Securing a job as a chiropractic associate can be a a lucrative and rewarding career decision or a stepping stone to entrepreneurship! It can also be a bit overwhelming. As you are making your way through chiropractic school, you may have heard the phrase “chiropractors eat their young”. This phrase alludes to the idea that chiropractic associates are underpaid, overworked and worst of all under appreciated. This could easily make you, the potential associate, fearful and wary of any practice owner who is looking to hire an associate. Fear not! There are some things to look for when evaluating associateship opportunities.

As you evaluate potential associateships make sure you choose one that is right for you, not just one that is available. It is not enough that the practice thinks you are a good fit, it is also important that the practice is a good fit for you. Ask yourself a few questions:

  • What are the values of this practice and do mine resonate with them?
  • What is the mission statement of the practice, and can I support it?
  • Does the practice have the equipment I am familiar and comfortable using?
  • Does the practice have a history of growth? Are there future growth opportunities?
  • Are there opportunities for me to contribute to the practice in a meaningful way?
  • Is the pay fair? Is it commensurate with market conditions?
  • Are there opportunities for growth or leadership?
  • Is the contract reasonable?
  • Will I want to work here for at least three years?
  • Does the practice feel ethical?
  • Can you talk to current or previous associates?
  • Does the practice have good energy and a strong team?

Chiropractic Bosses are Imperfect

Just as chiropractic students are not given a lengthy education on business, or entrepreneurship, they are also not taught human resources skills including hiring, contract negotiation, managing teams or leadership. This means that most chiropractic bosses, have learned by trial and error. The first few times they hire associates, they may over promise or under promise compensation or patient volume. Owners may ask for too much in a non-compete agreement, do a poor job of training and integrating our associates or worst of all, not offer valuable mentoring. This makes the argument for prioritizing an associateship from a veteran owner/boss. An experienced owner should be able to provide clear answers to all of the above questions with evidence and stories to support them. But, working for a less experienced owner may also provide a great opportunity for you, the associate, to help your boss become a great leader (if they are open your feedback!)

Tip: Ask for references! When you are applying for a job as a chiropractic associate, ask the owner if you can speak to a current or former associate or intern.

What is a Reasonable Offer?

So what makes a reasonable offer? It is not just about money. Consider the fact that in chiropractic profession, we do not have a ‘residency program’. Following medical school, doctors enter a residency program in which they are typically paid a reduced salary while they are still learning in the field. Many medical residents are paid between $50K and $80K per year depending on their experience level. It can be very valuable to view your chiropractic associateship as a residency for the first two to three years. This means I am placing a lot more value on the quality of mentorship, style of practice, opportunities for growth and values than I am on compensation. In addition, a practice should offer associates paid malpractice insurance, a continuing education allowance, health care benefits (or a health care stipend) and paid time off. The more benefits a practice offers, the lower the base pay will typically be – but these benefits are pre-tax and are so valuable.

If an offer looks too good to be true, it probably is. New graduates can be so eager to be paid the big bucks after years working for that hard earned doctoral degree. I urge you to take a step back and look at the forrest for the trees. If you are too focused on instant gratification, ie. a six figure offer, you may miss out on the best long term opportunity and could spend years chasing the big offer.

But I Need to Make Money!

In my experience mentoring students, the main (read “only”) factor considered in accepting an associateship is money. “Will they pay what I deserve?” As you can see from the list above, there is so much more to consider in a chiropractic associateship than money. I have received dozens of texts and calls over the years from new graduates who signed the ‘too good to be true offer’ weeks or months into an associateship who are completely miserable. The happiest associates are the ones who are being mentored, included and appreciated. Would you have faith, and believe me if I told you that money will come if the answers to the above questions are meaningful?

PS: Ask your new boss what the team did for halloween last year?

Ask for Help

If you are reviewing a chiropractic associateship job offer for the first time, don’t go at it alone! Be sure to ask a mentor, relative or trusted professional for help. Shoot me an email and I’ll give you my thoughts on the offer and potential negotiation recommendations. Email me at