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Holistic Health Practitioner Careers

Holistic health practitioners consider all aspects of a patient, including spiritual, emotional, mental and physical characteristics, in their approach to healthcare. Holistic medicine centers on the idea that proper balance among these various elements is essential to maintaining good health, and a problem in one area affects the others.

Holistic health practitioners may be medical doctors, chiropractors, massage therapists, homeopathic doctors, naturopathic doctors, doctors of osteopathy and other professionals. They can be found in treatment facilities ranging from day spas to hospitals, and may use a combination of conventional methods, such as medications, and alternative methods, such as acupuncture, massage therapy, naturopathy and chiropractic care. They may also educate patients about lifestyle changes they can make to improve their overall health. This can include recommending exercise plans, spiritual guidance, relationship counseling, psychotherapy and more.

How to Become a Holistic Health Practitioner

The road to becoming a holistic health practitioner varies greatly depending on the specific career one decides to pursue. There are many different career possibilities that can fall under the umbrella of holistic healthcare, including massage therapist, chiropractor, and naturopathic physician. The following steps outline holistic health practitioner training that may help lead to opportunities in these professions:

Massage Therapist

  1. Earn a high school degree or the equivalent.
  2. Complete an accredited postsecondary program in massage therapy with a focus on holistic health.
  3. Research your state's regulations surrounding massage therapy professionals. Some states may require massage therapists to be licensed or certified, which can involve passing a state exam or a nationally-recognized exam such as the Massage and Bodywork Licensing Examination (MBLEx) or the National Certification Examination for Therapeutic Massage & Bodywork (NCETMB).
  4. Earn a license or certification to practice massage therapy, depending on the requirements in your state or local area.

For more information on massage therapists, see our massage therapist careers page.

Chiropractor

  1. Earn a bachelor's degree or complete at least 90 semester hours of undergraduate education to become eligible for admission to a Doctor of Chiropractic (D.C.) degree program.
  2. Complete an accredited D.C. degree program. Generally takes a minimum of four years of study, including two years of classroom study and two years of supervised clinical experience.
  3. If you wish to specialize in an advanced area such as chiropractic radiology or pediatrics, you can choose to complete an additional residency program.
  4. Pass an exam consisting of both a written test and a practical evaluation, administered by your state, by the National Board of Chiropractic Examiners, or both, depending on your state's requirements.
  5. After fulfilling licensure requirements for your state or area, earn a chiropractic license.
  6. Achieve position as a chiropractor in a private practice or other healthcare setting.
  7. Complete continuing education to maintain your license, according to your state's requirements.

Naturopathic Physician

  1. Earn a bachelor's degree in a related field.
  2. Complete an accredited naturopathic doctor (N.D.) degree program from a naturopathic medical school, which takes a minimum of four years. The program tends to include the same basic medical curriculum as an M.D. degree program, with additional study of holistic and nontoxic treatment methods.
  3. Pass board exams administered by the Naturopathic Physicians Licensing Examination Board (NPLEX) to earn a license as a naturopathic doctor, if you plan to work in a state that administers licenses for naturopathic doctors.
  4. Research scope of practice regulations in your state.
  5. Achieve employment as a naturopathic doctor.
  6. Complete continuing education to maintain your license, according to your state's requirements.

Note: These outlines of holistic health practitioner training are for informative purposes only and do not guarantee employment.

Post-Education Requirements: Certifications and/or State Licensing

Most holistic health practitioner careers involve some sort of licensing, depending on the state in which you plan to work in. Massage therapists may have to pass the Massage and Bodywork Licensing Examination (MBLEx), National Certification Examination for Therapeutic Massage & Bodywork (NCETMB), or state exams as part of the licensing process. Chiropractors must earn licenses by passing an exam administered by the National Board of Chiropractic Examiners or their state in order to begin working. Aspiring naturopathic physicians may need to pass the Naturopathic Physicians Licensing Exam (NPLEX) and gain licensure in order to practice in some states.

For each of these careers, licensing requirements vary by state, so those interested in holistic healthcare careers should research the regulations for their states and local jurisdictions to help chart their educational paths.

Holistic Health Practitioner Job Growth and Average Salary

Healthcare occupations as a whole are expected to see considerable growth on a national scale between 2010 and 2020 according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, as aging baby boomers begin to require greater medical care. In addition, mainstream acceptance of alternative and holistic health approaches may be growing, and more and more Americans could become open to the idea of turning to holistic health practitioners for their healthcare needs in the future. The BLS projects that chiropractor jobs will expand by 28 percent nationally between 2010 and 2020, while employment of massage therapists is expected to increase by 20 percent, both beating the national average (bls.gov/ooh, 2012).

The BLS reports that the national median annual wage for massage therapists was $35,970 as of May 2012, with the top 10 percent of earners receiving annual salaries of more than $70,140 and the bottom 10 percent earning less than $18,420. For chiropractors, the median annual wage in May 2012 was $66,160 nationally. The highest 10 percent of earners brought in annual salaries of more than $142,950, while the lowest 10 percent earned less than $31,030 (bls.gov/oes, 2013).

The BLS does not provide job growth projections or salary data specifically for naturopathic physicians. However, the BLS predicts a national job growth rate of 21 percent between 2010 and 2020 for health diagnosing and treating practitioners that it doesn't individually cover (bls.gov/emp, 2012). Collectively, these assorted practitioners earned a median national annual wage of $72,710 in May 2012, with the lowest 10 percent earning less than $40,020 and the highest 10 percent earning more than $140,720 (bls.gov/oes, 2013).

Note: Salary figures and employment opportunities can vary based on education, experience, location and other factors.

List of Related Careers

Those interested in holistic health practitioner jobs may also want to consider the following healthcare careers. These occupations have separate education and training paths, which can be explored further by clicking on the links below.

Physical Therapy Assistants: Work under a physical therapist to provide treatments that help restore movement in a patient's body.

Dieticians: Help promote healthy eating habits by developing meal plans and other programs for patients.

Links to Sources and Associations

For more information about holistic health practitioner careers and training, check out the following websites:

American Association of Naturopathic Physicians

American Cancer Society, Holistic Medicine

American Holistic Health Association

American Holistic Medical Association

Association of Accredited Naturopathic Medical Colleges

Bureau of Labor Statistics, Employment Projections, Employment by Occupation, 2012

Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Projections Overview, 2012

Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Chiropractors, 2012

Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Massage Therapists, 2012

Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Employment and Wages, Chiropractors, 2013

Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Employment and Wages, Massage Therapists, 2013

Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Employment and Wages, Health Diagnosing and Treating Practitioners (All Other), 2013

North American Board of Naturopathic Examiners

WebMD, Holistic Medicine