Alternative Medicine Degrees by Degree Program Level

Apr 24, 2020

Essential Information

Alternative medicine degree programs come in the bachelor's (4 years), master's (1 to 2 years), and doctoral (1 to 2 years) levels. Bachelor's degrees require a high school diploma or equivalent and SAT or ACT scores. Master's and doctoral degrees require a bachelor's degree and some prerequisite courses. Doctoral programs may also require a satisfactory GPA, prior experience and recommendation letters.

Alternative medicine studies touch on general topics in anatomy, biology and nutrition while allowing for specialization in naturopathic medicine and other areas of alternative medicine. At the graduate level, students are typically required to participate in internships and clinical experiences. Doctoral majors available for alternative medicine include naturopathic medicine. Doctoral candidates could be required to have some field experience before applying. Some courses are available online.

Bachelor of Science in Alternative Medicine

A bachelor's degree program in alternative medicine prepares graduates to work in holistic professions, such as herbal medicine, acupuncture and massage therapy. Accredited undergraduate programs awarding alternative medicine degrees typically require students to complete 123 credit hours.

A bachelor's degree program in alternative medicine provides a solid educational foundation in alternative medicine methods and practices. Alternative medicine degrees at this level cover topics, including energy healing, herbs and crystal therapy. The following are some of the courses found in this type of degree program.

  • Massage therapy
  • Nutrition
  • Anatomy
  • Naturopathy
  • Biology

Master of Science in Alternative Medicine

Alternative medicine degrees at the master's level provide students with an opportunity to specialize in an area of alternative medicine, such as aromatherapy or spiritual psychology. Additionally, an alternative medicine master's degree may be useful for individuals planning to continue on to medical school.

Depending on the school, alternative medicine programs leading to a master's degree take from one to two years to complete and may require a thesis or a research project, along with an internship. The following are some courses that are taken as part of an alternative medicine master's degree program:

  • Molecular physiology
  • Integrative medicine
  • Herbal medicine
  • Nutrition and health
  • Bioethics

Doctorate of Naturopathic Medicine

A Doctorate of Naturopathic Medicine prepares students for careers as primary care physicians or jobs in other professions, such as acupuncture or education. Naturopathic physicians use holistic medicine to treat the whole patient. Students pursuing this type of degree learn about topics such as botanical medicine, psychology and anatomy through coursework, labs and clinical experience.

Prerequisites for a doctorate in naturopathic medicine vary, but typically require a bachelor's degree from an accredited school. Some programs may require experience in the field, letters of recommendation, a minimum GPA and the completion of courses in science and math.

Coursework in a doctoral degree in alternative medicine prepares candidates for research and leadership positions in areas of holistic practice such as nutrition and disease prevention. The following are some of the typical courses found in a doctoral degree in alternative medicine.

  • Biochemical connections
  • Naturopathic ethics
  • Homeopathic medicine
  • Biomedicine
  • Neuroanatomy

Popular Career Options

A master's degree in alternative medicine can lead students to a number of different careers in specialty areas, such as Chinese medicine. The following are some job opportunities that graduates may find.

  • Massage therapist
  • Herbalist
  • Educator
  • Lifestyle counselor
  • Acupuncturist

Employment Outlook and Salary Info

While the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) doesn't list an employment outlook for alternative medicine practitioners, the median annual wages for health diagnosing and treatment practitioners, all other, which includes acupuncturists, naturopathic physicians and hypnotherapists, was $75,640 in May 2019. Additionally, the BLS projected that massage therapists would see a much faster than average growth rate of 22% from 2018-2028 and median wages of $42,820 in May 2019.

Continuing Education Information

Those with a bachelor's degree in alternative medicine can continue on to a master's degree program to gain advanced knowledge in the field. Some may also take additional coursework in a specialized area, such as spirituality or herbal medicine.

Graduates typically need to obtain a license from the state before they can practice in the field. Licensure requirements vary by state. However, some schools offer this as part of their program.

Graduates who want to be primary care givers will need a state license, which typically requires a 4-year degree from an accredited school that has a curriculum based in both traditional and naturopathic medicine. These prospective doctors must also pass the Naturopathic Physicians Licensing Exam (NPLEX).

Students interested in alternative medicine can pursue degrees at the bachelor's master's, and doctoral levels, often depending on the specific area of the field they wish to enter. Possible careers in this field include acupuncturists, naturopathic physicians and hypnotherapists as well as massage therapists, who are expected to see very healthy job growth in the next ten years.

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