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Online Alternative Medicine Schools: How to Choose

Like physical therapy and nursing, alternative medicine is a very hands-on field. While many programs offer online options, students will likely have to complete internships and classes with in-person, practical instruction regardless of the field that they choose.

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Students seeking online programs in alternative medicine have a number of factors to keep in mind before selecting a program, like the level of the program, whether it is accredited, and what the specific focus area is of the program. We discuss all of these issues below.

How to Select an Online Alternative Medicine School

Online alternative medicine schools offer academic programs that range from certificates to graduate degrees. Since alternative medicine is a broad field, students should consider their career goals to determine which specific area interests them, as well as what program level is necessary for employment. Accreditation is also an important concern for aspiring alternative medicine students.

Program Type

When selecting an online alternative medicine school, students should first consider what area of concentration they are interested in. Areas of holistic medicine include complementary alternative medicine, acupuncture, herbal medicine, holistic nutrition and naturopathy.

Award Level

Since some degrees are commonly found at the graduate level, students should consider how much schooling they are willing to complete, as well as the required training needed for their chosen field. An associate's or bachelor's degree may be sufficient for many positions in health and wellness; however, those interested in higher-paying positions, as well as those interested in running their own businesses, might consider pursuing a master's degree.

Accreditation

Because of the vast number of programs available online related to alternative medicine, it is also important to look into whether or not a program is accredited. For instance, there are currently no online programs in the field of naturopathy that are accredited by the Association of Accredited Naturopathic Medical Colleges (www.aanmc.org). This is because online programs do not offer students the hands-on patient experience they would need to earn a degree of this level. Some of the other accrediting organizations for alternative medicine programs include the Accreditation Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (www.acaom.org) and the American Alternative Medical Association (www.joinaama.com).

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List of Common Online Programs Related to Alternative Medicine

Online Associate of Applied Science in Complementary Alternative Medicine

This online associate's degree is a 2-year program designed to prepare students for careers as holistic health practitioners, lifestyle coaches, sales or administrative associates within the healthcare industry, or spa facility assistants. The curriculum includes instruction on the philosophy and science of holistic health, increasing natural vitality, improving nutrition and maintaining overall health. Many programs may also require students to complete an on-site internship with a holistic health center or spa.

For students interested in a shorter program, there is also an online complementary alternative medicine certificate. This program may be beneficial for those looking to gain some general knowledge in the field to prepare them for an entry-level position. Curricula might include such topics as:

  • Anatomy and physiology
  • Aromatherapy
  • Holistic nutrition
  • Holistic pathology and protocols
  • Energetic modalities

Bachelor of Science in Holistic Nutrition

Commonly found at the bachelor's degree level, a distance learning program in holistic nutrition provides instruction on the basic principles of whole foods and teaches students how to help others eat natural and healthy foods. Through this program, students will learn about food, digestion, vitamins, herbal interactions and weight management approaches. Sample course topics may include:

  • Traditional Chinese herbalism
  • Nutraceutical introduction
  • Food and fitness
  • Vegetarianism
  • Environmental challenges and solutions

Master of Oriental Medicine

The hybrid Master of Oriental Medicine program studies the concepts of ancient Chinese medicine traditions and how they are applied to clinical practice. Since much of this program requires hands-on practice, this program cannot be fully completed online. Students also learn about:

  • Acupuncture therapeutics
  • Meridians and points
  • Survey of Western clinical sciences
  • Chinese Herbs
  • Living anatomy

Schools with Online Alternative Medicine Programs

The American College of Healthcare Sciences offers an online Associate of Applied Sciences in Complementary Alternative Medicine. This program allows students to choose from one of three specializations: aromatherapy, herbal medicine or holistic spa management. The students will be prepared to complete a clinical experience offered by an on-campus program or a professional organization before seeking credentialing and certification. This program requires students to have a high school diploma to enroll.

Huntington College of Health Sciences has an online Bachelor of Science in Nutrition program that focuses on topics like complementary and alternative medicine and herbal sciences. Students must have their high school diploma to apply and must have completed high school algebra or College I Algebra. Students who have enrolled in undergraduate programs before can transfer up to 95 credit hours to be used towards their degree at Huntington.

Finally, Maryland University of Integrative Health offers a hybrid Master of Oriental Medicine. Because this programs requires students to attend classes two days per week, in addition to online coursework, students should probably be located near the campus in Laurel, MD to be successful in the program. This program allows students to focus on specific issues like women's health, pain management, or Chinese herbs. Students must have a bachelor's degree to qualify for this program.

In summary, students seeking online programs in alternative medicine have a few options available, though it may be worth remembering that many of the more advanced degrees may have more strenuous in-person requirements.

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