When approaching a career as a health practitioner two options that are available to you are to become a chiropractor or a physical therapists. While both occupation help people in the treatment of different injuries the requirements to qualify and the scope of treatment provided vary greatly. This article will highlight those differences and assist in choosing between the chiropractor vs. physical therapist career path.


A 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 Therapist

Physical 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.

Chiropractor vs. Physical Therapist

When it comes to choosing between these two career options the focus really lies with what your interest is in terms of being a health practitioner. Both careers offer high paying salaries, though with the extensive sub-field specialties and employment options available there isn't a clear 'winner' in terms of earning a higher pay cheque. When you are choosing between the two options you want to ensure you clearly review the state guidelines for each professional that will be applicable to you as they can vary greatly between states.