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Holistic Medicine Major

Are you considering a degree in holistic medicine? The demand for holistic medicine is forecast to increase dramatically in the upcoming years, so this degree could become especially useful as time goes on. 

There are many different fields of holistic medicine, so it’s a good idea to investigate all of them before making your choice. In this guide, we will go over the major branches of holistic medicine and discuss some potential careers you could pursue with each of them.

Types of holistic medicine degrees

Massage Therapy

Massage therapy is the practice of using massages to cure patients’ ailments. Ailments may range from sports injuries, problems resulting from aging, issues with the back, or more. Massage therapy is one of the fastest-growing subfields of holistic medicine. In fact, the Bureau of Labor Statistics forecasts a 32% job growth in the field between 2020-2030. This rate is significantly faster than most career fields. 

Part of the reason for this is that massage therapy is rapidly becoming integrated into mainstream Western medicine. There are many different branches of massage therapy, including Reiki, sports massage, aromatherapeutic massage, and more. The field shares some parts in common with physical therapy and sports therapy. Increasingly, physical therapists are learning some degree of massage therapy to complement their practice.

Learn more: Top physical therapy scholarships


We’ve all seen the food pyramid and many of us have taken further initiative to learn about how nutrition affects our health. If these are fields of interest to you, the study of nutrition might be a good fit. Nutritionists help patients develop diets that meet their specific needs.

When most people think of diets, they think of weight loss. This is not necessarily the primary responsibility of a student studying nutrition. The study of nutrition involves learning about how foods can affect individual people differently, and how nutrients that may not be listed on food labels could play a part in making someone healthier or less healthy.

Naturopathic Medicine

Naturopathic medicine is a sort of catch-all field of study within holistic medicine. Students of the field will enroll in a doctoral program to get their ND, or Naturopathic Doctor. In order to practice after graduation, you’ll have to pass the Naturopathic Physicians Licensing Exam (NPLEX). 

This is often seen as one of the most intensive fields of study within holistic medicine. You’ll have to acquire a nuanced and complex understanding of how the body works and how each system interacts with one another. In this way, it could be similar to going to school to be a general practitioner. 

Although you won’t be able to achieve the same level of nuance in each category as a specialist, you should be familiar enough with each possible ailment and treatment in order to consult with patients about them, provide some treatments, and refer them to specialists when necessary.

Acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM)

Acupuncture is famous for the practice of providing therapy by sticking needles into a patient’s skin. But in reality, it’s more complex than that. Nutrition, tai chi, and qigong are also crucial to acupuncture and TCM. TCM is more of a catch-all term that encompasses acupuncture, herbal remedies, massage, and more.

You’ve probably noticed that this field encompasses several aspects of the other fields mentioned above. What sets it apart, however, is that it takes a traditional Chinese approach to crafts such as massage and nutrition. 

It’s also worth noting that interest in TCM has been surging in recent years. Between 2016 and 2017, the demand for TCM herbal supplements increased by about 54%.This is a great indicator that people are picking up on TCM and, if this interest continues, it could be a lucrative field of employment.

What are holistic medicine programs like?

Most of the time, holistic medicine programs are much like other college programs. You’ll end up earning your Bachelor of Sciences or of Arts, and then pursue a master’s, or a doctorate degree. The length of your studies after undergrad varies based on the intensity of the career you pursue. For example, going to school strictly for massage therapy is far less intensive than going to earn your ND.

Most of these fields also require a significant amount of supervised clinical hours during or after your schooling in order to obtain certification. This number will vary based on the field you study. Any field that poses more risk of endangering a patient will have a more intensive certification process.

Where do I get certified?

Certification requirements vary by field of interest and by state. One of the most prevalent certifying organizations is the Homeopathic Academy of Naturopathic Physicians. They certify doctors for a wide variety of subfields within holistic medicine. Another is the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians. They provide NDs to applicants who pass their exam and requirements.

Other subfields of holistic medicine

Although we’ve gone into detail about the most popular subfields of holistic medicine, there are still more out there. Here is a short list of other branches of holistic medicine to consider:

  • Hypnotherapy – Hypnotherapists place patients into a trance-like state in which they may have access to memories that are not available in their normal state. They may also achieve higher levels of focus. This can be used for a variety of purposes.
  • Midwifery – Midwives take a more holistic approach to childbirth than we take in traditional Western medicine. Not only are midwives there for you to help deliver the baby at the hospital, but they become close with the family, develop a birthing plan, help come up with a healthy diet during pregnancy, and more.
  • Life coaching – Life coaching is one of fields here that strays farthest from being traditionally medical. Life coaches help counsel patients to make progress in their lives, be it personal, professional, or with relationships. In some ways, it is similar to therapy. Check out our list of mental health scholarships for a related field.
  • Energy healing – Energy healers focus on a wide range of factors that Western medicine does not consider. Many of these factors have roots in religion in spirituality. They include chakras, auras, meridians, and the art of meditation. They focus on the connection between mind and body to help provide holistic healing for patients.
  • Ayurvedic sciences – Ayurveda is a branch of medicine originating from India. Those who practice it use meditation, yoga, herbal remedies, and other techniques to help with ailments.

Next steps

Now that you’ve got an idea of what holistic medicine can entail, it’s a good idea to start looking at programs. Bastyr University, Everglades University, and Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine and Health Sciences are three well-known schools with holistic medicine programs. These may include undergraduate and graduate degrees.

Holistic medicine is an exciting field to get into as it continues to grow and find integration with Western medicine. However, it’s a good idea to take a long look at the trends for demand in the field you pick. Sometimes, unconventional approaches to health can become a trend in the United States, but the demand could die out, leading you with a degree worth significantly less than you predicted. It’s a good idea to get an idea of the bigger picture of the demand before you shell out your money and time for a degree. Good luck!

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