Family Herbalist Careers: Job Description & Salary Information

About this article
What are the pros and cons of a career as a family herbalist? Get real job descriptions and salary information to find out if becoming a family herbalist is right for you.
View available schools

Becoming a Family Herbalist: Pros and Cons

While family herbalist isn't a formal career title, you could perform a similar role working in the growing field of complementary and alternative medicine as a naturopathic doctor (N.D.) or licensed acupuncturist to provide care for patients and clients with herbal and plant based remedies. Read the pros and cons below to decide if you might want to take root in this industry:

Pros of a Career as a Family Herbalist
One-third of adults used alternative health treatments in 2012*
Acupuncturist salaries reached upward of $81,900 in July 2015**
Some naturopathic physician salaries were over $127,600 in July 2015**
Job satisfaction for N.D.s is high**

Cons of a Career as a Family Herbalist
Graduate level education and training required*
Credentialing of CAM practitioners varies greatly by state*
Income can be low for beginning practitioners***
Accredited programs with training in herbology are not widely available***

Sources: *National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, **PayScale.com, ***Association of Accredited Naturopathic Medical Colleges.

Career Information

Career Overview and Job Descriptions

Family herbalists use medicinal herbs and plants to prevent and treat disease or illness, as an alternative modality or in combination with traditional allopathic medicine. While herbal remedies have been used since ancient times to care for people suffering ill health, there's recently been an increase in the number of people turning to complementary medicine, which could mean positive opportunities if you're seeking a career that includes herbal care. The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine reported in 2012 that about one-third adults used CAM therapies and over 17% of adults used natural products (besides vitamins and minerals) such as herbal supplements.

An N.D. views a person's body systems as working in concert and treats the whole person instead of the traditional allopathic approach to addressing a single body part, system or condition. Naturopathic medicine studies the methods used to help the body heal itself naturally, and might incorporate herbal remedies to do this, as well as other forms of treatment, including nutritional counseling and homeopathy. As an N.D., you could treat families through primary care, natural pharmacology or emergency medicine.

Another CAM profession you can pursue is that of a licensed acupuncturist. An acupuncturist is trained in inserting very thin needles into the skin at certain places to optimize the body's flow of energy and promote good health. Licensed acupuncturists may also be trained in herbal medicine or Chinese herbology.

Salary Information

Naturopathic physicians earned a median income of $72,087 as of July 2015, and the industry salaries ranged anywhere from $33,935 to $127,661 or more per year, as reported by PayScale.com. According to the survey, approximately 56% of doctors specializing in naturopathy were female, and 77% had between 1-9 years of experience.

PayScale.com reported in July 2015 that acupuncturists had a median annual salary of $48,797 while the 10th-90th percentile took home between $28,886-$81,980 in salary, with bonuses from about $0-$9,863. The survey determined that 63% of acupuncturists are female, and nearly half of the industry (47%) are workers with under 5 years of experience.

Training and Licensing Requirements

If you become a licensed N.D., you may be qualified to practice family herbalism in many states. However, only 5 accredited degree programs in naturopathic medicine are available in the U.S. An N.D. program takes 4 years to complete and includes 2 years of supervised clinical study. Your course load will typically include anatomy and physiology, acupuncture, botanical medicine and homeopathic medicine, along with pharmacology and counseling. You'll need a bachelor's degree in pre-med or a related field of science for entry to an N.D. degree program, although N.D. schools' entry requirements can vary from school to school.

Master's degree programs in acupuncture accredited by the Accreditation Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (ACAOM) are available at a number of colleges and universities. The degree program, which often incorporates study of Chinese herbology, generally takes about three years or more to complete and includes almost 2,000 hours of clinical education and coursework.

Licensing and Certifications

Currently, 16 states and the District of Columbia require that you become licensed to practice as a naturopathic physician. If you plan to practice in one of these states, you must have a degree in naturopathic medicine from an accredited school, as well as a passing score on the Naturopathic Physicians Licensing Examination Board test. Additional licensing requirements may apply.

Forty-three states recognize licensure to practice acupuncture, and others mandate that you must also be certified if you plan to practice herbal medicine. To become licensed in acupuncture, many states require that you have a degree from an Accreditation Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine-accredited program and certification from the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (NCCAOM). NCCAOM offers credentials in acupuncture and Chinese herbology. An acupuncturist who's earned NCCAOM certification is a Diplomate of Acupuncture and has earned a master's degree in acupuncture from an accredited school and passed an exam that covers acupuncture, biomedicine and Oriental medicine.

What Employers Look for

Many employers want to hire compassionate professionals who are dedicated to CAM therapies. They also prefer that you have experience with treating patients of all ages. Other important characteristics include being a self-starter and good at collaborating with others. Below are some samples from May 2012 job postings:

  • A Colorado Springs, CO, practice is seeking a part-time N.D. with a degree from an accredited program. Candidates should have knowledge of herbal therapy, botanical medicine, homeopathy, and also be experienced in children's and women's healthcare, manipulation and craniosacral therapy. Having a dual degree in acupuncture is preferred.
  • An Alaskan family practice of natural medicine wants to hire a new doctor who holds both N.D. and acupuncturist licenses. Knowledge of pediatric care, women's health and homeopathy is preferred. The office provides services in Chinese medicine, acupuncture, massage therapy and naturopathic medicine.
  • A clinic in California is planning to expand into naturopathic services for breast health and breast cancer. The clinic would like to hire an N.D. who has an interest in breast health, and is willing to use CAM therapies alongside allopathic methods. Experience with intravenous therapies is preferred. Applicants should also have good communication skills and be a team-player.
  • A network of hospitals in Ohio is looking to hire a state-licensed acupuncturist with at least one year of experience. Tasks include performing needling and acupressure, discussing lifestyle changes with patients and educating the community in acupuncture. Excellent interpersonal and communication skills are desired, along with public speaking abilities.

Get the Edge

You can set yourself apart by specializing in a specific area of natural medicine, such as pediatrics, cancer treatment, pain management or women's health. In addition, some clinics want you to be comfortable using allopathic methods of diagnosis and treatment together with CAM therapies. Some practices prefer to hire employees who are cross-trained, such as naturopathic physicians who are also licensed in acupuncture.

Other Careers to Consider

Herbalism is just one of many complementary and alternative medicine modalities that you might pursue. You might also consider other CAM professions that are gaining mainstream acceptance and have more widely available education and training programs.

Chiropractor

Unlike naturopathic physicians, who are trained in a variety of CAM therapies, chiropractors are highly skilled in manipulation of the musculoskeletal system to treat pain and other issues. The degree required to become a chiropractic doctor takes the same amount of time as an N.D. program, which is 4 years, completed after at least 3 years of undergraduate education that includes classes like biology and chemistry; your training from an accredited program include 2 years of classroom study and 2 years of supervised clinical instruction. All states require that you become licensed.

Employment for chiropractors was anticipated to increase 28% from 2010-2020, which is excellent job growth, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). In May 2011, chiropractors earned a mean salary of about $79,000 per year.

Massage Therapist

Massage therapists provide care through the manipulation of muscles using specialized techniques; its uses can include stress relief, pain relief, physical rehabilitation and general wellness. The education needed to become a massage therapist is far less than to be an N.D. Community colleges offer certificate or associate's degree programs in massage therapy, which typically involve at least 500 hours of combined classroom study and clinical experience. Most states require that you be licensed to practice massage therapy.

The BLS indicated that job opportunities for massage therapists were predicted to increase 20% from 2010-2020, which is faster than average. According to May 2011 reporting, massage therapists received an average salary of around $40,000 annually.

Popular Schools

  • Online Programs Available
    1. George Mason University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master of Science in Health Informatics
      • Master of Science in Health Informatics
  • Online Programs Available
    2. Kaplan University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • MS in Nursing
      • Master of Healthcare Admin
      • Master: Nursing/Nurse Administrator
    Bachelor's
      • Bachelor: Nutrition Science
      • Bachelor: Health and Wellness
      • Bachelor: Health Science
      • Bachelor: Healthcare Admin
  • Online Programs Available
    3. American University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master of Science in Healthcare Management
  • Online Programs Available
    4. Colorado Technical University

    Program Options

    Doctorate
      • Doctor of Management - Health Care Management and Leadership
    Master's
      • MS - Healthcare Management
      • Master of Science in Management - Healthcare Management
    Bachelor's
      • BS - Business Administration - Health Care Management
  • Online Programs Available
    5. Baker College Online

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Healthcare Management - MBA (Master's)
  • Online Programs Available
    6. Herzing University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • MBA Dual Concentration: Healthcare Management and Public Safety Leadership
      • MBA Dual Concentration: Healthcare Management and Project Management
    Associate's
      • Associate of Science - Medical Assisting Services
    Certificate
      • Diploma: Medical Assisting
  • Online Programs Available
    7. Northcentral University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • MS - Organizational Leadership: Health Care Administration
  • Online Programs Available
    8. Keiser University

    Program Options

    Associate's
      • Associate of Sciences - Medical Assistant
  • Online Programs Available
    9. Colorado State University Global

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Graduate Specialization - Healthcare Administration
  • Online Programs Available
    10. Saint Joseph's University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • MS in Health Administration

Featured Schools

George Mason University

  • Master of Science in Health Informatics

What is your highest level of education?

Kaplan University

  • MS in Nursing
  • Master of Healthcare Admin
  • Bachelor: Nutrition Science
  • Bachelor: Health and Wellness

Which subject are you interested in?

American University

  • Master of Science in Healthcare Management

What is your highest level of education?

Colorado Technical University

  • Doctor of Management - Health Care Management and Leadership
  • MS - Healthcare Management
  • BS - Business Administration - Health Care Management

Are you a US citizen?

Baker College Online

  • Healthcare Management - MBA (Master's)

What is your highest level of education?

Herzing University

  • MBA Dual Concentration: Healthcare Management and Public Safety Leadership
  • Associate of Science - Medical Assisting Services
  • Diploma: Medical Assisting

What is your highest level of education?

Northcentral University

  • MS - Organizational Leadership: Health Care Administration

What is your highest level of education?

Keiser University

  • Associate of Sciences - Medical Assistant

What is your highest level of education?