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Masters in Alternative Medicine: Degree Program Overviews

Alternative medicine is a relatively new academic field that focuses on treating and preventing illness through means not generally applied by conventional medical professionals. Master's degree programs in alternative medicine may be pursued by aspiring alternative medicine professionals, along with conventional healthcare professionals who want to use alternative medicine to complement traditional healthcare training.

Essential Information

Master's degrees in alternative medicine may offer a number of specializations, including herbal therapy, acupuncture, yoga, and traditional Chinese medicine. Alternative medicine is often paired with complementary medicine at the graduate level and referred to as CAM (complementary and alternative medicine). These programs are typically offered through traditional universities and those that specialize in holistic healthcare training; they can be rigorous and require significant scientific and medical study, along with hands-on clinical training. Most programs culminate in a thesis.

  • Prerequisites: Bachelor's degree; Applicants with backgrounds in traditional medicine, religious study, biology, or nutrition preferred; SAT or ACT scores; Letter(s) of recommendation; Personal statement
  • Other Requirements: Thesis paper for graduation

Master's Degree in Alternative Medicine

Coursework in master's degree programs in alternative medicine will vary depending on degree specialization and whether or not the degree includes complementary medicine. Here are some classes that might appear in the curriculum:

  • Meditation
  • Body and mind topics
  • Nutrition
  • Physiology
  • Community holistic wellness
  • Acupuncture techniques

Employment Outlook and Salary Information

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) does not maintain statistics specifically for alternative medicine professionals, but predicted job growth of 20%, faster than average, for health diagnosing and treating practitioners in general from 2012-2022 (www.bls.gov). Those who graduate from complementary alternative medicine programs may pursue careers as academic scholars, health advocates, and lifestyle coaches. Many graduates will incorporate alternative techniques into their existing healthcare practices.

Continuing Education

The master's degree in alternative medicine may be the final academic pursuit for some, especially those who practice primarily in traditional medicine. However, the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) provides continuing education seminars in topics, such as aging, integrative medicine, health and spirituality, and dietary supplements.

For those whose careers focus exclusively in alternative or holistic medicine, a number of options are available. Graduate certificate programs in alternative medicine areas, such as acupuncture, herbal studies, and wellness coaching, are available for those who want to add to their areas of expertise. Alternative medicine practitioners may want to pursue the highest degree level in the field, the Doctor of Oriental Medicine.

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