Holistic Medicine Schools: What You Need to Know

What programs are offered at a holistic medicine school? Find out here.

Holistic healing methods may be steeped in ancient tradition, but natural health degree programs have only become prevalent in the last few decades. If you want to align your career with your holistic approach to health and wellbeing, you’ve picked a great time to head back to school.

Holistic medicine no longer carries the stigma it once did. In a 2015 National Health Statistics Report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the use of yoga as a complementary health approach increased from 5.8 percent in 2002 to 10.1 percent in 2012. The use of acupuncture, naturopathy and chiropractic treatments also increased, according to the report.

And there’s good news for massage therapists. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts 22 percent job growth (much faster than average) through 2024.

The bottom line: As more people embrace natural healing, the opportunities may grow for holistic health practitioners.

Your search for the right holistic health school will be guided by the type of practitioner you hope to be. Do you dream of dispensing medicinal herbs? Is massage therapy your true calling? Some schools offer a long list of degree and certificates in a number of modalities while others focus specifically on one or two areas of study, such as massage therapy or acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM).

Holistic Health School Philosophies

Holistic health schools focus on teaching students how to promote wellness through natural methods. Students also learn how to treat illnesses naturally or in conjunction with Western medicine.

A community spirit, diversity and empowerment are often overarching themes on campus. The notion of the mind, body and spirit working together is at the core of any school’s curriculum. In some programs, students are also taught business skills so they can work in private practice.

Types of Holistic Medicine School Programs

Here are popular program types you’ll find at holistic health schools (not an exhaustive list):

Program Type Degrees Available
Acupuncture Master’s or Doctorate
Ayurvedic Sciences Master’s
Herbal Sciences Bachelor’s
Massage Certificate or Associate’s
Midwifery Master’s
Natural Health Sciences Bachelor’s
Naturopathy Doctorate
Nutrition Bachelor’s or Master’s
Yoga Certificate

Holistic Health Schools: How Do They Differ from Each Other?

Holistic health schools share a common bond of educating others in the practice of natural, non-toxic and sustainable treatments. However, each school offers their own unique approach to teaching based on their mission and aim. Below you’ll find a summary of different types of holistic medicine schools. Do any of them match your career goals?

Naturopathic Medicine Schools: Students enroll in an intensive, four-year doctoral program, which includes clinical training. Their studies encompass just about all treatment methods in the holistic health field, including nutrition and massage. Naturopathic schools may also offer other degree programs, such as acupuncture. A good ND program will prepare you to take the Naturopathic Physicians Licensing Exam (NPLEX).

Currently, there are only seven naturopathic programs in North America accredited by the Council on Naturopathic Medical Education. Competition can be fierce and students often relocate to earn their degree.

Massage Therapy Schools: Massage therapy schools are widespread, partly due to the career’s growing popularity in mainstream medicine.  You can find programs at larger campuses, but smaller schools that focus solely on a massage therapy curriculum are very common. Students may learn different types of techniques, such as sports massage or Reiki, as part of their coursework.

Massage therapy schools are much more ubiquitous than ND schools; you can likely find one in a city near you.

Acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine Schools:  Students can either roll their bachelor’s and master’s degrees into one program or earn a master’s separately.  Acupuncture schools also focus on nutrition, tai chi and qigong. You’ll learn how to incorporate TCM into the Western health care system.

Reputable acupuncture and TCM programs are located throughout the country.

Natural Medicine Schools:  Several renowned natural health schools, located in the Pacific Northwest and Southwest, give students a wide array of degree levels and programs to choose from. You’ll find everything from holistic nutrition to aromatherapy to midwifery. Certificates in hypnotherapy and even farming are also available.

Some natural health schools focus their attention on certificates, while others have a more robust degree selection. If you’re interested in adding new expertise to an existing degree, a certificate may do the job.

Holistic Health School Accreditation

A holistic health school should be accredited by an agency approved by the U.S. Department of Education. This ensures the program meets strict guidelines and prepares students to work in their field. Look for regional and/or professional education accreditation on a school’s website. For instance, the Council on Naturopathic Medical Education (CNME) gives their stamp of approval on Naturopathic Doctor programs. Other accrediting agencies to look for:

  • Commission on Massage Therapy Accreditation (COMTA)
  • Accrediting Council for Continuing Education and Training (ACCET)
  • Accreditation Council for Education in Nutrition and Dietetics (ACEND)
  • Accreditation Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (ACAOM)
  • International Association of Yoga Therapists (IAYT)

Holistic Medicine Schools Online

Just like allopathic medical schools, holistic health programs often require their students to work in a hands-on environment—especially if you’re enrolled in a massage therapy or acupuncture program. However, if you’ve delayed going back to school because you don’t think you have the time, an online program may be available for you.

Certificates for professional advancement or to enhance a practitioner’s knowledge are offered by some online programs. Examples of these include herbalism, wellness consulting, life coaching and holistic nutrition.

If you’re looking for an online degree, complementary alternative medicine, health and wellness and mind-body transformational psychology are a few you may come across.

What to Expect in a Holistic Health Online Program

One of the benefits of online programs is when you can actually begin. Even if it’s not traditional back-to-school season, many schools offer classes throughout the year. This means, you don’t have to delay your dreams.

Online holistic health classes utilize the same tools and methods as other online schools. You’ll interact with professors and fellow students using email and discussion boards. Coursework may include videos, readings and online lectures. If the program is asynchronous, you’ll have the flexibility to complete your studies when it’s convenient for you (as long as you meet the due dates). It’s a perfect opportunity for students who are working or have family obligations.

Accredited online programs are designed to help you connect with others. Even if you aren’t meeting face-to-face, you’ll interact with students from different corners of the world. You never know what you might learn from each other.

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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