Chiropractors diagnose, treat and prevent mechanical disorders of the musculoskeletal system and look at the effect of these disorders on the function of the nervous system and general health.

Their aim is to relieve pain, increase mobility and to get patients back to full health and movement. Treatment involves using the hands to apply a specific force to adjust the joints of the body.

Chiropractors treat chronic and acute conditions, which include back, shoulder and neck problems and joint, posture and muscle issues, as well as sports injuries.

The treatment is designed to encourage the body's natural healing process and does not include surgery or drugs.

The profession takes a holistic approach to the needs of patients, considering physical, psychological and social factors, and recognises the value of working with other healthcare practitioners.

Responsibilities

Chiropractors spend the majority of their time in consultations with patients where their tasks can include:

  • taking detailed medical histories, including information on previous injuries, surgery, general health and lifestyle;
  • conducting physical examinations of patients, focusing on the spine and posture, and noting the range of movement;
  • taking and interpreting x-rays, as appropriate;
  • checking blood pressure and performing other medical tests;
  • establishing an appropriate treatment or management plan for the patient;
  • performing adjustments of the joints of the spine and extremities using hands or specialist equipment;
  • performing soft tissue therapies, such as massage;
  • educating and advising patients on rehabilitation exercises to aid long-term recovery and techniques to ensure health is maintained;
  • keeping accurate and confidential clinical records;
  • liaising with other healthcare practitioners and referring patients requiring other medical attention.

In addition to this, chiropractors may also:

  • undertake continuing professional development (CPD) by attending conferences, reading professional journals and completing training and case reviews;
  • manage and promote the practice if self-employed.

Salary

Salaries depend on a range of factors including the size and location of the practice, the number of chiropractors, the number of patients and the length of time the practice has been established. Other factors that may affect salaries include any links with GP practices and other healthcare professionals, as this may increase the client base.

Newly qualified practitioners who typically work as self-employed associates in private practices are often paid a percentage of the fees that they generate for the practice, along with a small retainer while their client list increases.

  • A typical starting salary is around £20,000 and with experience this can rise to £40,000.
  • Chiropractic clinics typically charge patients an hourly rate of between £30 and £60 per session.
  • Predicting salaries later in a career can be difficult as most practitioners are self-employed and may own and run their own practices. Financial rewards can be very good.
  • Salaries in the region of £50,000 to £70,000 are not uncommon for senior self-employed practitioners.

Income figures are intended as a guide only.

Working hours

Hours of work must suit clients and many practices open early in the morning, in the evening and/or at weekends. While occasional emergency appointments may be necessary, this is unlikely to be a regular feature.

The great majority of chiropractors are self-employed, allowing practitioners to select the hours they work. Part-time work and career breaks are possible.

What to expect

  • Chiropractors may work alone, with other chiropractors in group practices, or alongside practitioners such as physiotherapists or massage therapists.
  • Opportunities exist throughout the UK, with practices in both urban and rural areas.
  • Internationally agreed standards of education mean the majority of UK chiropractic qualifications are recognised overseas.
  • The work is both physically and mentally demanding. Chiropractors must maintain their fitness to avoid work-related injuries.
  • Regulation of the profession includes a strong code of ethics. Confidentiality and discretion are important.
  • Some chiropractors may work at several practices, meaning travel within the working day may be required.

Qualifications

The title of chiropractor is protected under law and to enter the career in the UK you must be registered with the General Chiropractic Council (GCC).

This is the statutory body that is responsible for regulating the practice of chiropractic in the UK.

To be accepted onto the GCC register, you must have successfully completed a GCC recognised degree. These are available at:

The courses offer practical training in adjustment and supervised clinical training and cover subjects such as:

  • anatomy;
  • biomechanics;
  • pathology;
  • physiology;
  • orthopaedics;
  • diagnosis.

All programmes have a final clinic year.

Entry requirements are usually three A-levels, and typically two of these should be in sciences, particularly biology or biological sciences, or a relevant higher qualification.

You maybe expected to have some experience of a chiropractic treatment - either having one yourself, or observing a chiropractor in a consultation. Entry requirements vary between institutions so check individual courses for full details.

Some colleges provide one-year foundation programmes for applicants without the usual entry qualifications. Successful completion of the foundation year provides a route for entry to the degree qualification.

Skills

Candidates need to show evidence of:

  • a real interest in chiropractic;
  • the ability to cope with the intellectual and physical demands of the training and the profession;
  • strong communication and interpersonal skills;
  • good listening skills;
  • an enquiring and critical mind;
  • a logical approach to problem-solving;
  • sensitivity, empathy and discretion.

A driving licence is also useful for travel between practices. If you are self-employed you will need commercial and marketing skills in order to build your business.

To register with the GCC, as well as showing you have successfully completed a recognised degree, amongst other things you must:

  • declare any criminal convictions or cautions;
  • provide a report from your doctor confirming you are in good health, mentally and physically;
  • provide proof of professional indemnity insurance;
  • provide a character reference.

You can find out more about becoming registered at the General Chiropractic Council (GCC).

Employers

In the UK, chiropractors usually work in private practice, which may mean working from home or, more often, in an established private chiropractic clinic. In some areas, chiropractors may work across more than one clinic.

There are some opportunities for contract work with trusts of the NHS. For more details see NHS - Complementary and Alternative Medicine.

GP practices are able to commission healthcare services directly and close working relationships with GPs may lead to contractual provision of chiropractic care to NHS patients.

There is currently a demand for qualified chiropractors and chiropractic is one of the major growth areas of clinical practice. Sources of vacancies

The chiropractic profession in the UK is relatively small. Networking, personal contacts and speculative applications are the most common and effective means of securing employment.

Associate positions may be advertised via the three training establishments:

Opportunities are also advertised on the websites of the four professional bodies:

There are opportunities to advertise your own details.

Get more tips on how to find a job, create a successful CV and cover letter, and prepare for interviews.

Professional development

Chiropractors in the UK must be registered with the General Chiropractic Council (GCC) and to remain on the register you must keep up to date with changes in the profession by carrying out continuing professional development (CPD).

The GCC has set out certain requirements, which include completing at least 30 hours of CPD each year. Half of these hours must include direct interaction with others as part of the learning activity. The rest of the hours can be spent on learning with others, or can be individual activities such as reading and research.

You have to complete a summary of your CPD activities and return it to the GCC each year to prove you have met the requirements. More information is available from GCC Continuing Professional Development.

Relevant training and events that can count towards CPD activities are available from a variety of places. For example, The Royal College of Chiropractors runs a postgraduate training programme for those who have recently graduated. It enables newly qualified chiropractors to work in a professional clinical setting with the help and support of a mentor.

Structured education is provided and more information can be found at The Royal College of Chiropractors: PRT Postgrad Training.

Specialist Masters-level courses and CPD programmes are also available from:

  • Anglo-European College of Chiropractic (AECC);
  • McTimoney College of Chiropractic;
  • Welsh Institute of Chiropractic.

CPD seminars, conferences and professional journals are available through the four chiropractic associations:

  • British Chiropractic Association (BCA);
  • McTimoney Chiropractic Association (MCA);
  • Scottish Chiropractic Association (SCA);
  • United Chiropractic Association (UCA).

Career prospects

Many newly qualified chiropractors begin their career working for another chiropractor in private practice as an associate. However, with some experience and a potential client base established, there are many opportunities to set up your own practice within the early stages of your career.

In order to create a successful practice, you need to build up a good reputation, which will lead to an increased client base. Marketing your business is important, and networking with other practitioners and complementary therapists, e.g. osteopaths, may help.

Some chiropractors work in a group practice, while others may work in a more diverse clinic with other healthcare professionals, such as physiotherapists.

As chiropractic becomes increasingly established in the UK, there are some opportunities for NHS commissioning, franchising and locum work.

Chiropractors usually work on a generic basis seeing a wide range of patients and conditions. It is, however, possible to develop more specialist skills and knowledge, such as in the fields of:

  • animal care;
  • diagnostic imaging;
  • orthopaedics and rehabilitation;
  • paediatrics;
  • sports injuries.

Higher degrees and academic research opportunities are also available.

Membership of one of the four chiropractic associations is useful for providing opportunities to network and develop professionally. They include:

  • British Chiropractic Association (BCA);
  • McTimoney Chiropractic Association (MCA);
  • Scottish Chiropractic Association (SCA);
  • United Chiropractic Association (UCA);

There are some opportunities to work abroad as GCC registration is becoming recognised internationally.