Alternative Medicine Certification and Degree Programs

Alternative medicine programs are available in a variety of areas of natural healing practices. Learn more about degree programs, career choices and certification options in alternative medicine. Schools offering Complementary & Alternative Health degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Kinds of Alternative Medicine Degree Programs Are There?

A few schools offer associate's programs in holistic health or bachelor's programs in alternative medicine. These programs can supplement your existing healthcare knowledge or prepare you for further study in the alternative medicine field.

If you have a bachelor's degree and some healthcare experience, you might consider pursuing a Master of Science (M.S.) in Health Science or an M.S. in Complementary and Alternative Medicine. These programs can prepare you for careers in public health, scientific research or healthcare administration. They can also expand your current skill set if you're a healthcare provider. If you have a bachelor's degree and want to work as a licensed holistic health practitioner, consider pursuing a doctoral degree in naturopathic medicine or a master's degree in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM).

Degree LevelsAssociate, bachelor's, master's and doctoral
Common CoursesPhysiology, reflexology, hydrotherapy, ethics in healthcare
Program FormatOn campus, some courses and programs available online
CertificationCredential offered through the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine
Median Salary (2019) $49,439 (for all acupuncturists)*
Job Outlook (2016-2026) 10% to 14% growth (for all health diagnosing and treating practioners, all other)**

Source: *Payscale, **ONet 

What Courses Might I Take?

Undergraduate programs in holistic health and alternative medicine may include classes on natural healing methods, reflexology and disease prevention, as well as foundational math and science courses. Master's programs in alternative medicine may combine science-based courses, such as physiology and biochemistry, with coursework in such diverse areas as Eastern medicine, mind-body connections, ethics in healthcare and research methods.

TCM programs include didactic courses and clinical internships in acupuncture and herbology. They generally take around 3-4 years to complete and prepare you for licensure as an acupuncturist and TCM practitioner.

Doctor of Naturopathic Medicine (ND) programs require a 4-year commitment to a rigorous curriculum in the natural and health sciences. You can study oriental medicine, homeopathy, nutrition, botanical medicine, hydrotherapy and naturopathic counseling. You will work directly with patients during clinical rotations just as you would in a traditional medical program.

What Online Programs Are Available?

Some alternative medicine undergraduate programs are available in both campus-based and online formats. However, it's important to note that distance-learning programs may require occasional in-person attendance. Graduate programs aren't usually offered online, particularly those that require extensive clinical work, like TCM master's programs.

A handful of ND programs are accredited by the Council on Naturopathic Medical Education (CNME), and none of those programs are available online. Only graduates of CNME-accredited programs can take the Naturopathic Physicians Licensing Examinations (NPLEX).

What About Certification and Licensing?

Currently, 16 states offer licensure to NDs. Becoming licensed involves attending an accredited naturopathic medicine program and passing the NPLEX. Aspiring acupuncturists also must obtain licensure by taking an exam; 40 states use the test administered by the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (NCCAOM).

Voluntary certification in acupuncture and oriental medicine is also available through the NCCAOM for graduates of TCM master's programs. A few other organizations offer alternative medicine certifications, but they aren't recognized by the National Commission for Certifying Agencies.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

  • 1. Degree Options:
The schools in the listing below are not free and may include sponsored content but are popular choices among our users. Tuition and costs will vary across programs and locations. Be sure to always request tuition information before starting a program.

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