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Complementary Health Practitioner Career Info

A patient goes to see a complementary health practitioner to help speed up the recovery process. Practitioners use alternative medicines and treatments in order to help patients heal from a variety of illnesses, pains, and diseases.

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Career Definition for a Complementary Health Practitioner

A complementary health practitioner offers patients therapies and treatments that are prescribed in combination with treatments prescribed by medical doctors. These practitioners treat their patients with chiropractic techniques, physiotherapy, osteopathy, acupuncture, and other alternative medicine treatments.

Education Degree programs, certifications, licenses
Job Skills Diagnosis and treatment skills, read x-rays
Median Salary (2015) $64,440 (chiropractors)
Job Outlook (2014-2024) 17% growth (chiropractors)

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Education Required

Complementary health practitioners typically complete formal training and receive a certification or license in their chosen alternative medicine field. For example, chiropractors must earn a Doctor of Chiropractic degree and a license, while massage therapists need to complete a 500-hour or longer program and earn a license or certification in the majority of states. Acupuncturists also usually need to meet state-specified requirements, which typically involve completing a number of training hours and passing exams.

While complementary health practitioners are working towards their credentials, they usually study in classroom, laboratory, and clinical settings. Classes that are commonly part of the curricula include biochemistry, pathology, microbiology, physiology, and anatomy.

Skills Required

Complementary health practitioners need to know how to diagnose and treat patients. Practitioners have to understand physical, neurological, and orthopedic examinations and be able to read X-rays and diagnostic images.

Career and Economic Outlook

With complementary medicine becoming a more popular and respected form of treatment, work for complementary health practitioners is projected to rise. For chiropractors, a 17%, or much faster than average, job increase is expected between 2014 and 2024, and for massage therapists, a fast employment growth rate of 22% is forecast, per the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

Complementary health practitioners' salaries vary depending on their specialty. According to the BLS, chiropractors earned a median salary of $64,440 in 2015, and massage therapists had a $38,040 median salary, while professionals in the BLS's 'other' health diagnosing and treating practitioners category (where acupuncturists are classified) earned a median salary of $74,710 the same year.

Alternate Career Options

Alternative career choices within the field include:

Occupational Therapist

By earning a master's degree in occupational therapy, in addition to licensing, these professionals work with patients who have disabilities or illnesses, using typical, every day activities in a therapeutic manner. Much faster than average expansion of job opportunities, at 27%, was predicted by the BLS, from 2014-2024, along with a median annual salary in 2015 of $80,150.

Athletic Trainer

These trainers treat, prevent and diagnose bone and muscle injuries or illnesses in people of all ages and normally need at least a bachelor's degree in athletic training. The BLS projected much faster than average employment growth of 21% for these positions during the 2014-2024 decade. In 2015, they took home a median wage of $44,670 per year,according to the BLS.

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