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Holistic Health Degree Program Overviews by Level

Associate degree programs in holistic health give students a foundational knowledge of some forms of alternative medicine. Graduate certificate and master's degree programs offer more advanced, specialized, knowledge.

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Essential Information

The field of holistic health is broad, including fields as diverse as acupuncture, massage, aromatherapy and herbal medicine. Studies at the associate degree, graduate certificate and master's degree levels are available to students. A license may be required to practice in some fields, and students should check into their state's requirements since regulations differ from state to state.


Associate Degree in Holistic Health

Students interested in holistic health may earn an associate degree in massage therapy and holistic health or complementary alternative medicine. Such degrees qualify graduates to enter the workforce as holistic health practitioners or massage therapists. Associate degrees may be obtained in two years or less, and programs are available online. Students gain a basic understanding of their chosen specialty and become familiar with alternative healing techniques.

Coursework may cover a range of subject areas including general education. Students may study fields such as:

  • Anatomy and physiology
  • Reflexology
  • Massage
  • Aromatherapy
  • Homeopathy
  • Herbal medicine

Graduate Certificates in Holistic Health

Graduate certificate programs provide in-depth education and training in complementary alternative medicine and holistic health practices. Students who have already completed bachelor's degree programs in related fields, such as nursing, occupational therapy or counseling, might pursue holistic health training to add to the current treatments that they offer. Certificate programs may be completed in 2-4 semesters, and online options are available.

A bachelor's degree is generally required to obtain a graduate certificate, although some schools might accept advanced undergraduate students or those with a certain number of matriculated credit hours. It might also be possible for individuals to take stand-alone courses without applying to a certificate program. Some schools may require that students take related courses such as physiology, math or anatomy prior to enrollment.

Graduate certificates might cover various specialties, and internships may be offered to give students hands-on experience. Courses may include subjects, such as:

  • Chinese herbal medicine
  • Eastern and Western holistic health practices
  • Biofeedback
  • Meditation
  • Visualization

Master's Degree in Holistic Health

Students can earn a master's degree in complementary and alternative medicine, Oriental medicine, acupuncture or holistic medicine. Such degree programs prepare graduates for careers as educators, researchers, patient advocates, consultants and healthcare providers. Prerequisite coursework may be required in biology, physics, chemistry and math. Programs may take 1-2 years to complete and are offered both on-campus and online.

Courses at the master's degree level can be diverse and science-intensive, and might include:

  • Integrative medicine
  • Biophysics
  • Nutrition and health
  • Organic chemistry
  • Botany
  • Toxicology

Employment Outlook

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment for health diagnosing and treating professionals was projected to increase by 17% between 2014 and 2024, faster than the average for all occupations (www.bls.gov). Although the BLS did not keep statistics specifically on holistic health practitioners and salaries vary by specialty, the average annual salary for chiropractors as of May 2015 was $78,370, registered nurses earned an average of $71,000 and dietitians and nutritionists earned an average of $58,410.

Popular Careers for Graduate Certificate Holders

Graduate certificate holders may utilize their holistic training to enhance their skills within numerous career paths, such as:

  • Nursing
  • Social work
  • Psychotherapy
  • Aromatherapy
  • Holistic nutrition

Popular Careers for Master's Degree Holders

Master's degree holders may pursue careers in acupuncture or pharmacy. Others may choose from a wide range of jobs, including:

  • Wellness counselors
  • Managers of holistic health facilities
  • Wholesalers or retailers of holistic products
  • Teachers

Continuing Education

Students may pursue a Doctor of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine or a Doctor of Naturopathic Medicine degree. Although licensure is required for other medical doctors, licensure and certification for acupuncturists and naturopathic doctors is not mandatory in all states.

Aspiring holistic health practitioners can gain general knowledge of a field in an associate degree program, while those who already have a degree can pursue a graduate certificate or master's degree. Careers in nursing or teaching, among others, are often common choices for graduates, and doctorate programs are available for those who wish to further their education.

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