Holistic Health Practitioner Careers: Salary Info & Job Description

About this article
What are the pros and cons of holistic health practitioner careers? Get real job duties, career prospects and salary info to see if becoming a holistic health practitioner is right for you.
View available schools

Holistic Health Practitioner Careers: Pros and Cons

Holistic Health Practitioners perform a specialized type of health care to treat the whole person (rather than a specific condition or disease). Holistic health is typically defined as including the body, mind and spirit. Learn more about this varied field from the pros and cons below.

Pros of Holistic Health Practitioner Careers
Some careers have higher-than-average salaries, such as nurses and chiropractors (about $67,000 median salaries as of May 2014)**
Job security (expected 15-23% increase in employment for some careers from 2012-2022)**
Numerous career options within the field (such as chiropractor, naturopathic physician, nurse, massage therapist)*
40% of adults use complementary and alternative medicine annually (as of 2007)*
Can work in many different settings (offices, hospitals, spas, schools, private practices)**

Cons of Holistic Health Practitioner Careers
Many careers require graduate-level training**
Licensure and/or certification requirements are common but may vary among states**
Regular work schedules can vary dramatically by career choice, including less than or greater than full-time hours**
Many employers prefer to hire candidates who have experience***
Can sustain injuries on the job**

Sources: *National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, **U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, ***November 2012 Job Postings

Essential Career Information

Job Description and Duties

According to the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM), holistic health practitioners include nurses, chiropractors, dentists, massage therapists, and naturopathic physicians (nccam.nih.gov). The National Center for Biotechnology (NCBI) states that these professionals encourage interaction between the mind, body and spirit to promote overall health and wellness (www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov). The American Holistic Health Association (AHHA) states that holistic health is more than just a lack of illness, but obtaining a maximum level of well-being, which includes a high level of vitality (www.ahha.org).

Massage therapists relieve patients' pain and reduce their stress by massaging their soft muscle tissues. Chiropractors adjust their patients' spinal columns and joints using their hands, heat, and other treatments, which can relieve lower back pain, headaches, fatigue, and other discomfort. Naturopathic physicians use homeopathy, exercise therapy, lifestyle counseling, massage, herbal medicine, acupuncture, and nutrition to treat patients. Holistic health nurses help train their patients to think about health differently so they can maximize all aspects of their well-being to help heal themselves and maintain wellness.

Holistic health practitioners may take their patients' or clients' health history, assess their condition, and make a recommendation for treatment. They may also work closely with other health care professionals, making or accepting referrals as appropriate. These careers may be highly physical in nature, and holistic health practitioners do run the risk of injury due to long hours standing, such as doctors or nurses might do, or the repetitive motion of using their hands and arms to physically manipulate patients, such as massage therapists or nurses might do.

Career Prospects

Overall, career prospects for holistic health practitioners are expected to be good. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projected that employment of massage therapists would increase by about 23% between 2012 and 2022, which is much faster than the average employment growth rate for all occupations that decade (www.bls.gov). Employment is expected to increase by 19% for nurses, by 18% for physicians and surgeons and by 15% for chiropractors during the 2012-2022 decade. The American Holistic Medical Association (AHMA) stated that in 2007, people spent more than $34 million on complementary and alternative medicine, and that more than 3 million people used acupuncture and Chinese medicine (www.holisticmedicine.org). The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) reported that in 2007, roughly 40% of adults used some form of complementary or alternative medicine (nccam.nih.gov).

Salary Info

Massage therapists earned a median annual salary of around $37,000 in May 2014, according to the BLS. The BLS reported that the median annual salary for chiropractors and registered nurses was around $67,000. PayScale.com stated that the national average salary for naturopathic physicians earning pay in the 10th-90th percentile range was roughly $34,000 to $128,000 in of July 2015.

Education and Training Requirements

Due to the broad range of careers available in holistic health practice, education requirements in this field may vary greatly. For instance, according to the BLS, to become a massage therapist, you need to complete about 500 hours of study and experience, and most states require a licensure, which may require passing a national exam or a state exam.

Holistic health nurses are registered nurses (RNs) who have completed a 2-4 year degree program in nursing, passed the national licensing exam, completed a minimum of holistic nursing work experience, and then earned specialty credentials in holistic nursing, which involves completing 48 hours of courses and taking the certification exam offered by the American Holistic Nurses' Credentialing Corporation (www.ahncc.org).

The BLS states that chiropractors must earn a Doctor of Chiropractic degree, which is four years of study beyond a bachelor's degree, and a license. According to NCCAM, naturopathic physicians must complete a 4-year graduate degree program, such as a Doctor of Naturopathy (N.D.), from a naturopathic medical college, and some states require that you pass an exam to earn a license.

Useful Skills

To pursue a career as a holistic health practitioner, you must have a solid understanding math, science, anatomy, and physiology. You also need to be familiar with the principles of holistic health, which you'll obtain by completing an education program in naturopathy, holistic health or another form of complementary or alternative medicine. Other skills that could help you include:

  • Manual dexterity
  • Physical stamina
  • Empathy for others
  • Problem solving
  • Organization
  • Attention to detail

What Employers are Looking for

Employers of holistic health practitioners are looking for individuals who have experience and have earned the appropriate degrees, licenses, and certifications. The following are sample job postings for holistic health practitioners from November of 2012:

  • A health care system in Idaho advertised for acupuncturists who have at least three years of experience, completed an acupuncture program, and passed a certification exam.
  • An Oklahoma health care group wanted to hire a chiropractor who could conduct examinations and work with new patients and other specialists in patient care. The employer provides training, so no experience is necessary, but applicants must be licensed to practice in Oklahoma.
  • A family health center in Maine searched for a naturopathic doctor or midwife who is an N.D. with training in complementary medicine that included courses in midwifery.
  • A spa in Florida was looking for a massage therapist who could provide clients with various health benefits by offering 50-minute to 80-minute massages, including Swedish and deep tissue massages. Candidates must have state and local licenses, carry insurance, and should be able to work flexible hours.
  • An Alaska center for natural medicine advertised for a naturopathic physician who has an Alaska N.D. license, is a team player and is interested in treating women and children using holistic health practices, including homeopathy and naturopathic medicine.

Standing Out in the Field

Experience can help you stand out in holistic health because employers frequently want to hire someone their patients can rely on; experience, especially with references, demonstrates that you have satisfied clients elsewhere. If you're still in college, you could acquire experience by volunteering, in addition to completing the necessary clinical rotations. You could also complete an internship that's closely aligned with your particular area of interest.

Continuing Education

Health care is constantly changing and some of these changes will affect how holistic health practitioners work. By taking a few hours of continuing education courses in holistic health every year, you'll be able to stay on top of trends and make sure your patients are getting the best and most appropriate treatments. You could learn new techniques, new skills, and find ways to improve your patients' well-being. This makes you stand out to employers because it shows that you're committed to the profession and that you're passionate about it.

Professional Organizations

Your membership in a professional organization can help keep you updated about changing laws and trends in care, access to other professionals for networking purposes, and news about upcoming conferences and seminars in the field. Some associations also provide you with access to liability insurance, which some employers require. Naturopathic physicians can join the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians, holistic health nurses can join the American Holistic Nurses Association (AHNA), and massage therapists can join the American Massage Therapy Association. Some professional organizations also offer specialized certifications, such as Holistic Nursing certification through the AHNA.

Other Careers to Consider

Sales Representative

If you like the idea of encouraging people to embody a holistic lifestyle, but you don't want to work in health care, you could become a sales representative and specialize in selling herbs and other holistic health products. You'd be responsible for familiarizing people with how the products are used and their benefits. Wholesale and manufacturing sales representatives typically only need a high school diploma, but for pharmaceutical and medical product sales, which could include holistic health products, a bachelor's degree may be required. The BLS projected that the employment of wholesale and manufacturing sales representatives would increase by about 16% between 2010 and 2020 and reported that they earned a median annual salary of about $75,000 as of May 2011.

Athletic Trainer

If you want to help people improve their overall health, but you don't want to complete a graduate degree, and you're not interested in working in health care, you might consider becoming an athletic trainer. You'd help people, especially athletes, prevent or, where necessary, identify musculoskeletal injuries and illness, and receive the necessary care. You'll need to earn a bachelor's degree; certification and licensure requirements are common, depending on where you live. The BLS projected that employment would increase by about 30% between 2010 and 2020. The BLS also stated that they earned a median annual salary of around $42,000 as of May 2011.

Nutritionist

If you're interested in a hands-on career that involves working with patients and helping them improve their health, but you don't want to be limited to holistic health, you might consider becoming a nutritionist. Dietitians and nutritionists assess people's nutritional needs and create meal plans to improve their health. Nutritionists only need a bachelor's degree, but in many states, they must also earn a license. The BLS projected that employment would increase by about 20% for dietitians and nutritionists between 2010 and 2020 and reported that they earned a median annual salary of around $54,000 as of May 2011.

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. Saint Joseph's University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • MS in Health Administration
  • Online Programs Available
    5. 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
    6. Northcentral University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • MS - Organizational Leadership: Health Care Administration
  • Online Programs Available
    7. Baker College Online

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Healthcare Management - MBA (Master's)
  • 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. Utica College

    Program Options

    Doctorate
      • Transitional Doctor of Physical Therapy
    Master's
      • MBA - Health Care Management
      • Masters in Health Care Administration
      • Online Master of Science in Health Care Administration - Acute Care
      • Online Master of Science in Health Care Administration - Long Term Care
      • Online Master of Science in Health Care Administration - Service Organization

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?

Saint Joseph's University

  • MS in Health Administration

What is your highest level of education completed?

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?

Baker College Online

  • Healthcare Management - MBA (Master's)

What is your highest level of education?

Keiser University

  • Associate of Sciences - Medical Assistant

What is your highest level of education?