Herbal Therapist: Job Duties & Career Information

Mar 24, 2019

Herbal therapists are also known as phytotherapists or herbalists. Though a national licensure program specific to herbal therapists does not yet exist, frequently they are trained as acupuncturists, naturopathic doctors (N.D.s) or medical doctors (M.D.s) who have completed the required postgraduate training to be licensed in a field of medicine. Read on to learn more about this career.

Career Definition for an Herbal Therapist

Herbal therapists use plants and non-pharmaceutical plant derivatives to treat illnesses and other non-emergent conditions of their patients. Through this practice of phytotherapy, herbal therapists assess the conditions of their patients and use their knowledge of Chinese, ayurvedic, European and other herbal traditions for healing purposes and to prevent disease. Many herbal therapists collaborate with providers of traditional medicine to promote greater healing, according to the American Herbalists Guild, www.americanherbalistsguild.com.

Education Bachelor's and Master's in medicine or naturopathic medicine
Job Skills Intuitive, listening, people skills, marketing skills.
Mean Salary (2017)* $84,210 (for naturopathic physicians)
Job Growth (2016-2026)* 13% (for physicians and surgeons)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Required Education

Though anyone may practice herb therapy for themselves and as an unpaid hobby, for a career diagnosing and treating others, herbal therapists legally must have medicinal training as either acupuncturists, naturopathic Doctors (N.D.s) or medical doctors (M.D.s). Each of these career paths requires a bachelor's degree and an advanced post-graduate degree that requires between two and six years to obtain. Licensure is also required for all acupuncturists, for N.D.s in 13 states and M.D.s in all 50 states.

Skills Required

In addition to scientific knowledge, herbal therapists must be intuitive and have excellent people skills for the purposes of listening to their patients and assessing their conditions. Herbal therapists generally work in private practices, requiring organizational and marketing skills to run their businesses.

Career and Economic Outlook

Herbal therapy is consistently the most popular and most lucrative type of alternative medicine, according to the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (www.nccam.nih.org).

Pay for herbal therapists vary with degree of training and experience. Medical doctors are typically the highest paid with incomes generally higher than $100,000, according to the U.S. Department of Labor Statistics (BLS, www.bls.gov). Naturopathic physicians specifically earned an average salary of $84,210 in 2017.

Alternate Career Options

Similar career options within this field include:

Chiropractor

Requiring a Doctor of Chiropractic (D.C.) degree and state licensing, including approximately seven years of education, these licensed doctors use spinal manipulation techniques to treat neck or back pain, in addition to other health issues. A faster than average employment growth of 12% was projected for chiropractors by the BLS, from 2016-2026. In 2017, the BLS reported an average yearly wage of $83,350 for these doctors.

Massage Therapist

By completing a postsecondary program including about 500 hours of classroom and internship experiences, these therapists usually then need to be licensed or certified before using massage on patients' soft-tissue muscles to relieve pain and stress. A much faster than average increase in jobs of 26% was anticipated from 2016 through 2026 by the BLS. Massage therapists earned $44,950 per year, on average, the BLS said in 2017.

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