Becoming a Holistic Therapist: Salary Information & Job Description

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Learn about a holistic therapist's job duties, salary and education and training requirements. Get straight talk about the pros and cons of a holistic therapist career.
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A Holistic Therapist Career: Pros and Cons

Holistic therapists work in the field of alternative or complementary medicine. Read on to get straight talk about the pros and cons of a holistic therapist career.

Pros of a Holistic Therapist Career
A variety of career opportunities*
Opportunity to help others*
Wages for many positions are high**
Demand for many careers in this field is expected to be high**
Opportunity to be self-employed in some positions (about 46% of massage therapists were self-employed in 2012)**

Cons of a Holistic Therapist Career
Work may be physically demanding and fatigue or repetitive motion injuries may occur**
Varying levels of education are required and can be extensive*
Self-employed holistic therapists may spend time finding clients***
Must understand and abide by laws pertaining to your field**

Sources: *University of Minnesota, **U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, ***National Holistic Institute.

Career Information

Popular Career Options

The field of holistic therapy provides relief to individuals suffering both physically and mentally, and may serve as an alternative to modern medicine. There are many career paths in this sector and job duties can vary greatly depending on the direction you pursue.

Chiropractors and massage therapists treat clients by manipulating their bodies. Chiropractors generally focus on the musculoskeletal system while massage therapists work on soft tissues. Acupuncturists insert small needles into patients to relieve pain. Occupational therapists use everyday activities to help patients recover from injuries and disabilities. Health coaches design plans for individuals by analyzing their ailments and lifestyles and suggesting changes to enhance overall well being.

Job Prospects and Salary

Salary and outlook varies greatly from one career to another in the field of holistic therapy. Overall, demand for jobs within this field is expected to increase dramatically and many salaries are high. The BLS provides information from a sampling of possible careers as recorded in May 2014.

Occupational therapists earned a mean annual salary of $80,000. Job prospects for this career are predicted to grow at a rate of 29% from 2012-2022. Massage therapists earned a mean wage of $41,790 yearly. Outlook for massage therapists is projected to grow by 23% from 2012-2022. The mean annual wage for chiropractors was $79,760. This job has an anticipated growth rate of 15% from 2012-2022.

What Are the Requirements?

Due to the wide range of career options that are available, the educational requirements of workers in holistic therapy can vary widely. According to the BLS, massage therapists must complete a postsecondary educational program that combines classroom instruction and a designated amount of practical hours. Regulations vary by state but most require that massage therapists also be licensed.

Occupational therapists must earn a master's degree in occupational therapy and become licensed. Schooling generally takes about five years to complete. Although not required, some doctorate programs are available in occupational therapy. Acupuncturists are required to pass exams to become licensed. Generally, master's or doctoral studies are needed.

Chiropractors must earn a doctor of chiropractic degree. This requires at least 90 hours of applicable undergraduate work or a bachelor's degree, plus four years of graduate school, taking around seven years to complete. Chiropractors must also pass exams to become licensed in their state.

What Employers Are Looking for

While educational requirements vastly vary, many qualities are needed by all holistic therapy practitioners. You must have good communication skills to work effectively with patients and other practitioners, possess empathy and dexterity and stay abreast of trends in your field. While not all encompassing, the postings below from April 2012 can give you an idea of what else employers are looking for.

  • In Boston, an on-call acupuncturist is needed at a non-profit health center to treat patients in a substance abuse program. Applicants must be licensed with at least one year of postgraduate experience and familiarity with substance abuse treatment.
  • A chiropractor position is open in Houston at physical rehabilitation clinic. Applicants must have malpractice insurance and know how to operate equipment necessary for the job, including X-ray and MRI machines.
  • An eating disorder facility in North Carolina is seeking a therapist to contribute to their holistic approach to rehabilitation. Applicants must have a master's degree in social work, counseling or a related field. They must also be licensed in North Carolina and be able to empower individuals and families.
  • In Connecticut, an occupational therapist is needed to provide holistic care for children in a pediatric clinic. Applicants must be licensed and perform some administrative functions.
  • In New York state, a massage therapist is needed at a hospital clinic and spa to build clientele and provide relaxation, deep tissue and chair massage to patients. Applicants must contribute to marketing and administrative duties and be able to demonstrate techniques.

How to Get an Edge in the Field

In fields where certification is optional, you can stand out by obtaining certification. For example, occupational therapists are required to be licensed, but certification is voluntary. By passing the National Board for Certification of Occupational Therapists exam, you can demonstrate additional credentials to employers.

Additionally, consider joining a professional organization in your field to gain professional development. The American Massage Therapy Association offers liability insurance to members as well as research publications and access to an online community. These types of organizations can help you stay up-to-date on all the new techniques in your field.

Alternative Fields


If you're intimidated by the education requirements that come with many careers in holistic therapy, a career as an aesthetician may be for you. Also known as skincare specialists or cosmetologists, aestheticians perform a number of skin and hair treatments, including waxing, facial treatments, makeup application and more. The BLS reported that in 2011, the average yearly salary for workers in this field was around $26,000. Outlook is projected to be average, at 16% from 2010-2020.


If you'd like to explore modern medicine, you may want to consider a career in nursing. Registered nurses (RN) provide support, care and education to the public by assisting physicians and observing patients. To become a RN, you'll need a two or four-year degree in nursing and a license to practice. According to the BLS, the median annual salary for nurses was about $69,000 in May 2011. Demand for RN's is projected to grow at a rate of 26% from 2010-2020.

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