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Alternative Healing Schools and Colleges in the U.S.

Alternative healing programs provide training in nontraditional treatment options such as acupuncture, aromatherapy and herbal medicines. While most alternative healing schools are private institutions, some public schools now offer alternative and holistic degree and certificate programs.

Formal educational programs that cover alternative healing methods are available at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. Some provide a broad overview of the field, while others focus on a specific treatment method.

Schools With Alternative Health Programs

Here are some of schools that offer education in alternative healing practices. The table also lists their locations, offered degrees and average tuition.

College/University Location Institution Type Degree Offered Tuition (2015-2016)*
Bastyr University Kenmore, WA 4-year; private not-for-profit Bachelor's, Master's & Doctoral $24,198 (undergraduate), $24,200 (graduate)
National University of Natural Medicine Portland, OR 4-year; private not-for-profit Bachelor's, Master's & Doctoral $19,799
National University of Health Sciences Lombard, IL 4-year; private not-for-profit Bachelor's, Master's & Doctoral $16,330 (undergraduate), $17,384 (graduate)
Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine & Health Sciences Tempe, AZ 4-year; private not-for-profit Master's & Doctoral $33,660(4 year program), $16,005 (5 year program)**
University of Bridgeport College of Naturopathic Medicine Bridgeport, CT 4-year; private Master's & Doctoral $14,220
East West College of Natural Medicine Sarasota, FL 4-year; private for-profit Diploma & Master's $5,200 (undergraduate), $10,404 (graduate)
Ashford University San Diego, CA 4-year; private for-profit Bachelor's $10,720
American College of Healthcare Sciences Portland, OR 4-year; private for-profit Diploma, Certificate, Associate's & Graduate Certificate $10,800 (undergraduate), $8,550 (graduate)

Source: *National Center for Education Statistics, **School Website 2016-2017 tuition

School Selection Criteria

When choosing an alternative healing school, prospective students should consider the following:

  • Students may want to find out if the program focuses specifically on alternative healing methods or if traditional medical practices are also covered.
  • It is important to determine whether the school offers a broad alternative program or if students can choose a major or concentration in a particular topic, such as massage therapy or aromatherapy.
  • Students may want to look for schools that are accredited by the Council on Naturopathic Medical Education (CNME) or the Association of Accredited Naturopathic Medicine Colleges (AANMC).
  • Students should make sure that the program provides relevant training for the career that they hope to pursue in the future.

Associate's Degree Programs

There are a few schools that offer associate's degrees that over alternative medicine. In these programs, students gain an introduction to holistic health through basic courses in anatomy and physiology and holistic health practices. They must also complete general education requirements prior to graduation. In total, these programs take two years to complete.

Bachelor's Degree Programs

Bachelor of Arts (BA) and Bachelor of Science (BS) in complementary or alternative medicine provide a more comprehensive overview of the field than associate's degree programs, building on basic holistic health concepts with more advanced elective options in topics such as ayurvedic medicine, acupuncture and the role of nutrition in disease. There are also a few bachelor's degree programs that allow students to focus their studies on a specific alternative healing practice, such as herbology.

Master's Degree Programs

At some schools, students can earn a master's degree in alternative medicine, which offers more advanced education in the field. Other schools offer master's degree programs in particular career fields under the alternative healing umbrella, such as herbal medicine or acupuncture. Another option is a more traditional Master of Science (MS) in physiology with a specialization in alternative medicine. Some programs are offered in online or hybrid formats in order to meet the needs of working professionals.

Doctoral Degree Programs

Aspiring naturopathic doctors must earn a Doctor of Naturopathy (ND) degree, which prepares students for the Naturopathic Licensing Examinations (NPLEX), which is required for licensure to practice. These programs take four years to complete, combining advanced scientific studies with clinical experiences. It is important to note that there are only six universities in the United States with accredited ND programs. Another doctoral level option is a Doctor of Acupuncture Medicine (DAcM) degree, which also requires four years to complete. Graduates are prepared to gain licensure and work in private practice, or they may find academic research and teaching positions.

Certificate / Diploma Programs

Certificate and diploma programs in alternative healing are available at both the undergraduate and graduate levels, and they vary widely depending on the school. General certificates in complementary medicine allow students to gain familiarity with the field without committing to a full degree program. There are also specialized certificates that focus on a single subfield of alternative healing, such as homeopathic medicine, midwifery or aromatherapy.

There are many degree and certificate options for students interested in alternative healing. Students must consider their academic interests and career aspirations when choosing between programs.

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