Although chiropractors and physicians both have the title “doctor,” the professions have some distinct differences. Chiropractors believe disease is related to spinal alignment, and that manipulating the spine can improve overall health. Physicians focus on treating disease by remedies such as medications and surgery. Both chiropractors and physicians must be licensed in all states.
Becoming a chiropractor is less arduous than becoming a physician. Although most chiropractors have a bachelor’s degree, it is not required. Three years of undergraduate college preparation are required, however, and chiropractic training takes an additional four years. Chiropractors usually perform patient care in an office and do not normally make hospital visits. They keep regular business hours, although some are available for emergency patient care. Although they may work as much as 50 hours a week, most chiropractors work less than that, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Average student debt for chiropractic graduates in 2009 was $143,750, according to the “Lethbridge Undergraduate Research Journal,” and chiropractors are not eligible for subsidized loans and loan repayment programs. Most chiropractors are small-business owners, who have responsibilities beyond their clinical work. Although some specialize in a field such as sports medicine, chiropractors have limited options for specialty work compared to physicians. Chiropractors earned considerably less than physicians in 2012, according to the BLS, with an average annual salary of $79,550.
A physician has many opportunities for specialty practice, such as surgery, anesthesiology, pediatrics, internal medicine, obstetrics and psychiatry. Salaries for physicians vary widely according to specialty, according to the BLS, from $167,640 for psychiatrists to $232,830 for anesthesiologists, in 2012. Although medical education is very expensive, physicians are often eligible for subsidies and loan repayment programs. Physicians have employment opportunities beyond private practice, such as working for hospitals and managed-care organizations. Plus, the profession is more prestigious than that of chiropractor.
Physicians spend a minimum of 11 years in training and may spend up to 15 years. Specialists typically require additional training. In some specialties, such as surgery, a physician may spend long hours standing. Physicians often work long hours, work night shifts, holidays and weekends, and often divide their time between patient care in an office and hospital work. Most physicians graduate with extensive student debt, according to the American Association of Medical Colleges. As of October 2012, the mean student debt for medical school was $166,750. In some cases, physicians must spend additional time and money to become board-certified and to maintain certification.