Holistic Practitioner Certification and Training Program Information

The phrase 'holistic practitioner' covers a broad range of career specialties. Often these specialties are referred to as complementary and alternative medicine, or CAM.

Essential Information

A holistic practitioner may consider all aspects of a patient's health, including emotional, spiritual, mental, and physical needs, when developing a plan of treatment. Holistic practitioners may specialize in areas such as chiropractic, naturopathy, homeopathy, and traditional Chinese medicine. There are separate colleges and degrees for each holistic practitioner specialty. However, there are some programs that offer a more general certificate or a degree in holistic health. The states that require licensure and/or certification differ according to the specific type of holistic practitioner, such as massage therapist or chiropractor. Students need to confirm any state requirements to ensure that they are practicing medicine legally.

  • Program Levels in Holistic Practitioner: Certification; Master's degree; Doctorate
  • Holistic Practitioner Program Fields: Chiropractor; Naturopathy; Homeopathy; Chinese medicine; Massage therapy; Acupuncture
  • Prerequisites: High school diploma/GED or Bachelor's degree (school dependent)
  • Other Requirements: Certain types of medicine require a license to practice; Fieldwork available for learning; Certification available (not the same as a license); Some forms of medicine may require higher degree levels (M.D., D.O., etc.)

Holistic Practitioner Certification

Some holistic health specialties have few or no certification or licensure requirements. For example, only three states have licensure requirements for homeopathic physicians, which include holding a license as either an M.D. (Medical Doctor) or a D.O. (Doctor of Osteopathy) while the District of Columbia and all 50 states have licensure requirements for chiropractors. Some professional organizations offer certifications, which are not necessarily related to licensure requirements. Two ways to determine the legitimacy of a certification is to find out if it is accepted by a state licensing board, or accredited by the National Commission for Certification Agencies (NCCA). Programs require from 12-18 semester hours of coursework. Courses may cover:

  • Anatomy and physiology
  • Effects of sleep, laughter, spirituality and massage on stress management
  • Healing through meditation and awareness
  • Holistic nutrition
  • Relationships between health and human nature
  • Using cultural traditions to aid in health and healing

Master's Degrees in Holistic Health

There are few Master's programs for general holistic health; most programs are for specialties. However, those few give students a more complete picture of the holistic health field than is given by certificate programs. Credit is given for graduate certificate courses, shortening the time required to complete the Master's program. Master's degrees in holistic health require more courses, fieldwork, and research than certificate programs. They will include courses offered in the certificates for the sake of new students who have not earned the certificate. The additional coursework may address:

  • Collecting and analyzing holistic health data
  • Energy fields for humans
  • Holistic health research basics
  • Interrelationship of the environment and human health
  • Native American herbal remedies
  • Women's health from a holistic viewpoint

Doctoral Degree in Naturopathic Medicine

Naturopathic doctors (NDs) might be considered the epitome of holistic practitioners for two reasons. First, their practice can include all of the specialties of other holistic practitioners. Second, the profession is gaining acceptance and licensure in an ever-increasing number of states. Following a baccalaureate, the 4-year ND programs focus on non-toxic, holistic approaches to disease prevention, treatment and wellness. Coursework in naturopathic medicine programs covers the same basic sciences as those covered in a traditional medical program. Additional coursework might include:

  • Emergency medicine
  • How normal human physical systems function
  • The botanical pharmacy
  • Therapeutic galvanism, ultrasound, electrical stimulation and other modalities
  • Understanding therapeutic Western pharmaceuticals
  • Using heat, cold and water therapeutically

Popular Career Options

Holistic practitioner careers are many and varied. In addition to those already mentioned, careers might include:



  • Diplomate in Acupuncture (NCCAOM) from the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine
  • Diplomate of the American Board of Medical Acupuncture (DABMA), for medical or osteopathic doctors


  • Required in the District of Columbia and 32 states
  • Three years of specialty education
  • Most states require a written exam. Some accept the NCCAOM for that exam.
  • Only 16 of these states require continuing education units



  • Diplomate of the American Chiropractic Neurology Board
  • Certified Chiropractic Sports Physician (CCSP) from the American Chiropractic Board of Sports Physicians (ACBSP)
  • Diplomate American Chiropractic Board of Sports Physician (DACBSP), also from the ACBSP; requires a CCSP


  • Required in the District of Columbia and all 50 states
  • Four years of specialty education
  • Every state either requires or accepts the written exam from the National Board of Chiropractic Examiners (NBCE)
  • States have a wide range of requirements for continuing education, but most states require chiropractors to take state-approved courses on a regular basis

Holistic health practitioner


  • Diplomate of the American Board of Integrative Holistic Medicine (ABIHM) for medical and osteopathic physicians


There are no licenses for general holistic health practitioners

Massage therapist


  • National Certification for Therapeutic Massage from the National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage & Bodywork (NCBTMB)
  • National Certification for Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork, also from NCBTMB


  • Licensure, registration or certification is required in the District of Columbia and 39 states; in some states, cities or counties may have their own regulations
  • Most commonly 500 hours of training are required; some states require up to 570 hours
  • All 39 states accept the tests from NCBTMB; some also accept the Massage & Bodywork Licensing Examination (MBLEx) from the Federation of State Massage Therapy Boards (FSMBT)

Employment Outlook

There is no one statistical prediction for holistic practitioners. However, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) does have data for a few of the specialties. For example, the BLS predicted that chiropractic jobs would increase by 15% from 2012-2022. For that same period, the BLS expected jobs for massage therapists to grow by 23%. Both predicted growth rates are higher than the average anticipated growth for all occupations ( O*Net Online predicted that there would be 13,500 ob openings for naturopathic physicians during the decade from 2012-2022 ( This job growth is projected to be 8%-14%. In 2014, annual median wages were $73,400.

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