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Alternative Medicine Career: What You’ll Do

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Here’s a run-down of alternative medicine career opportunities.

Alternative medicine goes by many monikers—natural, complementary, holistic—and practitioners in this field promote healing and overall wellness using natural methods, like herbs and massage.

This alternative to Western medicine is rooted in ancient tradition and has gained popularity in recent years as patients look for treatments that are less expensive and non-invasive.

The alternative medicine philosophy isn’t just about being disease free, it’s about creating a sense of wellness and healing for the body, mind and spirit.

Depending on your specialty, you might find yourself seeing patients as a Naturopathic Doctor (ND) or you might provide acupuncture or massage services. Just like the traditional medicine field, there are all types of roles to choose from and plenty of schools to educate you in the practice.

If you’re inclined to care for others, interested in learning and believe strongly in natural methods of medicine, a career in alternative medicine could be for you.

What does an alternative medicine practitioner do?

Prevention and non-invasive treatments are the name of the game for those working in alternative medicine. Because there is a wide range of healing approaches, you’ll have the chance to choose an area that especially interests you. For example, hypnotherapy and homeopathy, Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and Ayurveda all fall under the alternative medicine umbrella.

What you’ll do as an alternative medicine practitioner will rely heavily on the area of natural health you’re interested in.

For example, a naturopathic doctor will:

  • Examine and diagnose patients
  • Prescribe and/or administer herbs, vitamins and dietary supplements
  • Provide guidance and education to patients about managing their health
  • Keep records of patients’ medical histories
  • Treat patients using Oriental medicine and homeopathy

You’ll often find different tasks will overlap in alternative medicine careers. For example, both a naturopathic doctor and an acupuncturist may use Oriental medicine as a form of treatment.

How Much Can Alternative Healthcare Practitioners Earn?

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Acupuncturists and Healthcare Diagnosing or Treating Practitioners, All Other

Avg Annual Salary


Projected job growth: N/A

Average salary information is calculated by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and is based on the 2019 payroll records of business establishments. Actual salaries vary greatly depending on your location, level of education, years of experience, work environment, and many other factors. Please note that salaries may differ even more for those who are self-employed or work part time.

What education or certification will I need to become an alternative medicine practitioner?

Education and certification requirements are not one-size-fits-all in alternative medicine. The necessary education levels and licensures differ by area of expertise. In other words, a naturopathic doctor will require more training than a hypnotherapist.

In terms of degree level, some disciplines will require nothing more than a high school diploma while others will demand more advanced education. You can find bachelor’s, master’s and doctorate programs at dozens of colleges where you can concentrate on general alternative medicine or focus on different specialties. Diplomas and certificates are also common in for Reiki and herbal medicine.

Because the disciplines within alternative medicine can differ greatly, the organizations who certify practitioners vary. Not all states require licensing for certain careers, so always check with your state board and find out what education level and certification is required to practice in your chosen profession.

Learn more about alternative medicine curriculum on what you’ll study.

What career paths can I take as an alternative medicine practitioner?

One of the best parts of alternative medicine is the many paths one can take to treat patients. While many alternative medicine practitioners run private practices, you may also find a career in hospitals, clinics, wellness centers and even in the corporate world.

Some practitioners will combine several types of treatment, such as acupuncture and hypnotherapy, and offer patients different services in a single office visit.

Learn about pay and salary projections for alternative medicine careers.

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