Are there opportunities to grow or specialise? 

“Definitely. There are more and more post-grad opportunities available if you want to specialise, for instance, in sports chiropractic, pregnancy, paediatrics or whatever it is you have a specific interest in,” Michael said.

He also told us, “A lot of people also go and do research as well. They can become a part-time clinician and a part-time researcher. It’s what you want to make of it essentially. Whether you want to own your own clinic, are happy working in someone else’s clinic or want to open multiple clinics! It’s up to you.”

Salary

According to JobOutlook, Chiropractors have a ‘very high skill’ level rating and a ‘moderate’ prediction for future growth. The average annual salary, according to PayScale, is $72,000+. 

Annual SalaryFuture GrowthSkill Level Rating
$72,000+Moderate over the next 5 yearsVery high skill

Influential Trends

The chiropractic industry has grown in leaps and bounds over the last five years, with new pain management and therapeutic technologies designed to offer better treatment, such as cold laser therapy, ultrasound therapy, electric muscle stimulation, and light therapy.

Each of these treatment methods are beneficial for increasing blood flow and regeneration of tissue after injury. Some chiropractors also utilise neck traction pulleys and wobble chairs to promote healing!

Another emerging trend that is shaping the future of this career is marketing. Many people view chiropractic care as only focusing on areas of the spine and neck when, in reality, it addresses and improves a variety of health issues including, migraines, anxiety and depression, insomnia, ADHD, TMJ, hypertension, menopause, lowered immune systems and more!

Marketing via social media and targeting younger audiences through engaging and educational content is also an influential trend that is helping expand the chiropractic industry.

The Future of this Industry

“I think the future of the industry is heading away from a lot of the passive therapies… definitely away from the cracking. I have patients that we don’t crack at all and we spend the whole time in the gym,” Michael said.

He elaborated, “It’s a lot more of that active care model where we are actually empowering people and educating them on how to take care of themselves because a lot of the things that walk in the door these days are lifestyle medicine issues. So, it’s all about how you support positive lifestyle behavioural change.”Chiropractor clients

Images sourced from Michael Hobbs

In terms of being more collaborative to ultimately get better outcomes for patients, Michael said, “I think, as a profession, we can’t exist in silos — we need to be a lot more integrated. I work quite closely with GPs, podiatrists and nutritionists. And finally moving into more of the psycho-social model of managing a patient in pain — you’re not just treating their knee, you are treating a person with knee pain.”

Michael also discussed that there are a lot more chronic conditions these days and lifestyle medicine. As a chiropractor, you need to be supporting someone holistically through the process of rehab and then changing some of their habits — it can be time-consuming but he finds it to be ultimately more rewarding.

“It means that you are more connected to your patients and feel like you’re a big part of their journey.

 

Last year I felt like on some days I was a counsellor and I felt really touched and honoured to play that role. I think that’s a really important role. If they’re coming in with musculoskeletal pain, we do know with back pain, their pain is massively ramped up if they’re experiencing stress, anxiety or depression… if they’re not eating well or exercising. It becomes this whole downward cycle and we aim to fix that.” — Michael Hobbs 

Best Thing & Worst Thing

What do you enjoy most about this job?

“Definitely the people aspect. Just being with clients, seeing their transformation and helping be a catalyst for that is truly rewarding,” said Michael.

What do you feel is the worst part of this job?

Michael told us, “The admin for sure… Just all the back-hand stuff that a lot of people don’t think about. Hours of my week go into making sure the clinics set up, writing patient notes and letters to doctors and other referrers. It’s definitely more time-consuming than I had realised. That would be the least fun part.”

Advice for Aspiring Chiropractors

When asked about aspiring chiropractors, Michael had a lot of inspiring, yet practical advice!

What do you wish you had known before you started working in this career?

(laughs) I think on one hand the public’s idea of what a chiropractor is doesn’t necessarily define me at all. I wish I had known that… it would’ve saved me a lot of angst to just know that there are actually a lot more pathways to practicing how I wanted to practice,” Michael said.

He also pointed out that you aren’t going to learn everything at uni and that wasn’t the point of uni — it’s to teach you how to be a safe practitioner. You actually need to have a lot of self-motivation to go and take further studies and be committed to learning more.

What is the workplace culture like?

I still work in another clinic in Wollongong and there are four practitioners there. It is a really great environment. We’re all very supportive… they’re very much mentors to me. Even in the city, despite being a solo practitioner, I work within a co-lab space of other health practitioners… GPs, doctors, osteos,” Michael said.

He explained, “I think for me, it’s the perfect fit of still being able to run my own show but within a very supportive community of like-minded people. I think I’ve been quite lucky. I think that there are definitely some hard work cultures out there but you can also find really really good ones; ones where you can get great mentorship and support.”

Job Flexibility 

Michael told us, “You can be quite flexible with the days and the hours that you do. You can really make the career whatever you want it to look like.”

Though for some of his colleagues, they often have very different days to him — sometimes more of a 9 to 5 situation or they might only do a few days in the clinic and then have an extended weekend. So when it comes to chiropractic, it can really be whatever you want it to be!

Why should people consider taking on this career?

“People should consider taking this career because it’s really rewarding, first of all. You can be your own boss and you learn a lot about yourself along the way,” Michael said.

He added, “My advice would be back to what I said earlier. Go spend time in clinics, observing people and not just chiropractors but everyone in allied health — so, physios, osteos, occupational therapists, exercise physiologists… and you’ll see that a large part of what we do is all the same. We help people both physically and mentally in order to make positive and long-lasting change.”

If you can see yourself pursuing a career in Chiropractic and paving your own path like Michael, enrol in an undergraduate degree here!


Thomasin McCuaig is a Content Writer at Art of Smart and an Arts graduate with majors in English and Theatre and Performance Studies at the University of Sydney. Thomasin is a passionate writer, singer and drama teacher, who has had her work published in Holidays with Kids, Signature Luxury Travel and Style and Offspring Magazine. Thomasin also writes junior plays for her students and aims to publish a novel someday. During the COVID isolation period, Thomasin put her passion into practise and launched her own writing and editing business, ‘Re:Write Editing.’ In her spare time you will find her either napping, talking to her cats or looking up real estate for absolutely no reason at all. Fun fact: Thomasin appeared on Japanese morning breakfast show ‘ZIP!’ as a travel reporter, where she presented a six day exposé of Sydney!

 

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