Chinese and Asian medicine practice encompasses many medical methodologies with roots in Asia. Undergraduate and graduate degree programs are available at various levels. Continue reading to learn more about Asian medicine, academic requirements and career opportunities in the field.
Chinese and Asian medicine considers the mind and body connection so practitioners can treat the cause and symptoms of pain and restore balance within the body, according to the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (nccam.nih.gov). Acupuncture, herbology and shiatsu massage are some of the included disciplines. You're likely to use these alternative medical practices alongside traditional Western medicine. According to the American Chinese Medicine Association, Oriental medicine can treat diseases that affect the digestive, cardiovascular, reproductive and respiratory systems, as well as infectious diseases and mental disorders (www.americanchinesemedicineassociation.org). Degree programs are available at several institutions in the United States, though not often at traditional colleges and universities.
It's becoming more common to use Asian and Chinese medical practices in the United States, which means the opportunities for employment in these fields is also increasing. According to the 2008 National Health Statistics Reports, during 2002, about 2.1 million people used acupuncture, which increased to 3.1 million by 2007 (www.cdc.gov). Similarly, the number of people using massage increased from ten million in 2002 to 18 million during 2007.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), professional acupuncturists use devices such as needles and herbs to treat back pain, headaches and other problems (www.bls.gov). In 2010, about 60,040 people worked as massage therapists, reported the BLS. These professionals use different massage techniques, including shiatsu, qi gong and tai chi, to relieve stress and restore balance to the body. You could also pursue a career in herbalism.
The BLS projected that between 2008 and 2018 massage therapists could see a 19% employment increase. As of May 2010, the median salary for massage therapists was $34,900, according to the BLS. Payscale.com reported that most acupuncturists made from $18,679-$165,284 as of December 2011.
To start working in Chinese and Asian medicine, you can earn as little as an undergraduate certificate in massage therapy. You can also earn an associate's or bachelor's degree in massage therapy, Asian bodywork or Asian holistic health. However, master's and doctoral degree programs are much more common and available in acupuncture, oriental medicine, traditional Chinese medicine and tai chi. Licensing is necessary, but requirements vary according to your specialty and the state in which you live.
Through undergraduate certificates, associate's and bachelor's degree programs, your courses may address causes of disease, symptoms and types of massage therapies, such as tui na and shiatsu. Other courses may introduce you to hygienic practices and theories of disease prevention in Oriental medicine. You may also explore business practices and methods for building a business in this field. Some bachelor's degree programs may meet the prerequisites for you to enroll in a degree program in Oriental or Chinese medicine.
Through graduate-level degree programs in acupuncture, you can study breathing exercises, acupuncture techniques, nutrition and diagnostics. You could also explore different types of massage therapies. Through clinical courses, you'll gain experience applying massage techniques and acupuncture while working under the supervision of practitioners.
Coursework for a Chinese and Asian medicine degree program often includes studies in acupuncture techniques, traditional nutrition, breathing exercises, herbology and the concept of qi, which refers to the balance of energy in living things. You can also explore Western medical sciences through courses such as pathology, diagnostics and anatomy. Another component of the program usually involves gaining hands-on experience through clinical training. With this training you could become an acupuncturist, an herbalist or an alternative medicine practitioner, which may incorporate Chinese medical principles with traditional Western medical practices.