Integrative medicine is a combination of conventional and natural medicine. There are a variety of careers available to those interested in working in integrative medicine--from massage therapists to fitness instructors. Each of these positions has their own requirements and responsibilities.
Despite the wide practice of integrative medicine throughout the country, accredited institutions in this area of medicine are limited. Integrative medical practitioners will already have had training and licensure as medical professionals, so moving to this discipline requires learning alternative skills and functions of healing patients. Acquired education in integrative medicine could range from a massage therapy certificate or an associate's degree to a Doctor of Chiropractic degree.
|Career Titles||Massage Therapists||Fitness Trainers & Aerobics Instructors||Chiropractors|
|Education Requirements||Completion of a postsecondary program in massage therapy and a license or certification||Variable; a high school diploma OR an associate's or bachelor's degree in exercise science, physical education or kinesiology and, preferably, a certification||A minimum of three years of undergraduate education, a Doctor of Chiropractic degree and a state license|
|Projected Job Growth (2014 - 2024)*||22%||8%||17%|
|Median Annual Salary (May, 2015)*||$38,040||$36,160||$64,440|
Source: *United States Bureau of Labor Statistics
Some professionals that fall into the integrative medicine category include massage therapists, chiropractors, acupuncturists, personal trainers, aromatherapists and doulas, who provide care to expectant mothers. Other fields of integrative medicine include nutrition, herbal medicine, homeopathy, yoga, nutritional counseling and colonic therapy.
Massage therapists use their hands, forearms, elbows and feet to knead the body's soft tissues in order to alleviate pain, heal injuries, increase circulation or ease stress. These professionals may specialize in a number of different areas, including deep tissue or sports massage. According to the BLS, massage therapists earned median annual salaries of $38,040 in May of 2015. The expected rate of employment growth for massage therapists was 22% during the 2014-2024 decade.
Fitness Trainers & Instructors
Fitness trainers and instructors lead clients through workout classes. They create exercise routines that are designed to increase health and fitness levels. As reported by the BLS, a median salary of $36,160 was earned by fitness trainers in May of 2015. Employment was expected to expand by 8% between 2014 and 2024.
Chiropractors use a variety of treatments and manual techniques to treat neck and back aches and pains. They may apply heat or cold to treat problems of the neuromusculoskeletal system. The BLS predicted a median salary of $64,440 for chiropractors in May of 2015. Employment of chiropractors was expected to increase by 17% from 2014 through 2024.
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Integrative Medicine Job Duties
Job duties can vary widely within integrative medicine due to the myriad positions available. These can include introducing mind-body therapy techniques to patients, implementing specific exercise and nutrition plans, providing spiritual support and administering massage therapy. The central responsibility of an integrative medical professional is to effectively choose or prescribe alternative treatments that can coincide with traditional medicine and give patients the feeling of being 'wholly' treated.
Beyond formal, traditional medical training and certification, those looking to practice integrative medicine will need some form of additional training in a specific discipline. This can range from long-term (1-3 years) programs or fellowships that require varying levels of previous medical education to online and in-person courses that can take as little as a few hours. While these shorter classes can be open to the public, most of the programs that are designed to produce truly viable professionals are only open to people with extensive prior medical education or master's degrees in areas like counseling or social work.
While salary data is not collected for most integrative medicine careers, the BLS does report on salaries and employment outlook for specialists such as chiropractors, fitness trainers and massage therapists. Salaries for professionals in integrative medicine differ greatly depending upon specialty, demand, availability and where one works. For example, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that the earnings for most massage therapists ranged from $9.07 all the way up to $35.99 per hour in May 2015, with a median hourly wage of $18.29 (www.bls.gov). This disparity is due to some working part-time and some full-time, differing tips and the difference between self-employed workers or full-time clinic or hospital employees.
Integrative medicine can be a rewarding career for those who appreciate both conventional and more holistic methods of healthcare. If you're one of these people then be sure to take a close look at each profession to decide which one is right for you.