Online Alternative Medicine Degree Programs

It's been said that consistently good health should be thought of as more of a process than a goal, and holistic and naturopathic practitioners can help their clients discover a path to the habits that encourage lifelong wellness. Alternative medicine degree programs around the country prepare their students to take active roles in promoting health through natural means.

The specific duties performed by graduates of alternative medicine programs depend heavily on the profession they enter, but there are some generalized goals that can be applied across several alternative approaches to health:

  • Interviewing clients about their health history and the symptoms of their current condition
  • Conducting physical or psychological examinations
  • Dispensing, prescribing or administering appropriate herbs, extracts and other natural medicines
  • Advising clients on dietary or physical fitness regimes that contribute to wellness
  • Consulting with other practitioners to encourage the best possible care
  • Referring clients to traditional health care professionals when necessary

Certain practitioners, such as chiropractors and massage therapists, are bound by state or national requirements to complete a certain amount of formal education before being allowed to practice legally. Clinics and other potential employers of alternative wellness professionals typically prefer to hire graduates of alternative medicine degree programs in a chosen specialty.

Coursework in alternative medicine degree programs

The schedule of courses alternative medicine majors take on the way to a specific degree tends to vary quite a bit, but many degrees include introductory courses in at least a few of the following disciplines:

  • Chemistry
  • Biology
  • Nutrition
  • Anatomy and physiology
  • Health psychology
  • Diagnostic procedure
  • Traditional Chinese medicine
  • Botany
  • Women's health

Alternative medicine degree programs take many forms, from bachelor's and master's degrees at traditional institutions to certificate programs at dedicated alternative medicine academies. Chiropractors, osteopaths and naturopathic physicians must typically earn postgraduate professional degrees before they can practice in the U.S.

Career outlook for professionals with alternative medicine degrees

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) does not maintain aggregate job outlook statistics across all alternative medicine careers, but robust job growth is expected between 2012 and 2022 in several occupational categories that may employ graduates of alternative medicine degree programs:

  • Health diagnosing and treating practitioners: 20 percent
  • Dietitians and nutritionists: 21 percent
  • Chiropractors: 15 percent
  • Massage therapists: 23 percent
  • Other healthcare support workers: 23 percent

According to the BLS, the range of median annual wages for professions in alternative medicine tends to vary based on educational attainment and regional demand. For example, massage therapists nationwide earned an average salary of $35,920 in 2013, while dietitians and nutritionists took home a median figure of $55,920. The median annual wage for chiropractors came in at $65,300 that year, and specialized healthcare practitioners and technical workers earned a median wage of $48,610 in 2013.

Alternative medicine majors may also find work in other fields depending on their auxiliary education and experience in the health care workforce. Practitioners who have earned a master's degree may be able to transition into careers as occupational therapists, whose 2013 median wages were $76,940, and those with the right combination of science education and work experience might find work as athletic trainers or exercise physiologists, who took home $46,020 in 2013.

Sources:
"Naturopathic Physicians," Occupational Information Network, 2013, http://www.onetonline.org/link/summary/29-1199.04
"On-Campus and Online Alternative Medicine Degree," Everglades University, http://www.evergladesuniversity.edu/alternative-medicine-degree.asp
"Master of Science in Complementary Alternative Medicine (CAM)," American College of Healthcare Sciences, 2014, https://www.achs.edu/academics/aromatherapy/programs/master-science-complementary-alternative-medicine
"Healthcare Practitioners and Technical Workers, All Other," Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2012 Occupational Employment and Wages, March 29, 2013, http://www.stats.bls.gov/oes/current/oes299099.htm
"Dietitians and Nutritionists," Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook, January 8, 2014, www.bls.gov/ooh/Healthcare/Dietitians-and-nutritionists.htm
"Chiropractors," Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook, January 8, 2014, www.bls.gov/ooh/Healthcare/Chiropractors.htm
"Massage Therapists," Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook, January 8, 2014, www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/massage-therapists.htm

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