Holistic Health Practitioner: Job Duties, Career Outlook, and Education Requirements

Find out about the types of jobs you could pursue as a holistic health practitioner. Read on to learn more about career options along with the education and licensure requirements as well as salary information. Schools offering Complementary & Alternative Health degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What is a Holistic Health Practitioner

Holistic health practitioners view healthcare and disease as a part of nature which needs proper balance. Many holistic health practitioners specialize in specific areas like acupuncture, massage, and nutritional counseling. The holistic approach involves treating the entire body and not just the parts that may need treatment. Through holistic practices, holistic practitioners work to ensure health through natural, alternative and preventative measures.

Holistic health practitioners work in a variety of specialties, such as holistic health nurse, naturopathic doctor or acupuncturist. The following chart provides an overview of what you need to know about entering this field.

Holistic Health NurseNaturopathic DoctorAcupuncturist
Degree Required Bachelor or Master's degree Doctorate degree Master's degree
Licensure and Certification NCLEX-RN and state license Naturopathic Physicians Licensing Examination and state license National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine certification and state license
Education Field of Study Nursing, nutrition, herbology Medicine, nutrition, physiology Auricular therapy, meridians and points, biochemistry
Key Responsibilities Holistic patient care and consultation Patient care and consultation on natural remedies Addressing patient's disease and pain with needles
Job Growth (2014-24) 16%* (for all registered nurses) 17%* (for other health diagnosing and treating practitioners) 17%* (for other health diagnosing and treating practitioners)
Median Salary $67,490* (2015 for all registered nurses) $74,032 (2016)** $50,420 (2016)**

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **Payscale.com

What is a Holistic Health Practitioner?

As a holistic health practitioner, you will learn how to address a combination of mind, body and spirit to treat the whole person. Holistic healthcare commonly refers to complementary and alternative (CAM) treatment methods, but is also involved in traditionally allopathic occupations like nursing, nutrition and mental health. CAM treatments can include:

  • Acupuncture
  • Homeopathic treatment
  • Massage
  • Chiropractic manipulation
  • Naturopathy
  • Diet-based therapy

A 2016 study by the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine concluded that about 30% of adults in the U.S. were seeking some form of CAM healthcare (www.nccam.nih.gov).

How Do I Become a Holistic Health Nurse?

You may take one of two routes to become a registered nurse (RN) who practices holistic healthcare. The first is to complete an undergraduate program in nursing and earn a specialty certificate in holistic nursing practices. The second is to enter a nursing program that focuses on holistic practices, which can be found at some schools. In a holistic nursing program you might study holistic care theories, Asian bodywork and herbology.

After completing a nursing program, you must pass the NCLEX-RN exam and obtain a license in the state where you plan to practice. If you have at least a bachelor's degree and professional experience, you can become a board-certified holistic RN through the American Holistic Nurses' Certification Corporation. If you opt to complete a graduate program in nursing with a holistic specialty and are a licensed nurse practitioner, you can earn board certification in holistic care as well.

Since nurses are trained in CAM healing and conventional healthcare, they often serve as a link between the two. You may treat patients based on the modalities in which you've been trained, like acupuncture, herbology and massage. You could work in hospice care, hospitals and private practice. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), job growth for nurses was expected to grow by 16 percent between 2014 and 2024 (www.bls.gov). The median annual salary for all registered nurses was $67,490 as of May 2015, according to the BLS.

How Can I Become a Naturopathic Doctor?

While naturopathic doctors receive similar training to medical doctors and are able to prescribe medication, they generally teach patients to use exercise, diet, natural therapies and exercise to treat disease. To become a Doctor of Naturopathy (N.D.), you might enter a 4- or 5-year, graduate-level naturopathic medical program and take coursework in biochemistry, neurology, homeopathy, nutrition and botanical medicine.

After you complete an accredited program, you should become a board certified N.D. by passing the Naturopathic Physicians Licensing Examination (NPLEX). Not all states require board certification, but becoming certified indicates you've completed a strict set of educational guidelines to become an N.D. Certification is also preferred by employers and patients. You might be required to obtain state licensure in the state where you intend to practice.

As an N.D., you create a healthcare plans for patients and work in tandem with other healthcare workers, like chiropractors, allopathic doctors and acupuncturists, to support patient health. Naturopaths often work in private practice or integrative healthcare centers. The BLS stated that other health practitioner jobs, the category in which naturopathic care was classified, were likely to increase by 17 percent between 2014 and 2024. Payscale.com reports the median annual salary for naturopathic doctors was $74,032, as of October 2016.

How Do I Become an Acupuncturist?

Acupuncture is an ancient form of medicine that treats diseases and ailments by using finely pointed needles inserted into the skin. Master's degrees in acupuncture are most widely found, but post-graduate certificates and doctoral degrees are available. Your studies could include biochemistry, meridians and points, auricular therapy and Oriental medicine theory.

After you complete an accredited program, you can become a certified acupuncturist by passing an exam offered by the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (NCCAOM). Though certification is not required by all states in the U.S., becoming certified shows that you have met the NCCAOM standards. You may also need to acquire a state license, depending on the state in which you plan to practice. If you earn a degree from an accredited medical school and receive training in acupuncture, you can also become a board certified medical acupuncturist through the American Academy of Medical Acupuncture.

Many acupuncturists are self-employed, but you might also work alongside other medical professionals or at hospitals. The outlook, according to BLS, was average for health diagnosing and treating practitioners, where acupuncturists are classified, and could see job growth of 17 percent between 2014 and 2024. Payscale.com reports the median annual salary for licensed acupuncturists was $50,420 as of October 2016.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Alternative careers could include a number of areas within the field of healthcare, such as physical trainers who work with athletes to maintain healthy bones and muscles. Nutritionists and dietitians, who receive bachelor degrees, can incorporate some elements of holistic medicine as they focus on patients' nutrition as a component of whole body health.

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:

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