Do I Need A Degree To Become A Healing Arts Professional?

"I would love to pursue a career helping people take care of themselves. I have been told I have good hands for massage, and that people find my energy soothing. But I actually want to make a career of it, not just a hobby. Do I need a degree to become a healing arts professional?"

asked by James from Boise, ID

Holistic health is both a science and an art. Depending on the specialty, a few months to several years of training is required to become a certified or licensed practitioner. Most states require licensing to legally offer some of the holistic health services, which includes massage, Naturopathy, and Acupuncture. Many holistic health services have a governing body or Board that oversees the training and licensing of practitioners of that service, and ensures the integrity of that profession with rigorous standards. Appropriate training at an accredited institution is required to meet the standards issued by the governing bodies.

A four year degree is only required for those pursuing a career as a Naturopathic doctor. Naturopaths must receive a pre-med degree in the sciences like a medical doctor, then take an additional four years of schooling that includes both allopathic and alternative medicine.

There are bachelors and graduate degrees available in many other holistic health specialties. Typically, an adequate education can be obtained from a school that focuses on the particular field that interests you. Attending a specialized school would allow you to completely focus on your chosen path without some of the potential distractions of university life.

You would also receive more focused instruction, often from teachers that are also working professionals in the field. These schools are often on the cutting edge of their fields, so you would have access to new information and methods.

As stated above, nearly all holistic health practitioners require schooling, but the amount of time invested varies. Medical Qigong and Ayurveda practitioners and Acupuncturists require two to three years of schooling, plus continuing education. Massage therapists require less than a year to begin, usually 1,000 hours of instruction and apprenticeship depending on the state.

There are many specialties within the massage therapy field, each with unique educational requirements and options. Developing a wide range of techniques and skillsets as a bodyworker will make you more sought after, and better able to serve the needs of your clients. Expect to study full-time for at least two years, and then part time for the rest of your career to continue cultivating your massage techniques.

Yoga teachers require 200 hours of training, which can be completed in less than a month, but a year or more of study is recommended to become a truly effective teacher. Nutritionist need less two to three years to become fully licensed, though you can become a nutrition consultant or counselor in a year or less. Life coaches and other support professionals can usually begin after less than a year of study, though two to three years builds a better foundation.

All of the holistic health careers require continuing education, entering into this field is committing to be a lifelong learner. It is also vital to maintain one’s commitment to personal growth and evolution, as well, to truly be of service to other people.

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