Natural health professionals have a wide variety of career options available to them which include massage therapist and naturopathic doctor. These positions all have their own education requirements which can range from vocational programs to doctoral programs.
Some potential job titles for careers in the natural health field may include acupuncturist, naturopathic doctor, and massage therapist. Degree programs and training requirements vary depending on the specific area of study in the natural health field, ranging from vocational training for massage therapists to doctoral-level training for naturopathic physicians. In addition, licensure and certification requirements for natural health professionals vary significantly from state to state.
|Career Title||Acupuncturist||Naturopathic Doctor||Massage Therapist|
|Education Requirements||Master's degree in acupuncture or oriental medicine||Doctor of Naturopathy (N.D.); existing physicians can complete additional training to learn more about naturopathic medicine||Massage therapy vocational program|
|Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)||9-13%*||9-13%*||22%**|
|Median Salary||$47,777 (2016)***||$74,710 (2015)*||$38,040 (2016)**|
Sources: *O'Net OnLine, **U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, ***PayScale.com
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- Acupuncture and Acupressure
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Trained in Oriental medicine, acupuncturists insert small needles into various points of the human body as a means to regulate the body and provide relief of pain and illness. By using a holistic approach, acupuncturists assess the patient's symptoms and determine potential treatment regimens, which may consist of acupuncture needle insertion, electrical muscle stimulation, or the use of herbal dietary supplements.
Acupuncturists must complete a significant amount of training. Entry-level professionals in this field need at least a master's degree, though doctoral programs in acupuncture and in Oriental medicine (DAOM) are also available. According to the National Certification Commission of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (NCCAOM), nearly every state has licensure and certification requirements for acupuncturists. While these requirements vary, some common requirements include completing training programs from accredited universities and passing the NCCAOM certification exam.
Similar to regular physicians, naturopathic doctors examine, diagnose, and treat patients. Instead of providing chemical medications, though, naturopathic physicians offer more natural treatment remedies, including exercise regimens, dietary recommendations, and herbal medicines. These professionals use various homeopathic remedies, including hydrotherapy, ultraviolet light therapy, Ayurvedic medicine, massage therapy, electrotherapy, heat treatments, and Oriental medicine.
Training for these professionals varies, but programs typically begin with scientific courses like biochemistry, human anatomy and human physiology. Some individuals earn their bachelor's degrees, complete four years of medical school, become licensed physicians, and then pursue additional training in naturopathic medicine, which could include courses in botanical medicine, hydrotherapy, homeopathy and therapeutic exercise. Others may complete Doctor of Naturopathy (N.D.) degree programs. The Council on Naturopathic Medical Education approves Doctor of Naturopathic Medicine and Doctor of Naturopathy degrees.
According to the Association of Accredited Naturopathic Medical Colleges (AANMC), there are licensure requirements for naturopathic doctors in many states. Each state may have additional requirements, but nearly all states require license applicants to have completed naturopathic medical training at accredited institutions, and applicants must pass the Naturopathic Physicians Licensing Exam (NPLEX). To maintain and renew licensure, most states require professionals to participate in continuing education programs. Certification is available for doctors who want to specialize in specific naturopathic treatments.
These professionals provide therapeutic relief by rubbing tension out of muscles. Massage therapists use their hands as well as hot and cold compresses and other tools to perform massage treatments on patients. Beyond basic massage treatments, there are more specialized naturopathic methods that individuals can learn, including Ayurvedic massage, deep tissue massage, Swedish massage, and sports massage.
To become massage therapists, individuals must complete vocational training programs. Students learn about the human body, diseases affecting muscle tissue, and basic massage treatments. After completing basic training, massage therapists typically need to complete the licensure process within their states, which often includes passing an exam. Most professional massage therapists seek out additional naturopathic training after becoming licensed, and many become certified in these massage treatment specialties.
Job Outlook and Salary Statistics
O'Net OnLine (www.onetonline.org) reported that employment of acupuncturists as well as naturopathic physicians would increase at a faster than average rate of 9-13% throughout the 2014-2024 decade. Predictions made by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (www.bls.gov) for that same decade indicated that open positions for massage therapists would increase by 22%.
In 2016, salary statistics collected by PayScale.com showed that licensed acupuncturists earned median salaries of $47,777 . In 2015, O'Net OnLine noted that naturopathic physicians earned median annual salaries of $74,710. The BLS reports that massage therapists earned a median salary of $38,040, as of 2015.
Working as a natural health professional can be a rewarding experience regardless of what career path you pursue. Those desiring a quicker path to their profession may become massage therapists. Naturopathic doctors and acupuncturist must typically undergo more extensive formal training, but are awarded higher salaries.