Overrated Career: Chiropractor

Some chiropractors think their discipline can cure everything from headaches to sciatica.

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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: low back pain. A 2007 report from the National Institutes of Health said, "For patients whose low back pain does not improve with conventional medications, education, and self-care, clinicians should consider adding one or more of seven alternative or complementary approaches" of which one is chiropractic. The report continues, "None of these are 'fabulous' or first-line treatments for LBP but [some] popular CAM therapies have a moderate effect on chronic low back pain."

Many chiropractors also devote considerable time to marketing—in part to pay back the cost of chiropractic school, usually well over $100,000. Yet according to payscale.com, as of Oct. 25, 2008, the average salary of a chiropractor with five to nine years of experience is $61,542.

On the downsides of this profession: chirobase.com. For a more positive view, see the American Chiropractic Association site, which represents chiropractors.

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