Individuals interested in holistic medicine can study at the bachelor's, master's, and doctoral levels. Bachelor's degree students get an overview of many types of alternative medicine and can choose electives that will help them meet their career goals. Master's degree programs are mainly focused on research into the various fields, while doctoral programs prepare students for licensing as naturopathic physicians through classroom, lab, and clinical experiences. Online as well as on-campus programs are available.
Programs are often open to specialization in a particular form of holistic medicine, such as massage, acupuncture, or chiropractic medicine. Internships or research programs are usually available to help students gain hands-on experience in the field. Graduate programs will require students to have earned a bachelor's degree and provide satisfactory GRE scores along with letters of recommendation.
Bachelor of Science in Health Sciences and Alternative Medicine
The curriculum of a bachelor's program in holistic medicine involves a diverse education in many forms of alternative healing methods. Courses in physiology and immunology progress into alternative medicine topics that teach wellness and healing methods through nutrition, stress management and exercise. There are typically no educational prerequisites to this degree program, though students may satisfy some core requirements with general biology, psychology, and medical terminology courses. Some common course topics include:
- Nutrition and exercise
- Traditional and natural pharmacology
- Historical and cultural medical practices
- Biology and chemistry
- Meditation, hypnosis and lifestyle changes
Master's Degree Programs in Holistic Medicine
Students examine alternative medicine and healing methods in this non-clinical degree program. This area of study focuses on a whole-body approach to health and healing. Students learn about alternative healing methods, such as the science and safety of botanical medicine and holistic nutrition. Students entering a dual degree program to earn a Medical Doctor (M.D.) and master's degree are required to pass the Medical College Admissions Test. Some common course topics include:
- Mind-body medicine and conscious healing
- Nutritional and herbal supplements
Doctor of Naturopathic Medicine (ND)
Studies in a doctoral program combine traditional classroom instruction with clinical experiences that focus on health promotion and disease prevention through naturopathic methods. Students study biomedical and clinical science with a focus on alternative health and healing traditions, such as Asian, botanical and homeopathic medicine. Studies in physical medicine include restorative exercise and hydrotherapy.
Admittance requires references, a personal statement and a resume. Prospective students should also complete prerequisite coursework in anatomy, physiology, genetics, statistics, physics, and microbiology. Some common course topics include:
- Botanical medicine
- Chinese medicine
Popular Career Options
Career options for graduates of a bachelor's program in holistic medicine typically include non-medical positions in alternative medicine centers and clinics. Popular career choices for graduates include:
- Massage therapist
- Yoga instructor
Naturopathic physicians typically practice in a private or consolidated office with doctors of complementary specialties. In September 2019, PayScale.com reported the median salary of a naturopathic doctor was $72,009. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics did not publish data specifically on naturopathic physicians, but noted that health diagnosing and treating professions in general could expect job growth of 11%, much faster than the average for all occupations, from 2018-2028.
Continuing Education Information
Graduates of bachelor's programs can enroll in certificate programs for specialized training in holistic health. Students may also choose to enroll in a nursing program to become a certified holistic nurse.
Master's students can enroll in graduate certificate programs that provide specialized instruction in the areas of complementary alternative medicine, herbal medicine, applied natural products, and holistic health care.
Doctoral graduates are eligible to sit for the Naturopathic Physicians Licensing Exam which is offered through the North American Board of Naturopathic Examiners. Licensure for naturopathic doctors is required in a few states, and requirements vary by state. After completing the ND program, graduates go on to complete their naturopathic residency in participating healthcare facilities. Naturopathic doctors may join state or national organizations, such as the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians for educational, research, and clinical workshop opportunities.
Practitioners of holistic medicine can gain education through bachelor's, master's, and doctorate degree programs, teaching about many different forms of natural care to prepare them for work in the industry. There are several post-bachelor's and graduate certificate programs in specialized forms of care graduates can earn, and doctorate holders can become licensed (some states require licensure).