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Holistic Careers: Career Options, Job Duties and Requirements

Training in holistic healthcare typically covers educating healthcare providers about holistic healthcare approaches to medicine, such as massage therapy or chiropractics. Find out about the requirements of these programs, and learn about career options, job growth and salary info for holistic healthcare graduates.

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Holistic medicine takes physical, mental and emotional health into consideration. However, there are many paths a student can take to enter a holistic career. Here we'll discuss the educational requirements and job outlook for three careers which could use a holistic approach: physicians, chiropractors, and massage therapists.

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Essential Information

Holistic healthcare is based on the philosophy that healthcare providers should treat the whole person and not just individual parts. Some professionals, such as chiropractors and massage therapists, use mainly holistic theories and remedies for providing patients with treatment. Other professionals, such as doctors, may incorporate holistic treatments with more traditional medicinal practices.

Educational requirements for massage therapists include vocational training. Chiropractors must complete undergraduate coursework prior to being accepted into postgraduate chiropractics professional degree programs. Doctors are required to complete bachelor's degree programs, finish medical school, and participate in residency training programs. Since all of these professionals are healthcare providers, all of them must be licensed or certified to work, and each state has different requirements.

Career Titles Massage Therapist Chiropractor Physician
Education Requirements High school diploma and 500+ hour massage therapy training program 90 units undergraduate coursework and Doctor of Chiropractic (D.C.) degree Bachelor's degree and Doctor of Medicine degree (M.D.)
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024) 22%* 17%* 14% (for all physicians and surgeons)*
Median Salary (2015) $38,040* $64,440* $187,200*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Career Options in Holistic Healthcare

Massage Therapist

Holistic practitioners in this field use different massage treatments to provide therapeutic pain relief to patients. There are several types of massage techniques, including sports massage, Swedish massage, shiatsu, reflexology, neuromuscular therapy, and deep tissue massage. Individuals pursuing careers in massage therapy will need to complete training programs.

According to the BLS, basic training programs teach students about anatomy and physiology, body mechanics, organs and tissues, diseases, massage techniques, and business practices. To learn specialty therapy styles, students may need to seek out additional training programs. Practically every state requires massage therapists to be licensed or registered. Information from the BLS shows that license applicants must prove eligibility requirements by passing recognized massage therapy training programs. Likewise, applicants must pass written exams to gain licensure.

Chiropractor

Chiropractics is the study of treating health problems related to the neuromusculoskeletal system. Chiropractors make adjustments to the back, neck, and spine by twisting and turning the body at various angles. Through these adjustments, along with other therapeutic methods, chiropractors can provide patients with significant pain relief and pain reduction.

To get into chiropractic schools, individuals must complete at least 90 units of undergraduate coursework, per the BLS. Once accepted into chiropractor schools, students learn about human anatomy, disease, the skeletal system, spinal assessments, patient diagnoses, and spinal adjustment techniques. According to the BLS, students attend classroom lectures and complete clinical training experiences as part of the D.C. program. All states require chiropractors to be licensed, and the licensure process usually includes showing proof of completing an approved D.C. program and passing one or more exams.

Physician

Not all physicians train to be holistic care providers. Initially, individuals start out by training to become doctors or surgeons. They do so by first completing bachelor's degree programs and then going on to complete medical school. During medical school, prospective physicians may pursue coursework or training programs in holistic health fields. After completing medical school, all physicians and surgeons must complete residency programs in their chosen fields of specialty, according to the BLS. Many physicians complete residency programs in their preferred fields, and then they participate in additional residency programs that provide training in holistic healthcare.

Information from the BLS indicates that all doctors and surgeons must obtain licensure in their state of employment, which usually requires showing proof of earning a M.D. from an accredited institution and then passing the appropriate exams. Additional licenses or certifications may be required for physicians who specialize in holistic healthcare fields.

Job Outlook and Salary Statistics

Overall, the BLS projects that employment for health diagnosing and treating practitioners will grow 17% over the 2014-2024 decade, driven by the medical needs of an expanding aging population. During that same decade, the BLS estimates that the demand for massage therapists will increase by 22%, and that the demand for chiropractors will grow by 17%. Available positions for all doctors and surgeons in general will grow by 14% during the 2014-2024 decade, per the BLS.

In May 2015, the BLS gathered data to determine salary statistics for various careers. According to the data, the median salary for massage therapists was $38,040, while the median salary for chiropractors was $64,440. Physicians and surgeons were reported to earn greater than or equal to $187,200 per year. Note that the statistics for physicians and surgeons reflects all of these professionals and does not indicate how much professionals practicing holistic healthcare earned comparatively.

There is no single path or single career in holistic health. Rather, several health-related careers can and do incorporate holistic concepts. Regardless of path, the medical field will continue to have high demand for people trained in a variety of holistic skills.

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