What Licenses and Certifications Do I Need to Become a Holistic Health Practitioner?

Exploring licensing and certification requirements is an important step to take before you start your career.

massage patient lays near candlelight
massage patient lays near candlelight

While licenses are almost always required for traditional Western healthcare careers like nursing, they aren’t always required for holistic health-focused careers. That said, while many holistic health jobs still don’t have set licensure or certification requirements, others have strict state and national standards you’ll need to meet.

Keep in mind that there are many career paths to take as a holistic health practitioner and that each path has different requirements for education, licensure, and practice.

Requirements for Common Holistic Health Jobs

Licensing and certification requirements for holistic health jobs vary depending on the type of job, the state in which you practice, and other variables.

Acupuncturist

National or state licensing requirements:
Most states follow the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (NCCAOM) guidelines, which require you to complete a master’s degree in acupuncture from an accredited school. Your program must include 660 clinical practice hours.

Certifications required:
Most states require that you take the NCCAOM examination in acupuncture to earn the commission’s acupuncture certification.

Optional certifications:
Some acupuncturists are also certified in traditional Asian medicine or Chinese herbology, especially acupuncturists who study at a Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) college. Certifications in both areas are available from NCCAOM.

Ayurvedic Practitioner

National or state licensing requirements:
No formal state or national requirements

Certifications required:
None

Optional certifications:
You can earn certification from the National Ayurvedic Medical Association Certification Board. You’ll need to be a graduate of an association-approved school to take the certification exam.

Energy Healer

National or state licensing requirements:
No formal state or national requirements

Certifications required:
None

Optional certifications:
Multiple optional certifications are available. Your school or program can help you find a certification that matches your education and career goals.

Herbalist

National or state licensing requirements:
No formal state or national requirements

Certifications required:
None

Optional certifications:
Multiple optional certifications are available. Your school or program can help you find a certification that matches your education and career goals.

Life Coach

National or state licensing requirements:
No formal state or national requirements

Certifications required:
None

Optional certifications:
Multiple optional certifications are available. Your school or program can help you find a certification that matches your education and career goals.

Massage Therapist

National or state licensing requirements:
Massage therapy requirements vary by state. In most, you’ll need to complete a state-approved massage therapy training program. However, in some states, there are no formal requirements at all.

Certifications required:
Many states require that you pass either the Massage and Bodywork Licensing Examination (MBLEx) or the National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork (NCBTMB) exam to earn certification. Completing your education and passing your exam will allow you to work as a licensed massage therapist.

Optional certifications:
The Board Certification in Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork through the NCBTMB is considered the “gold standard” for massage therapists and can boost your career. It’s a good idea to pursue it even if your state doesn’t require it. Once you’re board-certified, you can look into some of the specialty certifications offered by NCBTMB. These certifications are focused on specific massage techniques.

Midwife

National or state licensing requirements:
The requirements to be a midwife depend not just on your state but on the type of midwife you want to be. Certified Nurse Midwives (CNMs) are registered nurses who have also completed a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree. Certified midwives (CMs) don’t need to be nurses, but they do need to have a master’s degree. You also have the option to work as a certified professional midwife (CPM) in 31 states. You can work as a CPM with a certificate from an approved school.

Certifications required:
Depends on your midwife career

  • CNMs and CMs: Certification from the American Midwifery Certification Board (AMCB)
  • CPMs: The Certified Professional Midwife credential from The North American Registry of Midwives

Optional certifications:
None

Naturopath

National or state licensing requirements:
Twenty-two states require naturopaths to be licensed and follow the guidelines of the North American Board of Naturopathic Examiners (NABNE). NABNE requires that you graduate from an accredited naturopathic medical school with a doctoral degree before certification.

Certifications required:
Board certification as a naturopathic doctor through NABNE.

Optional certifications:
None

Nutritionist

National or state licensing requirements:
Only 10 states require any licensure or certification for nutritionists, and they vary in each state.

Certifications required:
In most of the country, certification isn’t required. When it is, the most common requirement is the Certified Nutrition Specialist from the  Board for Certification of Nutrition Specialists (BCNS). You’ll need a master’s degree to take this exam and earn this certification.

Optional certifications:
A Board Certification in Holistic Nutrition (BCHN) is available if you want to focus on holistic nutrition. You’ll need to have completed a board-approved program to qualify for this exam and certification.

What Education Do I Need?

rippled ocean shore colored orange by sunset

Since holistic health-focused careers are so varied, the education you need depends on the field you want to pursue. You may spend as little as a few weeks pursuing a certificate or as long as several years earning a doctoral degree. One thing you will need to enter just about any holistic program is a high school diploma or GED. From there, your education will depend on the career and program that works best for you.

What Can I Earn as a Holistic Health Provider?

Just like the education you’ll need, the salary you could earn as a holistic health practitioner will depend on the career you choose. Beyond that, your education, certification, and experience can all also make a big difference in the money you earn.

Many holistic health careers such as acupuncture and massage therapy are perfect pathways for people interested in opening their own practice. With that, comes additional costs such as rent, supplies, and marketing. However, sole proprietorship also gives you the freedom to set your own hours and charge the rates you want.


Written and Reported by:
Stephanie Behring
Contributing Writer


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