In order to study holistic medicine at the graduate level, students can enroll in a Master of Science program in Complementary and Alternative Medicine at a university or a training program offered through a for-profit organization or association. These programs train students in the principles of alternative medicine, including natural mind-body interactions, natural herbs and supplements, massage therapy, aromatherapy, acupuncture, and more. Most programs offer hands-on laboratory or supervised clinical experiences.
In order to apply, students must hold a bachelor's degree in a field such as pre-medical studies, health sciences, biology, or chemistry. Some schools require students submit a statement of purpose detailing why they are interested in pursuing a career related to alternative medicine. Most programs take four years to complete.
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Holistic Medicine Master's Degree
Many courses undertaken in a master's degree program in alternative medicine provide basic insight into different modalities of holistic healing while also explaining the physiological effects that those modalities have on the body. Courses include:
- History of complementary medicine
- Physiology and integrative medicine
- Herbal medicine and natural nutrition
- Legal issues in holistic medicine
- Ethics of complementary medicine
- Field practicum and eastern medicines
Popular Career Options
Graduates may choose to practice alternative medicine or go on to earn a medical degree so that they can pursue careers that combine both traditional and holistic medicine. Possible job titles include:
- Holistic health practitioner
- Holistic nutritionist
- Massage therapist
Employment Outlook and Salary Information
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projected job growth of 17%, faster than the average for all occupations, for health diagnosing and treating practitioners in general from 2014-2024. Medical assistants can expect job growth of 23%, much faster than average, during the same decade. The BLS also projected 16% job growth for dietitians and nutritionists. As of May 2014, the median annual salary for dietitians and nutritionists was $57,910. Massage therapists could expect job growth of 22% from 2014 to 2024, and their median average salary was $38,040 as of May 2015.
There are several independent bodies that offer voluntary certification in the field of holistic medicine. The American Board of Integrative Holistic Medicine offers certification to individuals who meet certain academic criteria and pass an examination (www.holisticboard.org). The American Holistic Medicine Association also offers similar certification opportunities (www.holisticmedicine.org). Various boards related specifically to acupuncture and massage therapy offer their own certifications, most of which require the completion of an examination or individual training program.
In summary, if you want to work in the field of holistic medicine, an MS in Alternative and Complementary Medicine can provide relevant education and prepare you for a variety of careers in the field.