Training Options for Holistic Health Careers

holistic-health-careersMore than a third of all Americans use holistic therapies outside of traditional Western medicine to maintain their health and well being, according to research conducted by the National Institutes of Health. They also spend about $30 billion annually on complementary and alternative medicine (CAM), according to federal researchers. That breaks down to about $500 per person.

The out-of-pocket spending on treatments that range from acupuncture to yoga to homeopathy — along with the expected growth in demand for services like massage therapy — make it a great time to get into holistic health careers. But how do you get training to practice? The time commitment and educational requirements vary broadly, depending on the career path you choose.

Find out more about some of the many holistic health careers training options below.

Massage Therapist

Training programs in massage therapy range from about 330 to 1,000 hours (or several weeks to two years) of instruction and potentially clinical practice, according to Natural Healers. The American Massage Therapy Association (AMTA) reports that the average number of training hours is 671. Some 11 percent of massage therapists also practice other types of bodywork, according to the AMTA.


To become a licensed chiropractor typically requires completing a four-year program that has academic and clinical components. You will likely need a bachelors in science to gain admission to a program. A chiropractic education typically includes a rigorous course of studies in various sciences, including chemistry and physiology, in addition to hands-on clinical work.

Yoga Instructor

Training programs to become a yoga instructor vary in terms of time commitment, flexibility of scheduling, cost and even focus on a particular style of practice. Expect a program to to take anywhere between a few months to a year, depending on how much time you have to commit to training. Many training programs offer classes on nights and weekends, for those who want to train while working other jobs. Some styles of yoga you may choose to study include:

  • Ashtanga
  • Bikram
  • Hatha
  • Hot Yoga
  • Restorative
  • Vinyasa

Acupuncturist/Doctor of Oriental Medicine

Expect to spend three to four years completing a degree in acupuncture and Oriental medicine. Degree names may vary, but you'll likely earn a master's degree and learn how to stimulate specific points on the body using needles, as well as prescribe therapies using traditional Chinese herbs. In addition to using needles, you may also learn how to manipulate the body's life force energy (qi) using:

  • Heat
  • Suction
  • Pressure
  • Electromagnetic energy

Tai Chi or Qigong Instructor

It typically takes about 150 hours to become a certified teacher of Tai Chi or Qigong, according to the American Tai Chi and Qigong Association (ATCQA). According to the ATCQA, many students of these ancient practices begin by becoming assistants to their own instructors. They then go on to obtain certification through the association before beginning to offer their own classes.

Some students choose to pursue credentials that allow them to practice multiple holistic health careers. Read about one graduate of the Acupuncture and Massage College who obtained a degree in both massage therapy and Oriental medicine.

Career in alternative medicine - Spotlight

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