What Is A Degree In Alternative Health?

What Is A Degree In Alternative Health?

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With the increasing interest in cultural diversity, more and more individuals are pursuing complementary and alternative health practices. According to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, about 40% of all adults in the U.S. turn to forms of alternative health care for both physical health conditions and mental illnesses. As the demand for alternative health care options rises, so, too, does the need for practitioners of alternative health care. Curious about pursuing a degree in this growing area of the health care field? A Bachelor of Arts in Complementary and Alternative Health might be a good option for you.

In fact, now might be a better time than ever. According to Dr. Erick Cervantes, assistant professor and chair of the BA in Complementary and Alternative Health program at Ashford University, alternative health care is becoming increasingly more popular. Further, as the population ages, there will be more people aged 65 and over than there are children in America by 2035, according to the Census Bureau. These individuals will likely be seeking both traditional medical help as well as alternative holistic therapies to treat health conditions ranging from arthritis to cancer, and everything in between. 

What Forms do Alternative Health Care Practices Take? 

As a whole, complementary and alternative health care refers to all the systems and solutions not traditionally considered part of conventional health care. Complementary treatment is used in conjunction with conventional treatment, whereas alternative treatment is used in place of it. While alternative health care covers a range of practices, it typically refers to holistic treatments such as acupuncture, magnetic field therapy, chiropractic treatments, and treatments not typically used in Western practices, such as Reiki, touch healing, and Ayurvedic healing. 

According to Dr. Cervantes, these systems of treatment that fall under the alternative and complementary umbrella are practiced differently all over the world in diverse health care settings and reflect the region where they are based. 

“Both Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine are exemplars of these systems in China and India respectively,” he says. “Other systems of medicine such as medical herbalism are geographically regional because plants are selective of their terrain and thus those peoples living in those geographic areas developed their own systems based on the plants growing in their locale.” 

However, there are other forms of alternative health care that have been popularized in the United States: diet-based therapies  or movement-based therapies like yoga and Pilates. Some types of herbal supplements can also be considered alternative health care, as well as the use of natural products such as omega-3 oil or echinacea

People seek out alternative health care for many reasons, from musculoskeletal problems like joint and back pain, to serious conditions and diseases. In many ways, alternative health care has also cultivated an overall trend of holistic living, beyond what conventional methods can provide. However, because this field is a somewhat newer and growing trend, Dr. Cervantes encourages those who are considering this route of treatment to understand their options.

The patient should be “prepared to endeavor to understand how the chronic disease is related to how they regard their existence in the world (spirituality) and also how your mental/emotional realm is related to it as well,” he says. “Your body's experience is inseparable to these domains.” 

A Degree in Complementary and Alternative Health from Ashford

The health care world is evolving, and Ashford University can help you stay at the forefront of the movement toward holistic health. The Bachelor of Arts in Complementary and Alternative Health provides the foundation and curriculum for fostering an understanding of natural therapies as well as a passion for transforming health care policy and an appreciation for the total care of mind, body, and spirit. In this degree program, you’ll learn foundational principles in the history and culture of various alternative health practices, as well as how to analyze usage trends and the integration of complementary and alternative health practices in U.S. health care delivery.

“You can practice alternative treatments such as Chinese medicine, Ayurveda, Naturopathic medicine and others or do research in this field,” Dr. Cervantes notes. “The road is paved by one's own creativity and longings.”

Beyond taking courses in complementary and alternative health, you’ll also study anthropology, health promotion, psychology, and other disciplines to gain a holistic perspective on the industry. What’s more, each five-week course can be taken one at a time and accessed online from anywhere, giving you the flexibility you need to succeed. 

Additionally, with Ashford University, you have the option to add a Health Care Informatics Systems specialization to your degree in complementary and alternative health, allowing you to further focus your career goals and area of expertise.

Why You Should Consider A Degree In Alternative Health

Alternative health care, unlike some other areas of study that are related to the medical field, is very broad and diverse, allowing for a large degree of freedom when it comes to choosing your career. Students who earn a degree in complementary and alternative health can pursue careers such as:

  • Energy Practitioner
  • Complementary and Alternative Health Research Assistant
  • Herbal Practitioner
  • Mind/Body Practitioner
  • Feng Shui Practitioner
  • Stress Reduction Coach or Trainer
  • Healing Environments Design Assistant
  • Holistic Spa Worker
  • Guided Imagery Trainer or Coach
  • Meditation Instructor

What’s more, if you are interested in becoming your own boss, a degree in complementary and alternative health can set you up for that, says. Dr. Cervantes. Many careers in the health and wellness field allow practitioners to be self-employed, in positions such as a transpersonal health specialist, acupuncturist, reflexologist, and natural medicine practitioner. 

“The work hours are equally diverse but once one has developed their own practice one can set their own hours,” he explains. “It is not much different than a Western practitioner of biomedicine with regards to hours. However, the higher you are on the totem pole, the more decisions you can make about your preferred hours.” 

If you’re interested in complementary and alternative health care, consider a bachelor’s degree at Ashford University, and take the next step toward a career in naturopathic treatment. Visit our admissions page to begin the application process today. 

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By Ashford University staff

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