Alternative medicine has increasingly gained acceptance in the West. Everything from natural remedies and organic foods to a variety of holistic health practices are being used to help people achieve and maintain superior health.

If you’re thinking of pursuing a career in the area of alternative medicine, it’s important to understand what types of professionals work in this exciting field of health care.

What Is Alternative Medicine?

Alternative medicine is a term used to describe a broad range of health treatments and medical approaches that generally fall outside of conventional Western medicine. This type of medicine is sometimes referred to as natural healing.

Alternative medicine can include natural health care products, the use of herbs, and organic foods and materials. It also includes acupuncture, massage and a variety of techniques rooted in traditional Chinese medicine.

Alternative medicine places a strong emphasis on a holistic approach. Holistic medicine takes into account a person’s physical, emotional, mental and even spiritual well-being. An individual is made up of these interdependent parts, each of which can play a role in their overall health and well-being. Those who practice holistic medicine view their patients as a whole person, not as the illness or disease they have.

What Do Alternative Medicine Doctors Do?

Doctors who work in the area of alternative medicine are sometimes referred to as naturopathic physicians. These types of doctors focus on prevention methods, holistic treatment and a combination of traditional and Western medical techniques.

While naturopathic doctors can prescribe prescription drugs, they often focus on natural remedies. They treat everything from digestive issues and chronic pain to allergies and cancer. They are able to perform minor surgeries but usually don’t perform major surgeries. Minor surgery is normally considered noninvasive.

Doctors who work in the field of alternative medicine can be found practicing in hospitals, private clinics and community health facilities. They provide services for adults and children. Homeopathy and herbology are also areas of medicine that someone seeking a holistic medicine career can specialize in.

What Other Careers Are Available in Alternative Medicine?

There are a several areas of study you can pursue when seeking a career in the field of alternative medicine. The following are a few specific careers available.

  • Nursing PN: Working as a PN you would collect data from patients, maintain their medications and provide general care in a doctor’s office or other clinical setting. You would also teach patients how to live a healthy lifestyle. Certification in practical nursing can usually be completed in less than two years.
  • Nursing RN: As an RN you would perform a variety of duties related to an individual’s health care. Administering medications, monitoring care and consulting with physicians would all be part of a registered nurse’s daily routine. While working in the field of alternative medicine, you would focus on the care of your patients with a holistic approach. An associate’s degree in registered nursing is normally completed in a two-year program.
  • Acupuncture: An acupuncturist focuses on the flow of energy in the human body. You would help balance the energy flow so the body can heal and repair itself. When working in acupuncture, you’ll not only use needles but other tools such as ear balls and cups. There are several different levels of education you can obtain when pursuing an acupuncture career. A program of average length would take approximately two years to complete.
  • Massage: Individuals who pursue careers in massage will find a variety of options available to them. You’ll find massage therapists that work in spas, sports-related industries and medical facilities. There are different types of massage you can specialize in such as deep tissue, hot stone and aromatherapy massage. You can receive certification in a massage therapy program in as little as 12 months.
  • Holistic Wellness: While working in the field of holistic wellness, you would use skills in the area of body/mind healing. Stress management and natural means of healing are a few of the areas that involve holistic wellness. Receiving certification in the field of holistic wellness can be achieved in less than two years.

What Kind of Education Is Available?

If you’re interested in pursuing a career in the field of alternative medicine there are several steps you would need to take. You would need to find a school that provides education in the specific area that you’re interested in. You would want to look at the credentials of the schools you’re considering, their placement record and their overall reputation. There are several specific questions you’ll want to ask.

  • Type of Program: How large are the class sizes? Will you get one-on-one time with your instructors?
  • Financial Aid: Does the school offer a variety of financial aid options, payment plans or scholarships?
  • Placement Programs: Does the school have a placement program? Are students ready to immediately start working in a professional capacity after graduation?

The American Institute of Alternative Medicine provides a variety of excellent programs that can help you prepare for an exciting career in the field of alternative medicine. They offer students three different nursing programs, as well as massage therapy, holistic wellness certifications and acupuncture training.

As part of their acupuncture program they even offer students the opportunity to study abroad. You would be able to study in China in some of the best Chinese medicine facilities.

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