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Top 6 Careers in Integrative Medicine

Top 6 Careers in Integrative Medicine

Integrative medicine is an approach that combines standard therapies, like medication and surgery, with alternative and complementary therapies, like herbalism, acupuncture, massage, yoga, dietary supplements, wellness coaching, and meditation.

A steadily increasing demand is driving growth in the field of integrative medicine. An integrative medicine approach is now recognized as a valuable strategy for addressing chronic diseases, which affect a majority of US adults and are significant contributors to the $4.1 Trillion spent yearly by the US on healthcare costs.

There are many roles for practitioners within integrative medicine, from a health coach to an integrative physician to a nutritionist. Keep reading to learn about all the possibilities to incorporate integrative care into your existing practice or make a career change into this growing healthcare field.


What is Integrative Medicine?

An article published over twenty years proposed that integrative medicine is "bringing medicine back to its roots" as it "selectively incorporates elements of complementary and alternative medicine into comprehensive treatment plans alongside solidly orthodox methods of diagnosis and treatment."

The Andrew Weil Center, one of the largest integrative medicine fellowship programs in the world, defines the following principles that further explain integrative medicine:

  • The patient and the healthcare provider are partners in the treatment or healing process.
  • All elements influencing wellness, health, and disease are considered, encompassing the body, spirit, mind, and community.
  • The use of both conventional and alternative treatments facilitates the healing process.
  • Natural and less invasive interventions should be prioritized.
  • Integrative medicine accepts conventional medicine and critically considers alternative therapies.
  • Solid science and continued inquiry are the basis of good medicine.
  • Health promotion and disease prevention are essential.

Top Integrative Medicine Careers

Integrative MD

The Institute for Natural Medicine defines integrative doctors as "combining conventional medical approaches with evidence-informed complementary medicine to provide patients with the most appropriate and effective treatments."

Integrative medicine is a board-certified fellowship that Medical Doctors (MDs) and Doctors of Osteopathic Medicine (DOs) can complete.

The American Board of Integrative Medicine® (ABOIM) provides training and board certification to physicians who wish to become certified in integrative medicine.

The specific eligibility requirements include the following:

  • Graduation from a recognized allopathic (MD) or osteopathic (DO) medical school
  • Having a valid medical license
  • Completion of an accredited residency through the  ACGME, AOA, RCPSC, CFPC
  • Board certification through the ABPS, ABMS, AOA, RCPSC, or CFPC
  • Completing an ABOIM-approved fellowship in integrative medicine

The average integrative medicine MD salary in the US is $200,000 annually.

Naturopathic Physician

Naturopathic physicians have specific training to integrate modern medical knowledge and traditional natural healing techniques. A central principle of naturopathic philosophy is based on an ancient concept: "the healing power of nature." This concept refers to a healing process that is innate to living systems and restores health.

Member institutions of the Accredited Naturopathic Schools of North America (AANMC) are accredited through the US Department of Education. The Council on Naturopathic Medical Education has accredited naturopathic medicine programs.

Obtaining a certification from an accredited naturopathic medicine program guarantees eligibility to complete the licensing exam called the NPLEX. Successful completion of the NPLEX ensures "minimal competence" to be a "safe naturopathic practitioner"; it is not the same as board certification. Board certification is obtained through The American Naturopathic Medical Certification Board (ANMCB).

The average naturopathic physician's salary in the US is $110,016 annually.


The practice of acupuncture has existed for more than 2,500 years, originating from traditional Chinese medicine. It is a technique that treats health issues by inserting fine needles into the skin in specific locations.

A qualified acupuncturist has a Diplomate of Acupuncture or Diplomate of Oriental Medicine from The National Certification for Commission Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (NCCAOM). This is the only national organization in the US that validates competency in acupuncture and Oriental medicine. Regulatory bodies and third-party payers recognize NCCAOM certification. If an Acupuncturist wants to practice in the state of California they also have to be eligible based on the board requirements and then take the California Acupuncture Boards. The California Acupuncture Board (Board) is a regulatory body under the California Department of Consumer Affairs (DCA). The Board regulates the practice of Asian medicine through acupuncture in California and is the sole issuer of acupuncture licenses in the state.

A qualified NCCAOM acupuncturist has "completed three to four academic years of education at the master's degree level in an acupuncture program accredited by the Accreditation Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (ACAOM) or has completed an international education program which is substantially equivalent to ACAOM standards." Many schools are now requiring licensed acupuncturists to complete a Doctorate in Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine (DACM) as well.

The average acupuncturist's salary in the US is $62,310 annually.


The NIH defines chiropractic medicine as "a licensed health care profession that emphasizes the body's ability to heal itself." Chiropractic treatment involves manual therapy and spinal manipulation, often used to treat musculoskeletal system issues.

To practice in the US, chiropractors must have a Doctor of Chiropractic (DC) degree, pass the National Board of Chiropractic Examiners (NBCE) exam, and have a state license. DC training typically takes four years to complete, and applicants must have had at least three years of undergraduate education.

The average chiropractor's salary in the US is $73,031 annually.

Functional Nutritionist

Functional nutritionists use a holistic approach to identify a disease's "root causes" and then create an individualized nutrition plan to optimize patient health.

Dietary changes aren't the only tools that functional nutritionists recommend. They are also competent in other areas of integrative medicine, like:

  • A systems approach to the whole body
  • Root cause analyses
  • Elimination diets and food plans
  • Diagnostic lab tests
  • Supplementation
  • Mind-body health strategies such as meditation or yoga

There are different ways to become a Functional Nutritionist. The Institute of Functional Medicine (IFM) offers the Functional Medicine Certification Program that is applicable to licensed healthcare professionals.

The average nutritionist's salary in the US is $41,577 annually, but can increase with specializations such as Functional Nutrition Certification.

Health Coach

A health coach works individually with patients, helping them achieve their health-related goals through lifestyle and behavior changes. Health coaches address topics like nutrition, stress, smoking, and sleep and are often employed in Integrative Medicine clinics to support patients following a diagnosis.

Practicing as a health coach requires a certification from the National Board for Health and Wellness Coaching (NBHWC). The requirements to qualify for the National Board Certification Exam are:

  • Completion of an NBHWC Approved Training Program.
  • Completion of fifty health & wellness coaching sessions.
  • An associate's degree or higher or 4,000 hours of work experience (in any field).

Health coaches have an average salary of $42,317 annually.


There are several paths available to healthcare professionals pursuing a career in Integrative Medicine. Various careers are possible, including physician, coach, nutritionist, and others. All options help the practitioner develop a more holistic approach to healing and prevention and recognize the importance of lifestyle factors in promoting optimal health.

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