Holistic doctors are physicians who combine advanced medical knowledge with a holistic, more natural approach to relieving ailments and medical conditions. Also called naturopathic doctors, holistic physicians practice integrative medicine in place of conventional methods that rely on pharmaceutical drugs, surgery and other medical procedures. Trends show that complementary and alternative medicine is becoming increasingly popular, and the American Holistic Medical Association estimate that approximately 40 percent of U.S. adults visit a holistic doctor annually.
Whereas modern medicine and conventional doctors diagnose illnesses based on patients’ physical symptoms, naturopathic and holistic doctors assess patients as a whole. In addition to examining physical health, holistic doctors look at patients’ mental, emotional and spiritual well-being. Using a mix of science and ancient, all-natural therapies, holistic doctors treat and diagnose common illnesses by prescribing remedies such as herbal therapy, massage therapy, acupuncture and hydrotherapy. ExploreHealthCareers.org stated that naturopathic doctors averaged $80,000 per year as of May 2008. Since some holistic doctors operate their own practices, while others work in integrative medical clinics, average salaries can range significantly. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that specialty physicians averaged $160,930 a year as of May 2010, while the lowest-earning 10th percentile of family and general practitioners overall, some of whom practice holistic medicine, made $86,600 or less.
Similar to other types of physicians, holistic doctors must attend school for a total of eight years. In addition to completing a four-year undergraduate program, holistic doctors must attend medical school for another four years. A residency focused in holistic or naturopathic medicine is also required prior to becoming a fully-licensed holistic doctor. The Association of Accredited Naturopathic Medical Colleges states that the average annual income for early residency positions falls within the $20,000 to $30,000 range, while established physicians who run holistic and naturopathic practices average between $80,000 and $90,000 per year.
Geographic region impacts the salary potential of holistic doctors working in the U.S. For example, a June 2011 SalaryExpert report stated that naturopathic doctors working in Houston, Texas, earned $129,470 on average per year. Physicians employed in Chicago, Illinois, reported an average salary of $113,818 per year. New York City naturopathic doctors averaged $130,619 per year, while naturopathic doctors in Phoenix, Arizona, and Orlando, Florida, averaged $168,220 and $154,659, respectively. Physicians in Atlanta averaged the highest salaries of the 10 cities surveyed, making $195,520 annually.
The health care industry is projected to grow significantly between 2008 and 2018 due to changing government legislation, a growing elderly population, and technological advances in the medical field. Likewise, physician and surgeon jobs will increase 22 percent during this period. Job opportunities should be positive for holistic doctors, as the Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that consumers will also seek out different types of medical treatments and therapies. Moreover, the Association of Accredited Naturopathic Medical Colleges predicts that as U.S. demographics change, doctors who practice preventative medicine will be sought after by patients. The association also states that naturopathic and holistic doctors with established practices average salaries as high as $200,000 annually.