Holistic Wellness Degrees: Master's, PhD & Online Course Info

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Master's and PhD degrees in holistic wellness can lead to a variety of careers in the field of healthy living and disease prevention. Read about degree requirements, the pros and cons of a master's and PhD degree and potential careers in this field.
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Studying Holistic Wellness: Degrees at a Glance

Do you want to learn more about alternative medicine and holistic healing? Do you have an interest in learning about the human body and have a desire to help people? If so, holistic wellness graduate degree programs may be a good fit.

Holistic wellness is based on the theories of healthy living, including injury and disease prevention. Holistic wellness master's and doctoral programs typically promote various aspects of physical, emotional, mental and spiritual health. Holistic wellness professionals work in a variety of settings, including traditional healthcare facilities, private businesses and academic institutions.

Wellness professionals were expected to be in high demand; according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment of dieticians and nutritionists was expected to grow by 20% from 2010-2020. During the same time period, health educators could expect to see an increase of 37%. Although career opportunities appear promising, students should be aware that holistic wellness graduate degree programs are extremely rare.

Master's PhD
Who is this degree for? - Individuals who want to help people maintain healthy lifestyles
- People who are new to the health services industry or are seeking a career change
- Bachelor's degree holders who want to specialize in wellness management
- People who want to work in holistic wellness management, policy and research
- Master's or bachelor degree holders with an interest in health or holistic healing
Common Career Paths (with approximate annual salary) - Health educator ($52,000 - may vary with experience)*
- Nutritionist ($55,000 - may vary with experience)*
- Health specialty professor ($99,000 - may vary with experience)*
Time to Completion Typically two years (full-time) 3-4 years (full-time) beyond a master's degree
Common Graduation Requirements - Satisfy coursework requirements
- Practicum, if applicable
- Satisfy coursework requirements
- Pass PhD qualifier exams
- Research, write and present dissertation
- Teaching or research assistantship, if applicable
Prerequisites - Typically a bachelor's degree in a related or unrelated field
- Prerequisite courses in psychology, anatomy and/or physiology
- GPA requirements
- Transcripts from previous bachelor's and master's degree programs
- Advanced research courses and a prior understanding of wellness topics may be encouraged or required
- GRE scores
Online Availability Rare None found as of January 2013

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (May 2011 mean figures).

Holistic Wellness Master's Degrees

Holistic wellness master's degree programs are very rare. If you do find a master's degree program, consider that programs may fall under similar names, including Master of Arts in Holistic Health Studies or Master of Arts in Integrative Health.

As a student in a holistic wellness program, you can expect a curriculum to feature various aspects of integrated health. Students in a holistic wellness program typically study integrative and holistic health theory and standards of care.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Although you will need a bachelor's degree to gain admissions into a master's program, it doesn't necessarily need to be in a wellness-related major.
  • Occupational outlooks in this industry were expected to be strong from 2010-2020.*
  • A master's degree in holistic wellness can lead to a variety of career paths.

Cons

  • Holistic wellness master's degree programs are extremely rare, so you may have a hard time finding a program.
  • Some career options, such as those for public health educators or nutritionists, may require additional certification or licensure beyond your degree.
  • A bachelor's degree is the baseline education requirement for certain wellness careers, including health educator jobs.*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Common Courses and Requirements

A typical holistic wellness master's degree program focuses on the study of alternative techniques and principles of mind-body-spirit integration. Depending on the nature of your degree program, your coursework may include:

  • Mind-body healing
  • Integrative healthcare
  • Foundations of holistic wellness
  • Movement, relaxation and health
  • Research methods

In addition to coursework, you may need to complete additional graduation requirements. Some programs require students to participate in a practicum experience in a structured work environment, such as a health or medicine clinic.

Online Degree Options

Similar to traditional, on-campus degree programs, online master's degree programs are very rare. If you do find an accredited online degree program, consider that curricula and graduation requirements are often very similar to (if not the same as) those of on-campus programs. You may need to complete practicum/internship requirements even in an online program.

Getting Ahead with this Degree

Experience is an important requirement for most professions. If you do not have significant professional experience, consider opportunities where you can gain more knowledge in a real-world setting. Consider volunteering at a health service facility, such as a hospital or private wellness practice. If you cannot secure professional experience in a traditional healthcare setting, consider alternative locations, such as salons and fitness centers, which increasingly offer holistic services.

Holistic Wellness PhD Degrees

PhD programs typically emphasize research and practice in the field of holistic wellness. The specific curriculum and focus of a PhD program will likely vary with each school. Graduates of holistic wellness PhD programs often seek careers in research, private industry and academia. Students should note that holistic wellness PhD programs with a psychology practice specialization may not qualify individuals for licensure, but instead train them in holistic treatment options.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Obtaining a PhD is widely seen as an indication that you are an expert in your field.
  • Due to the small class sizes in PhD programs, you will have close interaction with faculty members.
  • If you plan to work in academia, a PhD is generally required.

Cons

  • Smaller programs may only accept a handful of students each year.
  • Similar to master's degree programs, holistic wellness PhD programs are very rare.
  • Without relevant work experience, PhD candidates may appear overqualified and under-experienced to prospective employers.

Courses and Requirements

Generally, PhD students will need to complete academic courses; pass preliminary examinations in their field; and research, write, and present a dissertation. Depending on the nature of your program, you may be encouraged or required to work as a research or teaching assistant. As a student in a holistic wellness PhD program, you can expect courses on the following topics: information competency, quantitative research, qualitative research and assessing systems and processes.

Online Degree Options

Fully online PhD programs in holistic wellness were not available as of January 2013.

Getting Ahead with this Degree

Recent changes in healthcare laws and changing perspectives about health can create opportunities. As people become more educated about healthful choices and as insurance costs rise, more and more people may seek alternative healing options. Professionals who understand the traditional aspects of healthcare services, such as medical records management, may be better to poised to help integrate mind-body practices in a complementary and supportive way.

Popular Schools

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Featured Schools

Utica College

  • Transitional Doctor of Physical Therapy

What is your highest level of education completed?

Colorado Technical University

  • Doctor of Management - Health Care Management and Leadership

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Grand Canyon University

  • EdD in Organizational Leadership - Health Care Administration

What is your highest level of education?

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

University of Bridgeport

Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine & Health Sciences

Washington University in St Louis

South Baylo University