Chiropractor vs Physical Therapist

By Jordan Fabel •  Updated: November 15, 2022  •  6 min read  •  Health
Approved Course is reader-supported. If you buy through links on our site, we may earn a small commission.

When you’re looking for a unique career in the medical field, you might be trying to choose between becoming a chiropractor or a physical therapist. While these two professions are a bit similar, they are also rather different. Both will help others feel better after an injury. However, they go about the way they help differently.

Job Duties of a Chiropractor

If you become a chiropractor, you will do many different things to help patients with chronic pain. It’s common to treat patients after an auto accident, sports injury, or another type of injury. Chiropractors often treat spinal injuries and pain, along with conditions relating to the muscles, nerves, bones, tendons, and ligaments.

Chiropractor vs Physical Therapist

Your main job duties as a chiropractor will include:

All of these job duties are common for chiropractors.

Job duties of a Physical Therapist

If you become a physical therapist, you will be a healthcare professional that helps patients increase flexibility and mobility. It’s important to help your patients perform the right exercise to help prevent injuries or recover from an injury.

Some of the common job duties of a physical therapist include:

These are the types of job duties you can expect to perform as a physical therapist.

Chiropractor vs Physical Therapist: The Similarities

While a chiropractor and a physical therapist are not the same, they do have some similarities including:

A chiropractor and a physical therapist have a similar goal, as well. They will both help to improve your range of motion with less pain after you have become injured or gone through surgery.

Chiropractor vs Physical Therapist: The Differences

While there are certainly some things similar between a chiropractor and a physical therapist, they are also very different. The main differences include:

There are certainly differences between a chiropractor and a physical therapist. You want to consider these differences before choosing the right career path for you.

How Much Does a Chiropractor Make?

According to, the average salary of a chiropractor is about $74K per year. However, top employers pay quite a bit more with many paying more than $100K per year. Where you work can also make a difference in your pay. Oakland, New Jersey is the highest paying location followed by Austin, Texas, and Jacksonville, Florida.

How Much Does a Physical Therapist Make?

If you become a physical therapist, you can expect to make around $82K, on average. Top employers will pay more than $130K for good physical therapists. Those working in Brooklyn, New York, Las Vegas, Nevada, and Austin, Texas will earn the highest salaries.

What Type of Education Does a Chiropractor Need?

If you want to become a chiropractor, you will need to complete a doctorate program. This can take anywhere from six to eight years to complete. It’s also necessary to pass a three-part licensing exam given by the National Board of Chiropractic Examiners.

A three-year post-graduate residency program will also be necessary to become a chiropractor. As a chiropractor, you will be a chiropractic doctor. While this is not a doctor of medicine, you will still need to gain quite a bit of knowledge of neurology and general medicine.

You may specialize in radiology or pediatrics as a chiropractor. This will require completing a certification program through the American Board of Chiropractic Specialties.

What Type of Education Does a Physical Therapist Need?

If you want to become a physical therapist, you will need to complete a doctor of physical therapy program. This is done after earning an undergraduate degree. It will take between six and eight years of post-secondary school to become a physical therapist.

After completing your education, you will also need to pass a certification test. It’s also necessary to complete a one-year residency to gain the necessary hands-on training. You may specialize in neurological disorders or another area as a physical therapist.

While there are certainly similarities between a chiropractor and a physical therapist, these are not the same. There are plenty of differences from the average salary to the education you will need. It will take about the same amount of time in school to enter either of these careers, however.

Before you choose between becoming a chiropractor and becoming a physical therapist, make sure you know what you’re getting into. While both of these careers will put you on the front lines to help others, they go about helping in a different way. Make sure you understand the differences before you choose the right option for you.

Jordan Fabel

Jordan Fabel

Covering different 'paths' that people's lives can take. Creative, foster parent, ticket dismissal, you get the idea. Exploring the requirements, certifications, exams, and obviously, approved courses along each path.