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Herbal Medicine Practitioner: Job Info & Career Requirements

Keep reading to see what herbal medicine practitioners do. Get information about what it takes to become one, and check the job prospects. Find out of this career field is the right one for you.

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Career Definition for Herbal Medicine Practitioners

Herbal medicine is an alternative to the traditional allopathic medical field. Herbal medicine practitioners use plants rather than pharmaceuticals to treat illnesses and conditions. Herbal medicine is one of the most popular alternative medicine fields in the U.S., according to the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM, www.nccam.nih.org). There are herbal medicine practitioners who use Chinese herbal medicine, ayurvedists who use Indian herbal medicine, and herbalists who use North American and European plants in their practices.

Education Bachelor's and Master's in a medical field
Job Skills Observation, communication, healing, business, marketing
Median Salary (2015)* $74,710 (health diagnosing and treating practitioners, all other)
Job Growth (2014-2024)* 12% (health diagnosing and treating practitioners, all other)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Required Education

In order to diagnose and treat illness legally in the U.S., herbal medicine practitioners must be licensed as acupuncturists or naturopathic doctors. Each of these career paths requires completion of a bachelor's degree and postgraduate education in the particular field of medicine. Many herbal medicine practitioners complete internships with experienced herbalists before starting their own practices. Some states offer alternative licensure and credentials for herbal medicine practitioners, but a national licensing system does not yet exist.

Skills Required

Successful herbal medicine practitioners are interested in healing and helping people. They have keen observation skills and are good communicators. Because most herbal medicine practitioners are self-employed, a successful practice requires business and marketing skills.

Career and Economic Outlook

The NCCAM reported in 2015 that nearly 30% of adults utilize alternative health care services in the U.S. The use of natural products, such as herbal medicine, is the most popular treatment type, indicating that the demand for herbal medicine practitioners is increasing.

Herbal medicine practitioners set their own rates, and incomes vary with experience and the variety of services they offer. According to O*Net Online (www.onetonline.org), acupuncturists and naturopathic physicians earned a median salary of $74,710 in 2015. O*Net Online also published the projected growth rate for job opportunities as an acupuncturist or naturopathic physician to be faster than average, increasing by 9-13% from 2014-2024.

Alternative Career Options

Similar career options within this field include:

Chiropractor

Chiropractors provide holistic neuromusculoskeletal care to patients through adjustment and manipulation of the spine and joints to provide pain relief. According to the BLS, a little more than one-third operated their own business in 2014. Chiropractors take 3-4 years of undergraduate college classes (often, up to a bachelor's degree) and then apply to accredited Doctor of Chiropractic (D.C.) programs, which usually take another four years to complete. Areas of specialization - some of which require post-D.C. study - include pediatrics, sports or nutrition. Chiropractors must also take the National Board of Chiropractic Examiners test and hold state licensing. The BLS reports that chiropractors can expect job growth of 17% from 2014-2024, and they earned median pay of $64,440 in 2015.

Nurse Midwife

Nurse midwives are registered nurses with a graduate degree who specialize in providing women with general gynecological and obstetric care, including labor and delivery. A registered nurse has completed a diploma or associate's or bachelor's degree and passed the National Council Licensure Examination, or NCLEX-RN; while it's possible to get an entry-level job with a diploma or associate's degree and a sufficient NCLEX-RN score, many employers want nurses with a bachelor's degree. State licensing is required, and specialized professional certifications are available for nurses who want to practice in specific areas of healthcare. Certified nurse specialists like nurse midwives must hold a graduate degree. The BLS reports that job growth for nurse midwives is predicted to be nearly 25% from 2014-2024, with a median salary of $92,510 in 2015.

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