ChiropractorA chiropractor's professional focus revolves around spinal and musculoskeletal issues and the diagnosis and treatment of those issues. This lends to the common belief that if you have a back problem you need to see a chiropractor.
The educational requirements for becoming a chiropractor are substantial, with 5 years of chiropractic school and a 1 year residency required after already completing an undergraduate degree. This means that at a minimum it will take 10 years to qualify as a chiropractor. The final result of this program is to become a Doctor of Chiropractic.
Work Focus and Treatment
Most chiropractic treatment revolves around soft tissue manipulation and joint adjustments, with few little surgical procedures being performed (and in some states none being permitted). Chiropractors are generally also not allowed to issue prescriptions, though they will make recommendations to a medical doctor if necessary.
Most chiropractor's work in small private clinics, though there are some working on hospital staff's and for health networks.
Physical TherapistPhysical therapists' professional focus is typically around restoring mobility and body function to those who have either experienced an injury, have a disease, or are simply facing the implications of aging. As such many people who've been in an accident or have had a major surgical procedure can end up seeing a physical therapist afterwards.
The education program for becoming a physical therapist can vary greatly depending on the school and on the requirements of the applicable state. All physical therapy programs require a bachelor's degree to already be held and at least 30 weeks of full time internship during the program. Programs can range from around 3,200 instructional hours to over 5,000 in some programs, so the number of years required to become a physical therapist can vary. Typically this will result in a 7-8 year total education requirement before qualifying as a Physical Therapist (or PT). Work Focus and Treatment
Physical therapy can involve many techniques focused on joint and muscle manipulation. A key aspect of many patient programs is extensive training or exercise techniques to correct muscle coordination and other rehabilitation issues. Physical therapists cannot issue prescriptions (except for military physical therapists under limited circumstances) and do not typically perform any surgery aside from basic wound care.
While physical therapists also often work in private clinics they are more prevalent on hospital staff's and in health networks.