By Jennifer Wegerer
Body, mind and spirit—alternative medicine professionals view all three aspects as vital to our health. When individuals achieve balance in the three, they can reach a higher level of wellness for life.
With a natural health degree, you could join a profession that guides individuals toward dramatic health improvement and health awareness. The industry offers an extensive list of fields, including chiropractic medicine, massage therapy, naturopathic medicine, nutrition and physical therapy.
If you aspire to a career where you exercise the skills and expertise to change people's lives for the better, a natural health degree may be right for you. Here are some reasons to consider this field:
1. You'll Help People Feel Good
Holistic health providers teach patients the habits and healthy practices to sustain optimal health and prevent illness. There are also many practitioners who educate communities about the symbiotic relationship between a person’s health and well-being—the idea that a lifelong commitment of health awareness and positive choices directly affects quality of life.
Offering long-term, individualized care, alternative medicine specialists not only treat chronic pain and other conditions, but also support patients in maintaining healthiness through natural methods. These methods might include homeopathic remedies, dietary programs, exercise routines or touch therapy.
2. You'll Join a Thriving Natural Health Industry
Individuals with natural health degrees can anticipate exceptional job prospects over the next several years. In their 2012 market research reports, statistics and analysis presentation, Reportlinker.com states that the global alternative medicine industry is expected to reach close to $115 billion by 2015. With more Americans pursuing alternative healing methods or an integrated medicine approach, holistic health providers will remain in high demand and in excellent positions to grow thriving practices.
3. You'll Get Workplace Flexibility
Combine the skills you gain through an alternative medicine degree with some business savvy, and you possess the tools to build your own private practice. In this arena, you can choose to work out of your home or in an office setting where you set the policies, make the hiring decisions and determine the schedule.
Alternatively, you can pursue the many job opportunities at clinics, wellness centers, physicians' offices and other health care facilities. Working in a clinical environment can help you gain the experience, confidence and clients to start your own practice later—if you desire.
4. You'll Never Stop Learning
Earning a natural health degree positions you for a long-term career filled with continuous learning opportunities. Some fields, including chiropractic medicine, massage therapy and nutrition, require a specific number of hours of continuing education each year to maintain licensure or professional registration.
In fields such as naturopathic medicine, where few states offer licensure, a national association ensures educational standards and qualifications among professionals. With the support of such associations, you can receive the ongoing training and credentials to remain a highly qualified practitioner in your field.
5. You'll Make a Good Living
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics' 2014-15 Occupational Outlook Handbook, the median national annual salary for massage therapists is $35,970, while physical therapists earn $79,860 and dietitians and nutritionists median annual salary is $55,240. Chiropractors earned a median annual salary of $66,160. Actual salaries may vary greatly based on specialization within the field, location, years of experience and a variety of other factors.
While self-employed holistic health providers cover the costs to operate their business and provide their own health insurance and retirement, they typically earn more than salaried workers in their field annually.
There is also an earning potential in the rewarding nature of the profession—as much as qualifications and experience, the character and compassion natural health professionals demonstrate can influence their personal earning potential.