How to Become a Holistic Doctor: Education and Career Roadmap

Learn how to become a holistic doctor by watching this video. Learn about the job description, the education, and the licensing requirements, and find out how to start a career as a holistic doctor. View article »

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  • 0:01 Becoming a Holistic Doctor
  • 1:26 Earn Necessary Degrees
  • 2:40 Complete a Residency…
  • 3:21 Become Licensed
  • 4:12 Learn Holistic Healing…
  • 4:36 Apply for a Job or…

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Video Transcript

Becoming a Holistic Doctor

Holistic doctors are medically trained physicians who work in one or more modalities that focus on the health of the entire person. They may integrate acupuncture, massage, and/or herbal medicine into their practices. Holistic doctors often take into account a wide range of conditions, such as mental health, lifestyle, and nutrition, when examining a patient's health.

Holistic doctors have the advantage of working more regular hours than some of their medical counterparts. The majority of such practitioners work in a medical office or clinic setting, although some may practice out of their homes or visit their patients' homes. The field of holistic medicine is still small, though growing, and building a client base may pose a challenge.

Degree Level Professional
Degree Field Doctor of Medicine (MD), Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (DO), Doctor of Chiropractic (DC), or Naturopathic Doctor (ND)
Licensure and Certification Licensure and certification are required
Experience Experience in health care is required
Key Skills Active listening, critical thinking, complex problem solving, medical software
Median Salary (2015)* $187,200 (for doctors and surgeons)

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, O*Net OnLine

Earn Necessary Degrees

The first step to becoming a holistic doctor involves earning a bachelor's degree with prerequisite coursework. A bachelor's degree is an almost across-the-board requirement for admission into medical school. Some programs consider applications from stellar students with some college coursework and the necessary prerequisites through early admissions programs. Coursework typically includes chemistry, physics, biology, English, and mathematics. A student wishing to become a medical doctor (MD) or a Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (DO) needs to take the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT).

The second step is to earn a medical, chiropractic, or naturopathic medicine degree. Several different degree options exist for becoming a doctor, within which leeway varies for practicing as a holistic doctor. Legally recognized doctor's degrees in the U.S. include the MD, the DO, the ND (Naturopathic Doctor), and the DC (Doctor of Chiropractic). NDs, DCs, and DOs are taught to approach illness and health from a holistic viewpoint, while MDs are typically not. These degree programs generally involve at least four years of training followed by a 2-6 year residency.

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Complete a Residency or Internship

The third step consists of completing a residency or internship. The residency or internship portion of medical school training allows the student to work under supervision as a doctor in a field of his or her choice. Graduates pursuing careers as holistic doctors need to find residencies that match their interests. MDs and DOs have a wide variety of medical specialty areas from which to choose, including emergency medicine, obstetrics, surgery, and general medicine. Common residencies for chiropractors are diagnostic imaging and sports medicine. Naturopathic doctors may choose to work in neurology, minor surgery, or women's health, among other areas.

Become Licensed

The fourth step is to become licensed. In the U.S., all physicians and surgeons are required to be licensed. After completing one or more residencies, MDs and DOs are eligible to become licensed after passing practical and written exams. The U.S. Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE) is for MDs, and the Comprehensive Osteopathic Medical Licensing Examination (COMLEX-USA) is for DOs. Chiropractors must be licensed in all 50 states and the District of Columbia; licensing exams are given at the state level and vary by jurisdiction. For NDs, licensing laws vary by state, with some U.S. states having no licensing requirements. In states that require an ND to be licensed, the ND must have graduated from a nationally accredited school of naturopathic medicine and must pass the Naturopathic Physician Licensing Exam (NPLEX).

Learn About Holistic Healing Modalities

The fifth step involves learning about holistic healing modalities. Holistic healing training programs offered at public and private schools allow doctors to broaden their scope of knowledge. Medical doctors are permitted to practice most modalities. Holistic doctors might incorporate homeopathy, herbal medicine, acupuncture, biofeedback, and other holistic healing modalities into their practices.

Apply for a Job or Start a Holistic Medical Practice

The final step to becoming a holistic doctor is to apply for a job or start a holistic medical practice. Holistic doctors may work at integrative medical clinics, while others choose to open up their own holistic healing medical practices. Opportunities in this field are expanding as health insurance providers increasingly cover complementary and alternative healing treatments.

The six main steps to becoming a holistic doctor include:

  1. Earning a bachelor's degree
  2. Earning a medical, chiropractic, or naturopathic degree
  3. Completing a residency or internship
  4. Becoming licensed
  5. Learning about holistic healing modalities
  6. Applying for a job or starting a holistic medical practice
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