How Can I Become a Holistic Doctor?

Explore the career requirements for becoming a holistic doctor. Get the facts about education requirements, certification options and relevant salary information for this field. Schools offering Complementary & Alternative Health degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Does a Holistic Doctor Do?

A holistic doctor diagnoses and treats patients by incorporating both conventional Western medicine and natural healing concepts into their practice. They may work as generalists or specialize in a specific area of the medical field, such as oncology or internal medicine. In many cases, they care for patients in conjunction with healthcare professionals who specialize in conventional medicine, such as nurses, as well as nontraditional care providers, like acupuncturists or chiropractors.

Read the following chart to learn more about this career.

Degree Required Doctorate of Medicine (MD) or Osteopathy (DO)
Education Field of Study Traditional or osteopathic medicine, holistic methods and practices, integrative medicine
Licensure Physician's license required
Certification National medical certification, American Board of Integrative Holistic Medicine (ABIHM) board certification
Training Required Conventional medical training, including residency with focus on integrative medicine
Job Outlook (2014-2024) 17% (for physicians, surgeons, all others)*, 14% (for health diagnosing and treating practitioners, all others)*
Average Salary (2015) $197,700 (for physicians, surgeons, all others)*, $85,120 (for health diagnosing and treating practitioners, all others)*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Is a Holistic Doctor?

Holistic medicine weaves traditional Western medicine with alternative natural healing modalities and a perspective on health that encompasses the whole patient. A holistic doctor, or holistic physician, lets the patient have autonomy over his or her own health and believes that the body is capable of healing itself under the right conditions. The conditions that cause disease are more significant to a holistic doctor than the symptoms alone. A Doctor of Medicine (M.D.) or a Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (D.O.) with some training in holistic medicine could become certified as a holistic doctor.

What Must I Study?

As an aspiring holistic doctor, you'll begin on the same career path as a conventional doctor. You might study premed during your first four years of college to prepare for medical school. Volunteering at a hospital or clinic can familiarize you with the healthcare field.

After earning your bachelor's degree, you will need to attend medical school for four years, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics ( You will be required to take the Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT) to be accepted. For the first two years of medical school, you will study the natural sciences, ethics, psychology and laws governing medicine. You will work in a hospital or clinic for the second two years, practicing under the guidance of a physician. Following medical school, you'll begin a residency.

You could obtain the experience in integrative medicine that you'll need for certification through an elective rotation or a specialized residency program. An integrative medicine elective rotation in the final year of graduate school or during your residency would give you a foundation of knowledge of integrative medicine and a focus within integrative medicine. A residency program with an emphasis on integrative medicine might incorporate stress management and coping strategies into a holistic wellness curriculum.

How Do I Become Certified?

To practice as a physician, you'll first have to become licensed. For M.D.s, this means passing the U.S. Medical Licensing Examination. If you're an osteopathic physician, you'll need to pass the Comprehensive Osteopathic Medical Licensing Examination.

The American Board of Integrative Holistic Medicine assigns standards for doctors who have knowledge of holistic medicine. If you choose to take the ABIHM's certifying exam, you would be listed on their website as an integrative holistic physician. By becoming board certified, you let patients and other medical professionals know that you have strong knowledge base in integrative holistic medicine.

What Salary Can I Expect?

There is no national data specifically available for holistic medical practitioners; however, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the average annual wage for 'physicians, surgeons and all other' in 2015 was $197,700. Also, in February of 2017 reported that family physicians with a degree in osteopathic earned a median salary of $142,500, but it is important to note that data was collected from less than 10 individuals.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

There are many jobs available for physicians with a wide range of specializations. If you are interested in holistic health, you could also consider a career as a psychiatrist. They treat patients with psychological disorders, so their work often integrates concepts of both physical and mental health. To become a psychiatrist, you would need to get a medical degree and complete a psychiatry residency. Alternatively, if you are interested in studying innovative medical treatment options, you might want to consider a career as a medical scientist. You could have the opportunity to pursue your research interests within the field of holistic health in a laboratory setting at a university, academic medical center or research institution. For a top job in the field, you need to have a Ph.D.

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:
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Popular Schools

  • Regent University

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    Popular programs at Regent University:

    • Doctoral

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  • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

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    • North Carolina: Chapel Hill
  • University of Bridgeport

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    • Connecticut: Bridgeport
  • Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine & Health Sciences

    Campus Locations:

    • Arizona: Tempe
  • South Baylo University

    Campus Locations:

    • California: Anaheim
  • Oregon College of Oriental Medicine

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    • Oregon: Portland
  • National University of Health Sciences

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    • Illinois: Lombard
  • National College of Natural Medicine

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    • Oregon: Portland
  • Washington University in St Louis

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    • Missouri: Saint Louis
  • Five Branches University

    Campus Locations:

    • California: Santa Cruz