Overrated Career: Chiropractor

You can treat disease, even if you don't have the grades for a top medical school.

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Corrected on 3/25/08: An earlier version of this article incorrectly said that the Federal Trade Commission has rules pertaining to chiropractors. In fact, the FTC issues guidelines, and each state's licensing board regulates the scope of chiropractors' practice.

The Appeal: You can treat disease, even if you don't have the grades for a top medical school, and you can also set up shop as a solo operator. It's especially alluring to people with misgivings about mainstream medicine.

The Reality: Some chiropractors think their discipline can cure everything from headaches to sciatica, asthma to premenstrual syndrome. But efficacy is often less than many practitioners claim, even in curing chiropractic's meat and potatoes: lower back pain. And even so, research shows that mainstream treatments for lower back pain are equally effective. Many chiropractors also devote considerable time to marketing—in part to pay back the cost of chiropractic school, usually over $100,000.

Alternative: Physician assistant. They get to do much of what physicians do, with less costly training.