Five Degrees for People with a Passion for Alternative Medicine and Holistic Health

Published on: June 09, 2024

Healthcare is a popular and rewarding field of study, but not everyone is interested in following the traditional path. Fortunately, there are also degree options for students passionate about alternative medicine and holistic health. These students know how important it is to consider all aspects of someone's health and well-being, including the physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual. Unlike traditional doctors, who tend to focus on specific symptoms and conditions, holistic health experts focus on the person as a whole. The following degrees are some of the best to equip students to follow their own path and start careers in alternative medicine or holistic health.

What Are The Benefits of Studying Alternative Medicine or Holistic Health?

One of the biggest reasons people choose careers in alternative medicine or holistic health is the positive impact they can make on others. This also translates to job satisfaction, as seeing clients reach their wellness goals is gratifying. Another significant benefit is that students can use the knowledge and experience they gain to improve their own health. Finally, the field of alternative medicine and holistic health offers greater flexibility compared to other medical careers. 

Holistic Health Studies

The Holistic Health Studies program, available as an online Master of Arts degree, delves into the philosophies, science, and arts of holistic health and healing. Students have the opportunity to explore emerging and integrative models of healthcare, as well as gain a deeper understanding of ancient healing traditions from various cultures. Course topics include Foundations of Holistic Health and Wellness, Culture as a Resource in Health and Healing, Spiritual Wellness, and Alternative Approaches to Nutrition. Students who complete a Holistic Health Studies degree typically pursue careers such as naturopathic physicians, orthoptists, acupuncturists, and health education specialists. 

Naturopathic Medicine

Students who meet the prerequisite requirements, which typically include completing a four-year bachelor's degree, can opt for a doctor of naturopathic medicine degree. This four-year program starts with two years focusing on early clinical experiences and basic sciences. The remaining two years are clinically focused and usually involve working with patient populations at medical centers or community clinics. This degree covers a myriad of naturopathic therapies with courses in Acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine, Botanical Medicine, Homeopathic Medicine, Mind-Body Medicine, Pharmacotherapy, Nutrition, and much more. Most programs also offer students case-based instruction and testing to prepare them for board examinations and field observation programs to shadow community physicians. Common career paths include naturopathic doctor, wellness consulting, and integrative medicine practitioner.   

 Ayurveda Wellness & Integrative Health

Bachelor's degrees in Ayurveda Wellness and Integrative Health are available online and on campus. These degrees tend to integrate Ayurvedic knowledge with modern health science. Students are taught how to combine modern medicine and science with Ayurveda's natural approach to create optimal health outcomes for their clients. Students are also taught the basics of a range of natural therapeutic techniques such as self-pulse, diet, digestion, nutrition, and approaches to balanced physiology. Transcendental Meditation techniques are also taught, which promotes inner peace and wellness. The Ayurveda Wellness and Integrative Health degree features different tracks for students to choose from, such as Ayurveda Wellness, Life & Wellness, and Yoga & Ayurveda Wellness. Completing the degree qualifies students as Ayurveda consultants, and they can typically also take the National Ayurvedic Medical Association counselor exam afterward to become NAMA-certified Ayurvedic Health Counselors. 

Herbal Sciences

Herbal Sciences is available as a bachelor's and master's degree and can prepare students for a career in the booming herbal products industry. In this degree, students get to study plants from root to leaf to learn the history as well as culture behind their use in medicine. It is the perfect way to bridge the gap between traditional herbal wisdom and evidence-informed science. Course topics may include Botany, Plant Identification, Horticulture, Herbal Preparations, Ethnobotany and Northwest Herbs, First Aid for Herbalists, and Disease Processes. Completing this degree can prepare students to work in the health, wellness, supplements, or cosmetics industry, work as researchers, herb cultivators, or wildcrafters, or as herbal industry representatives, consultants, formulators, manufacturers, or managers. 

Holistic Nutrition

Holistic Nutrition degrees teach students to integrate modern science with holistic nutrition principles. Before learning about the scientific world of holistic nutrition, students are taught biological sciences such as anatomy, physiology, biology, and psychology. After completing a Holistic Nutrition degree, students will be able to gather nutrition information, which they can then evaluate to develop customized nutritional suggestions and protocols for individuals as well as communities. In addition, Holistic Nutrition degrees typically provide students the opportunity to select a specialization track or electives to study. These may include Aromatherapy, Basics of Herbalism, Herbal Studies, Public Health Education, Holistic Pathophysiology, and Community Health Planning.   


As with any degree, it is important to consider factors such as accreditation, a good curriculum, and outcomes that align with your career goals when choosing where to study. While many holistic healing practices were dismissed in the past, the tide is turning, and there is a growing recognition of the benefits these practices offer. This is also reflected in the educational resources that are now available, ranging from certificates to doctoral degrees. So, if the possibility of helping people improve their lives and well-being sounds like a rewarding career, then the degrees listed above can be a great way to get started.

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